Easing the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling: Helpful information for schools to consider

Publication Details

The present report is the last in a series of three. Each report presents findings from a Ministry of Education project A Study of Students’ Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling .

Author(s): Ministry of Education.

Date Published: June 2010

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Key Points

Students often anticipate the move from primary to secondary schooling with mixed emotions, especially when the transition also involves a change of school. And, for most students, as well as anticipating the move over a number of weeks or months, there is also a period of adjustment after the move takes place. How well students are equipped for and cope with this period of adjustment can have a critical influence on their ongoing education and future goals.

Outlined below are some main findings from the primary to secondary schooling transition study which are particularly relevant to the discussion in this report. These are followed by a summary of the major themes discussed in this document.

Major Findings from the Transition Study

  • Most students quite quickly adapted to the more immediate changes inherent in a move from primary to secondary school, such as finding their way around in the new school, moving classes, becoming familiar with different rules and routines, and making new friends.
  • Also, by the end of their first year at secondary school: 
    • overall, Year 9 students reported many positive experiences at school;
    • in the majority of cases, after a dip earlier in the year, in mathematics in particular, students' asTTle test results revealed sound or good achievement gains; and
    • few students expressed a desire to 'go back to how things were' at primary or intermediate school.
  • But, at the same time, the Year 8–9 transition represented a time of significant, deeper-level change and was generally 'unsettling' for students.
  • Other significant findings included that for an important minority of students (around 10%), the Year 8 to Year 9 transition was a particularly challenging time, academically and/or socially, and exacerbated in some cases by emotional issues or difficult home circumstances. Late in Year 9, some of these students continued to express a preference for primary over secondary schooling.
  • Evidence from other recent studies, as well as the transition study itself, show that during the middle years of schooling (Years 7 to 10) more vulnerable students in terms of their progress and well-being at school tend to become increasingly disengaged from learning and from school generally. This puts them at particular risk of achieving few if any qualifications to equip them for a positive future and of dropping out of school altogether.

Overall Themes in this Report

On the basis of our transition study findings and other data it is evident that:

  • Effective short-term transition strategies are necessary to prepare students well for secondary school and help them settle in.
  • A vital element in effective transition strategies is that of closer links and more focused communication between teachers and schools in each of the sectors regarding aspects of teaching and learning, and student well-being, achievement and progress.
  • As well as shorter-term strategies to address the transition event itself, there is also a strong need to address deeper-level issues in order to ensure that students get the best out of their schooling and achieve and progress appropriately over time.
  • One of two particular ongoing challenges in seeking to address deeper-level issues beyond the transition event itself concerns the fostering of various key relationships - at school, at home, and between school and home - in students' lives in relation to their progress and development. The second concerns supporting students to remain engaged in learning as they proceed through their schooling, an essential precursor to positive achievement outcomes.


  1. Similar findings have been reported by Evangelou et al (2008), for example.
  2. AsTTle refers to 'Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning. For more information about asTTle, refer to footnote 6 on p.13.
  3. Ministry of Education statistics show that truancy, stand-down and expulsion rates escalate in the middle years, especially among some groups of students.

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