I find it difficult to attend ClassDojo’s chats every week so when this week’s DojoChat was about Gain Time, I wasn’t really able to take part as it is a UK-only affair but I was interested in the concept especially as the topic of transitioning from primary to secondary school was in focus on the week’s #edchatie.
From my understanding, gain time, appears to be a concept in the UK to help primary school pupils move to second level. There appears to be very structured programmes including study leave and things like that. Thankfully, in Ireland we don’t have exams like SATS at primary level, but up until this year, there was no formal structure in place for students moving to secondary school.
From this year, schools will be obliged to fill in something called an Education Passport, introduced by former Minister Ruairi Quinn. This comes in three parts – a school report, a student report and a parent report. The school report is similar enough to an end of year report. The student and parent report give feedback from both cohorts about their wants, fears, hopes and ideas about moving to second level. All three reports are sent to the secondary school that the pupil is going to. The idea is that will give some connection between the two levels.
Is it enough? Some would say it isn’t. The days of students leaving the local primary school and all of them moving to the same secondary school are over in most urban areas. Secondary schools and primary schools generally don’t have strong connections, possibly because both levels are so different in their function.
How can Irish schools do this?
I think the Education Passport is a good start. It will at least give some indication to secondary schools about the abilities of students entering their schools. It will also give some indication about how a child feels he/she learns or how a parent feels their child learns.
In my town, all the secondary schools come into our school to talk to the children. However, it’s more of a recruitment drive than a transition programme. I wonder would secondary schools have some way to come into schools to talk to pupils about life in secondary schools and talk to them in general about secondary school as compared to primary school.
However, having said this, as a DEIS school, we’re lucky to be part of the School Competition Programme. As part of this, we have a project worker who comes in to the children to go through a transition to second level programme, where children can talk about their fears.
We are also lucky that we have access to a secondary teacher who has modelled a typical second level classroom. This has really allayed a number of the fears and children have commented on how it has helped them a lot.
Do we need anything more than this or should we be following in the UK’s footsteps? I must admit, I felt gain time seemed to be a bit over the top but it seemed to be well embraced by the teachers who took part. Is there anything else we should be doing in Ireland? I feel, with the Education Passport, we’re getting close. I think some of the DEIS interventions are necessary in all schools. However, as primary and second level in Ireland have such completely different cultures and aims, perhaps it’s best for us to live in our separate lives.