Transition from primary to secondary school: a case study from the United Kingdom

Elizabeth Tobbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter presents ethnographic research from a project which followed children in a UK primary school in their final year (referred to as year six, children are 10 and 11 years old) in primary school to their first year in secondary school (referred to as year seven, children are 11 and 12 years old). In the UK children might make as few as two transitions between schools (from primary to secondary) or as many as four (from infant to junior to secondary to post 16 colleges). The transition focussed on here is one which nearly all children in the UK make and as such the data and analysis apply to a large number of children in the UK. The chapter will present data which provide insight into the practices of the primary and secondary schools and enable a reflection on the experiences of the children in managing their transition. I do not claim that the practices in the schools, or the experiences of the children, are the same for all schools in the UK, rather I use the data to illustrate important aspects of transition from both the personal (the children) perspective and the policy (school and government) perspective. Such perspectives will, I hope, be interesting to a wider international audience because the issues raised are applicable to educational transitions over time and over place and contribute to a meta understanding of transition. The main argument of the chapter, which emerges from the research, is that explanations of the mechanisms of transition are distributed across social meanings but that transition is experienced at an individual level. Further, those social meanings construct learning in the new transition environment, the quotidian practices of the secondary school are not neutral to the new students, they are value laden and serve to include and exclude and so demand attention. This, it is argued, is an ontological truth surrounding transition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFacetten von Übergängen im Bildungssystem
Subtitle of host publicationNationale und internationale Ergebnisse empirischer Forschung
EditorsAnke B. Liegmann, Ingelore Mammes, Kathrin Racherbäumer
Place of PublicationGermany
PublisherWaxmann Verlag GMBH
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9783830980636
ISBN (Print)9783830930631
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


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