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Navigating the Transition: A Trauma-Informed Approach from Primary to Secondary Schools

Updated: May 12

Transitioning from primary to secondary school marks a significant milestone in a child's life. While it's often an exciting time filled with anticipation, it can also be a period of anxiety and stress, particularly for children who have experienced trauma or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

A group of girls celebrating after playing sport

Recognising the importance of a trauma-informed perspective during this transition is crucial for supporting the wellbeing and success of young learners. 


Here are 4 key considerations from such a perspective:


1. Building Confidence:

One of the fundamental pillars of a trauma-informed approach is creating a sense of safety and security. Helping children build confidence can serve as a protective factor against the anxieties associated with transitioning to a new school environment.

We can help young people construct their container of safety as part of transition preparation in Year 5 and 6.  This can involve identifying and providing access to emotionally available adults whom children can trust and confide in, as well as establishing safe spaces within the school, such as a designated sports sanctuary where they can retreat if feeling overwhelmed.

2. Breaking the Fall:

Transitioning to secondary school can be perceived as a significant upheaval, particularly for children who have already experienced trauma and may be losing their trusted adult in their primary school. 

Photo of a smiling teacher in front of  photo of a pupil

By identifying these children early on and connecting them with trusted adults in their new setting, we can help mitigate the impact of the transition. Primary schools play a crucial role in facilitating this process by sharing key information with their secondary counterparts, such as student profiles and preferred coping mechanisms.

This enables secondary school staff to quickly establish rapport, monitor, and provide tailored support to vulnerable students.

3. Creating a Sense of Belonging:

We all have a need to feel safe and to belong.  A sense of belonging is essential for fostering resilience and wellbeing in children, especially during times of transition.

Inclusive team sport festivals and activities can help children and teaching staff forge meaningful connections, feel comfortable in their new environment, and have fun together as soon as possible. 

A photo of two smiling school children

4. Sharing Knowledge and Strategies:

Primary schools possess a wealth of knowledge and successful strategies accumulated over years of investment in their students and families.

By sharing this information with secondary schools, they can ensure continuity of support and prevent the loss of valuable success strategies. 

We encourage primary schools to focus on building students' confidence, sharing information and planning for students' success.

For secondaries, we encourage schools to prioritise creating a psychologically safe environment, being intentional about creating brilliant relationships and fostering a sense of belonging in the young person as soon as possible.

Collaboration between the two ensures a seamless transition that prioritises the wellbeing of the child.

A photo of two smiling school children of different ages

Implementing a multi-layered approach to intervention, including universal transition preparation for all students, targeted support for those at risk of school refusal in the future, and multidisciplinary assistance for those with complex needs, can ensure that every child feels valued, prepared and included. 

Movement can make it fun and create a brilliant 3rd object to build relationships and help young people feel safe and open up.

Norfolk RISE Up Transition pilot

Future Action, Stormbreak, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk PE Support Service are collaborating with 8 fantastic schools as part of a multi-agency approach on the Norfolk RISE Up Transition pilot.

A diagram showing how to help students transition from primary to secondary school

Our focus will be to train some brilliant educators in Norfolk and bring together primary and secondary colleagues to help children manage the upcoming move to their secondary school.

Taking The First Step

We have created the 'Trauma Informed Frontline Educators Scorecard’ to help you track your progress in implementing Trauma Informed practice within 2 minutes. 

Take the Future Action scorecard button

This scorecard acts as a valuable tool for self-reflection and continuous improvement.  Click on the link to take the first step and get your score.

Taster Course For You

Once completed we will send you a login to our ‘Taster Trauma Informed Frontline Educator Course’ so you can develop your understanding of what a trauma-informed approach is, what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, and how this affects children in the classroom at the moment and their life chances, based on the ACEs studies.

Take the first step today to creating a better future for you and your young people here.

Join Our Waiting List

We offer a range of services from courses, keynote speaking, consultancy and our upcoming book 'Time to RISE Up'. 

Preorder the Time to Rise Up book promotion

You can join our waiting list here and we will reach out to you:

Have a brilliant week.

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