Transition to secondary school: A literature review

Publication Details

This report contains a review of recent research literature concerning students' transition from primary to secondary schooling, with a focus on the New Zealand context. The report identifies both New Zealand and international literature and in particular discusses findings relating to the impact of transition upon student achievement and adjustment to secondary school.

Author(s): University of Waikato Report for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: January 2003


This report is a study on transition to secondary school, carried out for the New Zealand Ministry of Education. The study has been done by a survey of New Zealand and international literature on transition and interviews with key informants. The information gained has been reported under a number of basic questions about transition, with a major emphasis upon the relationship between transition and academic achievement, adjustment to secondary school, and impacts on different groups of students.

On the basis of the analysis of the literature and key informants, some of the main findings and issues have been summarised. A considerable number of research and other studies were located. In the interests of readability and brevity, this literature has been reported in summary form, pointing to important findings and identifying that there are gaps in research.

The process of carrying out this study was, first, electronic and manual searching of University of Waikato library databases for relevant literature on transition, using keywords to guide searches; second, interviews with several key informants with experience regarding transition. Key informants included three senior Ministry of Education officials, four secondary school principals (two of them Māori principals), a principal of a Kura Kaupapa (Māori immersion primary school), two Year 9 deans, a NZCER senior researcher, and school consultant and former intermediate and middle school principal. Two meetings were held with Ministry of Education officials as the review progressed.

Report Structure

The report is structured according to a number of major topics that relate to transition, and which emerged as the review progressed.

For consistency, and ease of reading, Chapters 1-8 are reported as follows:

  • literature pertaining to the question: issues and summary.
  • key informant findings and summary.
  • summary and common threads.

The literature covered in this study is listed in three categories:

1. A list of core and significant literature (essential to an understanding of the field).

2. A list of websites.

3. A more extensive body of literature in addition to the core list.

Where to find out more

Contact Us

Education Data Requests
If you have any questions about education data then please contact us at:
Email:      Requests EDK
Phone:    +64 4 463 8065