Transition from Key Stage 2 to 3

by | Dec 2, 2022 | Curriculum, Leadership

Transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 – creating a learning bridge from primary to secondary school

Listen as a podcast

Pupils, research suggests are highly likely to under-perform in their first year of secondary school by up to 40%. There are many reasons for this. Seamless transition-key stage 2 to 3 is never going to be easy, pupils move from a familiar environment where they are predominantly taught by one teacher or certainly only a few, they have their own classroom, a peg for their coat, bag and PE kit and friendship groups built over time. These are clearly fairly obvious and can be overcome with some careful thought and a level of understanding that makes the pastoral transition tolerable.

Stepping into the unknown

It is to the curriculum and the ability of subject leaders and teachers to create sequential learning that means no learning is lost as pupils make that leap from their primary school to their secondary school that solutions need to be found.

The current OFSTED spotlight on the curriculum means that all secondary schools must ensure that the learning journey for pupils in year 7 builds on their prior learning, addresses any gaps in learning and ensures that the right conditions prevail in their various year 7 subjects to ensure deep learning takes place.

The OFSTED handbook for September 2022 makes it quite clear that there should be a synergy between key stage 2 and 3 in relation to ensuring there is seamless learning across the transition bridge,

In key stage 2 and 3, schools need to provide a broad, rich curriculum. Our research into curriculum shows that these stages are particularly susceptible to a narrow curriculum and that this has a disproportionately negative effect on the most disadvantaged pupils.

OFSTED’s Handbook for Schools (2022)

To test the efficacy of your policy towards transition from key stage 2 to 3 we have created a Self-Assessment Tool which is set out into three distinct aspects of good transition planning, they are listed here,

  • Continuity across the curriculum
  • Information transfer
  • The role of year 7 in your school

If you would like a copy of this tool which offers you the opportunity to rag rate the efficacy of your current transition policy or strategy you can use the Contact us page on our website, simply type in to the Message section ‘Transition Self-Assessment Tool’ and we will forward a copy to you. Fill it in and then continue to read on as we explain how cross – phase curriculum planning, partnership working, and creating opportunities for deep dive conversations across the transition bridge can make a significant difference to that rather telling dip in the performance of many year 7 learners. Imagine turning that dip into positive outcomes for all pupils.

Self-assess your transition efficacy

Cross-phase curriculum planning – creating the dialogue for seamless learning

Seamless learning from key stage 2 to 3 means ensuring that every subject leader and their teams of teachers who will be teaching in year 7 know the content of the National Curriculum Programmes of Study for key stage 2.

There is depth of knowledge pupils are expected to have remembered and understood, clear progression of the age related standards that make up the English and maths programmes of study and a sequenced science curriculum that focuses on ensuring all pupils are gaining the ability to think scientifically and to deepen their ability to be able to use their scientific knowledge in a variety of complex scientific ways.

All of the foundation subjects are less prescriptive but the aims and purpose of study in each of them provides a steer as to how to build a year 7 and key stage 3 curriculum model based very securely on what has gone before. The opportunity in the primary phase to build learning here around the local and then the wider context should provide a platform for further study in year 7 and beyond.

The reason for a lack of collaborative curriculum planning or even discussion about what has been taught, how it has been taught and to what depth is nearly always the considerable number of primary partner schools that feed into one secondary school and the subsequent lack of opportunity for any kind of collaboration or partnership. It is time to find solutions to this perennial issue rather than to use it as the excuse not to have any kind of interaction at all.

Professional conversations across the bridge and into key stage 3

OFSTED’s latest handbook sets out what they are looking for in terms of high-quality education outcomes. The statements within the core and foundation programmes of study for key stage 2 set out clearly what should be taught, to what complexity and in which year groups. Both of these give secondary school leaders and their subject teams a steer as to what they should be looking for in terms of what should have been taught and to what depth. The primary curriculum is an essential piece of the learning jigsaw and secondary school subject leaders have such a profound opportunity to take the initiative in making their expectations clear as to what they want to see that pupils know and can do by the time they arrive at secondary school linked to these clearly defined curriculum parameters.

Conversations about transition from key stage 2 to 3

Those who have a responsibility for creating seamless transition from key stage 2 to 3 and for designing and delivering the curriculum in year 7 and across the whole of key stage 3 should by be able to describe what they should be building from. The criteria from both the inspectorate and the National Curriculum are clearly defined and in the public domain. They are a starting point.

Success comes from creating opportunities for conversations about what they mean in relation to excellence in planning, pedagogy and learning and an opportunity to define how what will be taught builds on prior learning and is designed so that the learning outcomes are clearly defined and shared within teams and with pupils.

Identifying and overcoming the barriers to success

Seamless transition from key stage 2 to 3 is clearly not easy. Especially now in a post-pandemic world where time and funding scarcities are factored in there are so many pressing issues to create inevitable barriers to success. Success, however, will reap so many rewards and create profound evidence that a collaborative approach has a positive impact on learning it should be a priority and given time and resources to make it happen. Below is a list of a few examples of good practice, the first are where there is limited opportunity for direct collaboration and some where there is a genuine partnership between a group of primary schools and their partner secondary school,

  • Use departmental time to look at subject specific programmes of study linked to the subject requirements and discuss what you would expect pupils to know and be able to do when they arrive in year 7
  • Create time for all departments to look at the key stage 2 programmes of study for English particularly in relation to reading and its importance not just in the subject of English but across the whole curriculum
  • Create a bank of subject vocabulary from the key stage 1 and 2 programmes of study and give pupils low stakes quizzes and spelling Bs to help them recall the words in different contexts
  • Ask departments to look at the aims and purpose of study for their own key stage 3 programmes of study and compare them with the same statements in the key stage 2 programmes of study. Create opportunities for a dialogue about how these translate into outcomes that have an impact on learning
  • Create a transition lead in each department or across faculties
  • Look in detail at the science curriculum for key stage 1 and 2, the language especially the verbs used as part of a focus on the sequence of learning is revealing in relation to progression and challenge
  • Build a programme in year 7 that supports pupils to become professional learners where they have to focus on ‘how’ and ‘why’ they are learning as well as ‘what’ they are learning
  • Teachers across the bridge observe learning in their opposite setting and reflect on pedagogy and learning similarities and differences
  • Moderation takes place where secondary and primary teachers share assessment of pupils’ work
  • Transition portfolios started in year 6 that contain ‘good’ and ‘best’ work come with pupils to year 7
  • Have joint teach meets, joint parents’ evenings, shared CPD sessions
  • Manage a programme of Lesson Study where teaches plan, teach and observe together

These are a few ideas from a six page bulleted list of good practice that our team at Learning Cultures have gathered together over time as part of our quest to make transition a time of positive impacts on learning, pedagogy and well-being, where all pupils thrive and grow so that there is a 40% increase in the end of year 7 data that defines the outstanding curriculum building, excellent pedagogy and high – quality learning outcomes delivered as a result of effective planning and deeply informative conversations within and across departments in year 7 and where possible with their primary partners across the transition bridge.

Why not join us for our highly commended and deeply informative and practical workshop that will send you back to school with all you need to transform transition.

Putting the curriculum pieces together to build seamless transition from key stage 2 to 3

Crossing the Transition Bridge – Creating seamless learning from key stage 2 to 3

We also have a workshop focusing specifically on key stage 3. Still considered the poor relation in the secondary school, we look at ways to make it shine.

Key Stage 3 – a vital piece of the curriculum jigsaw

If you want to find out more about our CPD offer including our suite of coaching courses that will build the expertise of your staff to work together in teams, build outstanding pedagogy and empower change and challenge through powerful leadership. Visit our website here email me or give one of my colleagues a call on 01746 765076.

New Books


The book ‘Primary Curriculum Design and Delivery by Glynis Frater‘ has now been published.

Find Out More

Other Articles You May Like

My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.