Section 6 - Transition arrangements from Primary to Secondary School
A secondary school is a very different place compared to a primary setting. There is often a much larger population. There is a higher level of movement in and around the school and the curriculum often demands a faster speed of work from students. Children in S1 are no longer the ‘big fish in a small pond’, but are instead ‘very small fish in a huge pond’.
This transition is difficult for all young people, but Parents/Carers of children with additional support needs must help with the planning and preparation if the transition process is to succeed.
As your visually impaired child makes his way through primary school he may already be receiving support from a TVI and other agencies. His functional vision may be regularly assessed and equipment and materials made available which should allow a greater level of access to the curriculum.
By the time he reaches P6, you will need to think about which secondary school will continue to meet these needs in the best way possible.
Issues worth considering
There are a number of issues that you will have to look at before your child’s attendance at secondary school..
- Which secondary placement will be best for your child? Should he attend
his local secondary with peripatetic support from a Teacher of the Visually
Impaired? Should he attend a mainstream school with a Unit/Resource
Base for visually impaired pupils? Or, would your child benefit from
being in a special school, which could not only address his visual needs,
but also support any additional difficulties your child may have?
- The curriculum – will your child be able to access everything
at your chosen school? Or, should it be changed to meet his specific
needs? Will extra time be required for mobility/daily living skills
lessons; additional teaching support; tuition in access technology;
Braille lessons if required, etc.? Will your child’s visual impairment
prevent participation in sports?
- What equipment/resources will be made available to your child at secondary?
Will your child need adapted materials such as large print or Braille?
Does he use Low Vision Aids such as telescopes, magnifiers, CCTV’s,
angle-boards, task lamps, and will these be available to your child?
- If your child has complex or additional support needs, how will these
be looked after? Consider the accessibility of the school. Can your
child get into and around school easily? What help will be required
from an SEN assistant?
- Transport should be arranged. You may want to think about gradually
increasing your child’s travel independence: starting with taxis
and, with mobility input, leading to increased use of public transport.
- Children moving from primary to secondary will benefit from mobility lessons in and around the school before starting school. This can be arranged with the primary school, for instance a “visit day” and may be continued through the summer break. This will overcome the worry faced by most young visually impaired students about the size of a secondary school.
Getting ready for secondary school starts at a much earlier stage for children with a visual impairment. Often this starts in Primary 6 with the more detailed planning happening in Primary 7 Therefore we have broken this down into two sections.
The TVI dealing with your child at school will often provide information about Secondary school visual impairment support at the earliest time possible, but most usually this takes place in the P6 year.
Primary to secondary transition may be first discussed at a VIAT (Visual Impairment Assessment Team) meeting well before P6. Whenever these discussions take place you should be involved. VI staff will inform you of the full range of schools available to your child. They may make suggestions, and it is up to you to consider the various options.
When your child moves into his final year of primary school, future support should be in place to make a transition plan. There are several important periods when you will wish to be fully involved.
- A review of progress is usually conducted. At this meeting, future
placements and the amount of support to be made available will be discussed
and finalised. Any referrals for Low Vision Aids (LVA’s) may be
- It is important that you and your child have visited some schools and together have come to a decision as to which placement will best meet the needs of your child.
February - April
This is normally the time when placing requests must be made to Service Managers at the education authority. This is an application that Parents/Carers are required to make if they want a place for their child in a school not within the home area.
Once the application has been approved and the school has finally been decided, then with the help of your existing TVI, you must;
- Get to know the TVI who will be assisting your child at the secondary
- Talk with the Deputy Head Teacher (DHT) who will have responsibility
for primary to secondary transition in your chosen scho
- If your child is to attend a Unit/Resource Centre for visually impaired pupils attached to a mainstream school, it may also be wise to start an exchange with the school. This will mean that your child will attend a primary school, which feeds to the secondary school of your choice. This will allow your child to mix more with his soon-to-be friends. It will also familiarise the sighted children with their visually impaired classmate.
To assist with the mixing of visually impaired pupils into a mainstream school, many TVI’s will arrange specialist training for all relevant staff at the new school. This will help the teachers and other staff to teach your visually impaired child in the classroom.
Similarly, it is also helpful for ‘visual impairment awareness training’ to be given to all children in S1 -perhaps as part of the PSE (personal and social education) programme. This will show sighted children what it is like to be visually impaired and will show the various pieces of equipment that will be used by those in class with a visual loss. This method has been very successful in helping children with a visual impairment feel part of the class.
Once the pupil has settled into his new school, it would be helpful for mobility input to continue until all concerned feel that the visually impaired young person can confidently move safely from class to class. Parents/Carers must also develop a close relationship with teaching staff, and assist with any social skills being taught. Through working together it is hoped that by the end of secondary, the young visually impaired learner will become confident and able to deal with the challenges set in later life.