BBC Bitesize are guest blogging for us this month about the impact on children of the big transition from primary to secondary school in September, which for many pupils can feel hugely daunting.

A group of teachers from Ravensworth Terrace Primary School set about piloting a transition programme for Year 6 children from a host of local schools.

Much to the relief of children and teachers in Year 6, this year’s SATs are now done and dusted! So what happens next? An enterprise project? Or more likely, rehearsals for the end of year leavers assembly, whereby children look back on their time at primary school - remembering the good times and looking ahead.

For many children, transition can be exciting! We often hear teachers saying, “They’re big fish in a little pond” or “They’re ready to move on.” However, for many children, moving on can be especially difficult and challenging - especially those with attachment issues or who may be deemed vulnerable.

Minor worries, wobbles and concerns can quickly escalate and the ‘move to big school’ can be foreboding. Research[1] shows that, for some young people, it can negatively affect their social, emotional and academic outcomes leading to less engagement, lower attainment, reduced confidence, increased anxiety, loneliness and behaviour issues.

Starting secondary school blog post

Children often ask:

  • “How will I get to and from school?”
  • “How many teachers will I have?”
  • “How strict will they be?”
  • “Will I get lost?” How will I ever know where to go?
  • “Will I be able to cope with all the homework?”
  • “What about the big kids? What will they say to me? What will they do to me? Will I be bullied?”
  • “How do I make new friends?”

All schools will have a Transition Day - whereby children visit their new schools en masse and learn a bit more about their new school and its expectations and routines. For most, this day will be enough. However, for many children, those questions will rattle around in their heads and anxiety will kick in. How do we help these children?

One Way Forward

Starting secondary school blog

With this question in mind, a group of teachers set about piloting a transition programme this week. Ravensworth Terrace Primary School kindly volunteered to host Year 6 children from 5 other schools from the local area. The event was curated by Animate 2 Educate, a well-known figure from the world of edtech in the North East.

His aim was to blend technology and physical activity in order to help the children make friends and share their concerns so that each child knew that they were not alone - that others were also experiencing similar thoughts and feelings. In fact, in September 2019, 752,528 children will move up to secondary school across the UK.

The children were able to experience two immersive experiences led by Now Press Play - one dealing with transition and empathy, while the other looked at anti-bullying strategies. Using i-pads, the children were able to mind map their thoughts and feelings and build up a word cloud of key phrases. These same words and phrases were then created by the children using letter tags grabbed during the ‘move & learn’ session led by Physically Active Learning (PAL) pioneers, Tagtiv8.

The pilot project was deemed a success by school leaders and children alike.

Starting Secondary School blog post

Martin Bailey Director of Animate 2 Educate said:

“Transition can be a difficult process for many Year 6 children and my aim was to stage an event that supported the most vulnerable children from around the North East at this time of big change. I wanted children to realise that anxiety around change is a natural emotion and although we might not always want change to take place it is something that can bring about exciting new experiences and opportunities.

“The nature of this event meant that children were experiencing a new school, new children, new adults and new activities (many of the same fears that children have around starting new schools) and wanted them to leave having realised that something different can be enjoyable and that it was very much worth taking yourself out of your comfort zone.

“I chose the activities carefully for the event and partnered with now>press>play and Tagtiv8 (two companies with whom I have a long-standing relationship and whose products I use extensively at my own school).

"now>press>play as well as offering a discreet ‘Transition’ experience also has a ‘Bullying’ experience and not only was their content appropriate for this event, but the use of personal headphones to create an immersive experience meant that pupils could experience things ‘in their own world’ and did not need to worry about sharing ideas vocally etc with strange adults and children that may have caused some distress. 

“Of course I also wanted the event to have children engaged and working with each other and this is where Tagtiv8 was perfect. The active learning games offered by Tagtiv8 were perfect getting children working as a team and developing communication skills. 

“I am delighted that the event proved to be a success. 28 children from six schools took part and watching their confidence and interaction grow throughout the morning was a real delight. The children were engaged from first minute to last and took part in activities that were non-threatening, yet still challenged a range of emotions. 

“now>press>play enabled children to enter an almost virtual world of life at their new school and Tagtiv8 fostered the human connection and interaction between themselves and new children in a similar position to themselves.”

Denise Thompson, Head Teacher, Ravensworth Terrace Primary School said:

“The children were buzzing after their morning yesterday. It was lovely to see more quiet children grow in confidence over the morning. It was a great opportunity for the children to experience change in a non-threatening way and realise that although change can make us feel uncomfortable and a little scared it can also be exciting.”

The children’s views on the session:

  • “Very helpful and fun.”
  • “It was relieving because I got to see what it would be like before doing it.”
  • “I really enjoyed it and I think it really helped me.”
  • “Now I feel more confident.”
  • “It was fun and I enjoyed the active activities the most.”
  • “It was fun and I got to meet new people.”
  • “It was very fun, the children from the other schools were very kind as well.”
  • “I had fun and I found it very relaxing.”

Helping at Home

Transition programmes such as these are invaluable in helping certain children in pioneering schools, but children and their parents/carers of in other schools?

We would definitely recommend talking - or more to the point, listening. Reassure your children that what they are feeling is only natural. Remind yourself what it felt like when you made own move to secondary school, but please don’t tell them tales of heads being flushed down the toilets or other urban myths.

Think of practical advice:

  • Talk to your child’s primary teacher
  • Accompany your child on a practice journey to the school
  • Check the secondary school’s website and social media channels for information

Resources & support

Starting Secondary School BBC Bitesize

The GO TO site for secondary transition has to be BBC Bitesize’s Starting Secondary School. The website provides resources for 10 to 12 year olds, teachers and parents to help support transition. Bitesize has a host of video content. Their #StartingSecondarySchool campaign provides first-hand experience from children who have made the move and, not only survived, but thrived.

There are also practical tips for you on how to best support your child and support for children in their final term of primary school through to their first few months in secondary school. To find out more, click here.

About Bryn Llewelyn

Bryn worked in various UK schools for 25 years as a Teacher, Deputy Head and Acting Head. In 2012, he founded Tagtiv8 Ltd. His pioneering approach to Physically Active Learning (PAL) provides an enjoyable alternative to classroom based learning and also promotes physical activity – crucial when we all face the increasing problem of sedentary lifestyles. Bryn is co-director of Move & Learn. He also advises on content for the Premier League and the BBC. To find out more here

About Martin Bailey

Martin Bailey is Digital Enrichment Leader - Lanchester EP Primary School, Co.Durham & Director of Animate 2 Educate Ltd.

Martin has been a Primary School Teacher in the North East of England for nearly two decades, teaching and acting as ICT Coordinator in schools in South Tyneside, County Durham and Gateshead.

In September 2011 he founded Animate 2 Educate, with the intention of delivering curriculum-based animation, green screen and movie making workshops to pupils in schools throughout the North East. Animate 2 Educate Ltd are specialists in the use of iPads within education and Martin's 'Best App Guide' is an essential resource in many schools throughout the UK. Martin is currently working on his new book 'A Healthy APPetite'. Martin also delivers training and speaks at conferences and events. He writes a montly column in 'Primary Teacher Update' magazine where he reviews his favourite apps.

To find out more about the pilot project in Gateshead contact Martin Bailey at Animate2Educate: [email protected] or click here

[1]Improving School Transitions for Health Equity, Institute of Health Equity UCL, 2015


How Children North East Can Help Schools

The BU Programme is a group intervention which aims to build young people’s resilience to cope with the emotional challenges of everyday life, learning and school and develops their foundations for positive mental health. The programme is designed to support children and young people who may be:

  • struggling to manage their emotions
  • becoming withdrawn
  • having difficulties with confidence, self-esteem or friendships
  • at risk of developing more severe mental health difficulties

The programme is delivered in two hour sessions over six weeks and covers five units:

  • Communication
  • Friendships
  • Self-image
  • Coping with feelings
  • Basic mental health

It has a proven track record of improving young people’s sense of well-being, including increased confidence and self-esteem, communication and relationships, and engagement in school and community activities.

A school staff member said:


It is important that we can help students deal with their thoughts and behaviour. This is why we are working with Children North East because they are very good at it.


If you think BU could benefit your school and students please contact our team on 0191 256 2449 or use our contact us form.