Change can be difficult for anyone — whether you’re a child or an adult. The leap from primary to secondary school is undoubtedly huge and, for some children, the biggest transition they have had to face in their lives so far.

For a child with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), this transition may be even more difficult, for example, if they have difficulty making friends, following verbal instructions or understanding new vocabulary.

It can be a time of high anxiety so here are our ideas that may help your pupils (especially those with SLCN) navigate this tricky time.

  • New vocabulary

It’s not possible to pre-teach the multitude of new, curriculum-based words that your pupils will encounter at secondary school, but there are a number of terms connected to secondary life that you can start to familiarise them with.

Here are some examples:

Primary            Secondary

pupil                    student

dinner hall          canteen

class teacher     form tutor

play time             break time

circle time           group time

golden time        free time

Other key words might include ‘mentor’, ‘timetable’, ‘LSA’ instead of ‘TA’, ‘planner’ etc.

Why not create a glossary and start using these phrases this term.

  • Preparing for new routines

All children will have a taster day or event at their new school. This is a great opportunity for them to meet key staff, familarise themselves with the new school environment and perhaps attend a lesson or two.

Although these are designed to be exciting and positive experiences, many children will feel overwhelmed and worry about getting lost, not knowing what they are doing and perhaps even getting into trouble.

Get them used to secondary timetables by having a ‘secondary week’ in your school. Move the children after each lesson to a new subject in a new room. Class teachers can become subject teachers and each pupil can have a timetable to follow.

Using the Junior Language Link visual timetable resources will help reduce anxiety and promote independent working; perfect for supporting the new ‘secondary week’ timetable.

  • Help pupils express their concerns

Children with SLCN may have difficulties voicing their thoughts and feelings about leaving primary school, leading to frustration and additional anxiety. Arrange a 1:1 where the teacher uses emoticons and ratings scales to support the children in talking about their feelings around transition.

The Question Box classroom resource from Junior Language Link encourages children to ask questions without having to ask in front of the whole class. They can simply write their question or concern and post it in the box. As children realise that their thoughts are valued and appropriate they will begin to have the confidence to ask further questions.

  • Preparing for new social situations

Your children will meet many new people when they move to secondary school and find themselves in new social situations.

Why not role-play common scenarios (using topics from The Question Box where appropriate). This is a great way to encourage better listening, understand facial expressions and read body language.

Parents will be anxious too and so keep them involved and informed every step of the way as they prepare their child for transition. Sign post parents/caregivers to BBC Bitesize: Starting secondary school.

  • Keep communicating

Communication between primary and secondary school is fundamental for a student with SLCN’s successful transition.

Secondary SENCos should be provided with the key background information on these pupils, including any diagnoses and specific difficulties they have, the interventions they have received and the strategies that are in place to successfully support their learning. This should include Communication Passports, Individual Education Plans (IEP) and EHCPs. This is essential for effective support to continue into Key Stage 3.

If your school is a Junior Language Link subscriber then be sure to include your pupils’ recent language assessment results, reports and provision maps.

A bit about Junior Language link

Junior Language Link is an innovative, award-winning online assessment and intervention package used by schools to identify and support pupils, aged 7-11 years, with language and communication needs.

The Classroom Resources tab enables the recommended strategies for children with SLCN to be incorporated into your daily teaching and classroom practice, benefitting all the pupils in your care.

Take a 4-week FREE trial of Junior Language Link, carry out assessments, view results and recommendations and get a free Listening Group session to carry out with your pupils.

Book a free trial

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