Primary-Secondary Transitions: A Systematic Literature Review

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    The University of Dundee has been commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake this literature review to provide insight into the impact of transitions and the factors that support or hinder a successful transition from primary to secondary school.

    The transition from primary to secondary school is viewed as a crucial and significant period in much of the existing literature, and has received more focus than any other educational transition. However, Topping noted that despite primary-secondary transition being so important, it was a neglected area of educational research in general. Several studies over the years have identified that there is a 'dip' in attainment at the time of primary-secondary transitions with a lack of expected progress and sometimes regression, especially in literacy and numeracy. Various reasons have been given for this dip in academic attainment such as lack of curricular continuity between schools, differences in pedagogical approaches, differences in expectations of teachers in the two contexts, alongside lowering of self-esteem and mismatch between stage-environment fit. Alexander reported that this dip in attainment persists across education systems based on data from various countries, namely Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Tasmania and England.

    The specific research questions addressed in this systematic literature review are:

    1. What does the evidence from the UK and other countries suggest about the impact of the primary to secondary transition on educational outcomes and wellbeing?

    2. What does the research suggest about the experiences of children and young people during their transition from primary to secondary?

    3. What are the key factors that make a positive or negative contribution to the primary-secondary transition?

    4. What does the evidence suggest about the differential impact of transition on children facing additional educational barriers such as poverty or additional support needs?

    5. What does international evidence suggest about the characteristics of educational systems that support or hinder the transitional experience?
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEdinburgh
    PublisherScottish Government
    Number of pages59
    ISBN (Electronic)9781787815230
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2019

    Publication series

    NameSocial Research Series
    PublisherThe Scottish Government
    ISSN (Print)2045-6964


    • Primary school
    • Secondary school
    • Transitions
    • Systematic literature review
    • International research literature


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