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Why primary education is vital for secondary school success

Why primary education is vital for secondary school success

With today’s parents often juggling finances and busy careers to provide the best education they can afford for their children – what return does an  investment in an independent primary education offer?

Often, we might be tempted to focus our attention on the secondary years. After all this will culminate in GSCE and A Level grades, a tangible marker of ‘success’. However, as a specialist in primary education, I believe early investment in education pays long-term dividends – as in these vital early years, how we experience education shapes our life long attitude to learning.

To feel your child is happy, encouraged, inspired, growing in confidence … these are things every parent wants from a primary education, as the comments from our recent parent survey highlight:

“The Junior School has changed our daughter's life. She is happy and inspired every day and we are really grateful to everyone at the Junior School for the support they have given her.”

“I'm so impressed with the school and so glad our girls are there. I feel they are known and loved and encouraged and already I can see the difference this has made to my daughters.  Their confidence has soared since joining St Mary's and I feel like the school adds more value than any other independent school in Cambridge.”

Because we offer a complete education from age 4 to 18 at St Mary’s, I am fortunate to see firsthand the impact of our approach in primary education, as I am able to follow each girl’s progress through to Sixth Form and beyond.

Each year, we proudly see our Year 6 girls excitedly heading ‘across the road’ to St Mary's Senior School. They leave us very well-equipped to make this important transition. Getting this right is very important to us, as research shows a ‘good’ transition underpins a positive secondary education.

Our approach to transition

We know many of our girls from age four onwards and spend years getting to know them, in our small classes. By Year 6, we understand their personalities, strengths, challenges and preferred learning styles – we know their true potential. This knowledge is passed on with great care and detail to our Senior School team.

In Year 6, we spend a lot of time preparing pupils and parents for the move to Senior School. Our approach follows key recommendations of a 2019 study by the Scottish Government on how to enable a positive transition, such as:

  • Fostering a sense of belonging “understood broadly as feeling included, respected and supported by others in the school, emerged as important to primary-secondary transition experience.” Our Junior School is homely, warm community – where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging.
  • Positive relationships – with “peers, parents and teachers led to positive and good social integration which helped pupils to be resilient to the transition.” We agree that this is vital, and in our recent parent survey, 100% of parents rated pupil/parent/teacher relationships as very good or good.
  • Building connections with secondary teachers before transition, is also key. At St Mary’s, this happens naturally as we work hand in hand with colleagues at our Senior School.
  • Buddying up is important and our Junior School girls already know many of our older girls, who mentor younger pupils. Older girls have already made the leap up to our Senior School, and therefore empathise with Year 6 girls as they prepare to settle in.
  • Academic continuity and consistency occur as girls continue to build the High Performance Learning values, skills and attitudes we establish in Junior School, all the way through their Senior School years. Research also shows that an early pedagogical approach that encompasses emotional and social skills which promote resilience, enables a more positive transition experience.
  • Familiarity with our Senior School environment also helps to reduce any anxiety Year 7 pupils experience as they get used to a larger setting, moving between classes and gaining more independence.

Finally, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of friendship at this important time. Our ethos and values as a Mary Ward School create an environment where friendship, supporting others and empathy are key. I believe that our girls approach Senior School so positively, because they are embarking on a new adventure with friends ... and what could be better than that?