Education Endowment Foundation:EEF blog: School Transitions – reflecting on culture, curriculum and connections

EEF blog: School Transitions – reflecting on culture, curriculum and connections

Kirsten Mould
Kirsten Mould
Senior Content and Engagement Manager

Kirsten Mould, our Senior Content Manager, reflects on implementing school transitions in the lead up to the new academic year.

Blog •4 minutes •

Transitions require purposeful planning. Whether it’s the momentous move to a new school, starting the year in a new building in the next key stage, or simply’ moving to the classroom next door. Often schools find they have key transition activities’ which are locked into their annual calendars, but how do we reflect on the purpose and effectiveness of these events?

Our updated School’s Guide to Implementation tells us that alongside having a structured process, we should also be attending to key behaviours and contextual factors to ensure implementation is done well. Reflecting on school transitions, we understand the need to communicate with and engage pupils, families and staff while ensuring appropriate systems and structures are in place to support the transition activities. Uniting our school community around this important area will be crucial to plan well.

As well as being everything to everybody, we need school transitions to mean something specific to someone in particular.

Turning to the research evidence around transition will help us narrow our focus and refine our thinking. Although it is largely focused on the move from primary to secondary, principles can be learned for other potentially vulnerable transition points. Several studies have shown a dip in attainment coinciding with this time of change, especially in literacy and numeracy. Reasons cited include:

  • lack of curriculum continuity; difficulties adapting to academic challenges;
  • lack of familiarity with school culture, systems, routines and new expectations; and, 
  • issues with developing connections for healthy peer networks. 

It does not seem that simply offering a one-off transition day in the summer term will suffice. We need to look at culture, curriculum and connections to carefully consider key people, processes and planning throughout the year. This is a complicated web to weave to keep the social and academic threads intact.

Let’s look at a few potential behaviours and contextual factors that may impact school transition activities.


1. How do we define a successful transition and in what ways do we hold ourselves to account on this?

2. How do school transition activities demonstrate our school vision and culture? Do we use our professional development plan to train and support staff, uniting them around the purpose?

3. How do we help pupils and parents get to know the physical building and routines, along with the relaxing of routines in the early weeks, to allow time for explanation, practice and reinforcement?


1. Which group of people have the potential to influence curriculum continuity? Do KS2 and KS3 curriculum leads meet to unite their knowledge and understanding?

2. How does any plan for collaboration impact outcomes for young people? How will we reflect on whether we are meeting pupil needs?

3. Can we set up reminders or nudges towards particular literacy or numeracy practices, to unite skills in these areas?


1. How do we know we are developing positive peer networks? Do we engage the school community, capturing and sharing local knowledge?

2. How are older children in the school involved in buddying, peer mentoring or other transition connections? How do we know they are having the intended impact – do we use exit surveys’ for outgoing year groups to help reflect on our approaches?

3. How do we consider adapting previous approaches based on what we know about the incoming cohort? How do we share transition data in a timely way, with whom, and what do they do with it?

You may find this tool helpful to develop your thinking with your school transitions team.

Transition tool page 0002

Schools put considerable efforts into making transitions as smooth as possible. The way in which people are involved in implementation and the quality of those interactions matter. School transitions could be a golden opportunity to unite people around curriculum, culture and connections.

Next steps:

1. Read more about how the EEF’s implementation recommendations work together. The process helps schools do implementation. The cross-cutting behaviours and contextual factors help them do it well.

2. Explore the research evidence linked into the transition tool noted above.

3. Collaborate with a team in school to build your own implementation plan for school transitions.