As our children are going back to school, a lot of them starting Big School for the first time, I wanted to share with you something that I don't hear mentioned that much, namely transition regression.
What is it?
Transition regression is a term used to describe how the majority of students fall backgrounds, academically speaking, when they make the move from primary to senior school (or the equivalent where you are). Figures suggest that 40% of children lose motivation and have made no progress a year after transfer. Most children's marks drop by one third and a third are so badly affected by the transfer that they suffer some sort of mental illness. Only 27% of children moving to secondary school have a positive experience and only 12% find school interesting.
Why does it happen?
I believe there are several reasons for a child to regress.
1. The over-emphasis on emotional well-being.
I understand that the jump to secondary school is huge, scary and frightening and I also believe that our children are much more capable than we ever give them credit for. In my experience, in year 7 there is so much focus on checking to see that the children are all right that we forget to also look at where they are academically. I am all for making sure our children are mentally sound, but I don't think academic excellence should suffer at its expense. I think this sets a precedent that in reality will not carry on through school and will only confuse students more. I believe that too many schools are focusing on this, not stressing enough the academic progress they are expected to make. Sure, have a settling-in period but, the teachers and parents in my opinion need to get focused and clear and set achievable targets as soon as possible to stop children drifting and moving backwards academically.
2. Lack of focus.
Years 7 and 8 to me seem to me like very directionless years. Children can coast through these years without being challenged. We see these as years to get them ready for GCSEs rather than years where they can make real academic progress. Children in these years often get away with things that they wouldn't later on and young people themselves often think of these years as unimportant. I am one of those people who feels you should have to pass a year to move onto the next; not a very popular viewpoint I know but I can't help feeling that we are failing our children by not ensuing that they have reached certain points in their academic progress up to this point. I think parents and teachers should set clear progress goals for children and work with the child to stick to them, not accepting any excuses. Our children are much more capable than we think they are.
3. Encourage creativity.
I think this first year in school is an ideal opportunity to encourage creativity. Not something often encouraged at school and certainly is a skill needed if they are to reach their potential. We could employ something which is known in the business world as FedEx Day. This is where the children are given projects to deliver as a group the next morning (hence overnight delivery - FedEx Days.) I believe that a clear approach to academics with the added group creative work would support the children more than the current system, which is clearly failing our transferees. Think how much more engaged they would be in the education system if each month had a Fed ex day.
4. See pressure as a good thing.
We often fear putting pressure on our children, worried they won't be able to cope or worse still will fall apart. Carol Deck, a leading voice on mindset work, believes that the way to create children who want to learn is not to lower standards to de-stress them, but to keep high expectations and create a nurturing system around them. When we lower expectations because of pressure, all we do is make the child believe they are not capable and damage their self-esteem. I was recently reminded by the wonderful Heather Bestle that pressure is a good thing - think of an elastic band; it can stretch no end and will only break when it doesn't come back to a resting place. I think our children are the same; they can deal very effectively with pressure if in turn they have time for fun, creativity and rest.
All in all, I do believe that children are much more capable than we believe they are and lowering our expectations of them or not expecting anything much is a sure-fire way to ensure they don't reach their potentially academically.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them. Join the discussion in my facebook group