Lifting off to secondary education

Martina Veale, education director at ASDAN, shares a school’s experience in making the daunting transition from primary to secondary a smooth one for students

Since I first spoke about the importance of fostering a successful move from primary to secondary school at SSAT’s National Conference in 2017, ASDAN has been working closely with schools that have introduced our Lift Off programme. The programme focuses on supporting teachers to help their pupils make the best of this major milestone in their education.

Designed for pupils aged 10-12 in primary and secondary education, the programme aims to help them develop the qualities needed to make the transition from primary to secondary a positive one. Learners complete challenges across three modules: awareness, aspiration and attainment, which are intended to foster characteristics such as resilience, determination and self-control.

I’ve written in about why a smooth transition is so important – from the links between a poorly handled experience and lower grades to the long-term impact it can have on self-esteem and anxiety. As Ofsted flagged in its 2016 annual report, the transition from primary to secondary continues to be a point where some students start to fall behind. Research shows that a poorly handled transition can manifest itself in lower grades, poor attendance, increased anxiety and disruptive behaviour.

Even at age 18, low self-esteem, depression and poor academic attainment have been reported in students who described their move to secondary school as difficult.

How it works: one school’s example

Sawtry Village Academy, part of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT), has been delivering Lift Off to year 7 students since the start of this academic year and shows how it is being put into action. Learners undertake the programme as part of their PSHE provision for one hour each week. The programme helps both staff and students develop valuable characteristics, as head of core studies Emma Gilbert explains: “Through the programme, the learners explore their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, achievements, worries about starting secondary school, as well as their aspirations for the future. Staff build up a clearer picture of the student, which helps us support their integration into secondary school.”

As a practical example of the impact that the programme can have on students, one year 7 pupil reflected: “In English, I was just getting on with my work. But after doing Lift Off, I started to challenge myself more… I would think ‘Did I do enough?’ and ‘Did I do my best?’”

This greater self-awareness can encourage students to challenge their internal monologue.

“Lift Off encourages young people to stop and think about the part they are playing in their education…it’s not about going through the motions. It’s about challenging and questioning yourself, by being aware of how you are engaging with school and having an understanding of what you need to do to succeed,” Emma concluded.

“One of the things that’s really good about this programme is introducing the students to language about skills and attributes. This helps them identify the skills and attributes they have, and the qualities they need to succeed in life.”

Long-term impact

However schools choose to approach this, helping learners develop the key characteristics and skills they need to make their transition between primary and secondary school a successful one can have a big impact on their future.

Students who have developed these strengths feel empowered. They have better self-esteem, higher aspirations and an improved ability to problem-solve.

Characteristics like these can’t be taken for granted in young people, especially when they face the considerable challenge of transition. The prospect of a big, unfamiliar school, new sets of (potential) friends and a different classroom and teacher for every lesson can be difficult and stressful. Pupils need every support possible to develop the qualities that will help them experience success in secondary school and beyond.

To find out more about Lift Off, visit:

Contact Martina directly

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