School Transition Programs – Do they make a difference?

During our school review we identified student transition as an area to improve student engagement and connectedness to school. Our transition program aims to provide smooth pathways for students moving from one year level to the next or from location to another. Most of the research on this topic is about students transitioning to high school

At Elsternwick Primary there are three transition programs: the pre prep program for those entering our school, the in school program for those students continuing their education at Elsternwick Primary and the year 6 secondary school placement program.

Most parents are familiar with the successful pre prep program which now extends over 5 sessions in November and early December. This article focuses on the in school program, which is relatively new.

Similar to the pre prep program, the in school transition program has four phases: preparation, direct interaction, induction and consolidation.

Preparation Phase:
Each year teacher prepares notes on students learning, their social development and samples of student work to pass onto the follow years teacher. This year our assessment program, which includes a range of online tests, is being started in November / December so that the information is available at the start of the year instead of testing starting in February / March by the new teacher. This is expected to make a smoother start to the school year.

Direct Interaction Phase:
Students will have 3 sessions in mixed groupings. The focus of the sessions is around building social relationships with different students using strategies like circle time. The aim is to reduce possible anxieties about relationships or location and build personal confidence. Some routines are developed around different classroom locations. Students working in flexible spaces learn about levels of working noise, responsibilities around student lockers are explained and use of wireless technology in years 3-6 are explored. In the last week of school the third session of this phase will see students in their 2010 groupings and the start of the induction program where students see the similar types of learning structures used by teachers. This consistency between classrooms again reduces potential anxieties. Teachers also collect some personal information from students so that a sense of being known is fostered and a sense of belonging to the school developed.

Induction Phase:
Teachers begin this phase at the start of the school year before students arrive by reading student files and talking to past teachers to collect information about each student in their group. The induction phase was strengthened last year when the whole school engaged in a “Learning to Learn” inquiry unit which formed the basis of individual classes setting norms for working. Student understandings about school values are explored, behavioural expectations constructed and school rules reinforced through the student code of conduct which is sent home. For years 3-6 students the expanded use of digital resources means that sessions on cyber safety expectations and issues are held. Routines are established that include the use of diaries and memory sticks for years 3 -6 students and red satchels for home reading for prep – two students. Senior students have sessions on responsibilities on school leadership. Teachers continue to build social relationships through strategies like circle time. Students usually see the alignment in teacher practices between classrooms through consistent use of instructional strategies like guided reading, literature circles or the use of manipulative materials to understand Mathematical ideas.

Consolidation Phase:
This phase often involves further testing of students as additional information is required to plan the learning program for each student. Teachers continue to build relationships with students and reinforce the expectations set in the induction phase. During this phase there is a parent information session where teachers explain what’s happened in the induction phase and focus on some key area of school improvement, which in 2010 – 2013 is Mathematics.

School transition programs are a strategic plan improvement goal and parents in years prep, two, four and six and some senior students will complete an online survey to gather feedback about the program. The feedback will support any further changes to the program in future years.

I’d be interested to hear about other schools who conduct transition programs for students as they move from different year levels and whether there has been any recognisable difference in school connectedness.

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4 Responses to School Transition Programs – Do they make a difference?

  1. Nila says:

    Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

  2. John Slevin says:


    Your conversations and postings intrigue me. I’m working with a local private high school while getting advice and support from an Assoc Professor in Education at major university in Indiana – all focusing on student “onboarding”.

    Call it transition, onboarding, or new relationships, the fact is that a formal process with various levels of engagement from all stakeholders could be a pretty awesome application.

    Schools, Employers, Hospitals, basically any “new relationship” that needs more than just a “meet and greet” experience associated with it. Anyone or any entity that has a need to implement a more formal “onboarding” process is our market.

    For the past three years, a Fortune 50 heavy equipment manufacturer has been using an “Onboarding” application we built and manage for them. Like this manufacturer, companies that have a formal onboarding or transition process are able to enhance their existing process of culture and social assimilation of new and/or existing employees. An onboarding process has proven to improve employee engagement, satisfaction and increase the communication between the employees and their supervisors.

    Why not high schools?…..and the transition period for the young adolescents as they go from 8th grade to high school – scary time for them. Same could be said about entering college – a big change in life which needs to be more than just a 2-day freshman orientation. Done correctly, a Middle School to High School transition model will engage the parents, reduce the number of drop-outs, increase the students GPA, reduce the truancy, reduce disciplinary actions and keep kids in school longer with an intent to go to college.

    We’ve really not come across any service solution or “home grown” process that has integrated this type of strategy. Have you seen anything in your travels?

    Would love to establish a dialogue with you and keep tabs on things in your world.


    • mwalker says:

      I really like the “onboarding” term – I think this might appeal to the students.

      A part of our learning so far in the transition / on boarding program is that we need to take parents with us [as well as the students] – particularly when it mean a change in learning environments from traditional to new flexible and dedicated learning areas.

      We have established a transition project team who are looking to collect further feedback from parents and students before we adjust our program.

      There are some excellent transition links I have and will forward. I am interested in continuing a dialogue on this.

Interested in your thoughts