The transition from primary to secondary school can be a daunting time, not just for children, but also for their families.

In a non-COVID world, students typically have the opportunity to meet their new classmates, meet their new teachers and visit their new school before year 7 even begins.

With COVID restrictions meaning this wasn’t possible this year, schools across the country had to find other ways of helping their new students settle in.

At Wykham Park Academy in Banbury, a digital alternative using video calls and meetings was set up to support year 6 pupils and ensure a successful start at the secondary school in September.

Wykham Park is part of the well-established Banbury Partnerships initiative which funds a numeracy and literary network for primary schools in the area and has allowed the academy to build excellent working relationships with teachers and leaders at feeder primaries.

Here, in a podcast with Primary2Secondary, Justine Williams – Senior Assistant Principal and SENCO at Wykham Park – reveals why a solid transition process is crucial for a child.

To listen to the podcast in full, please visit:

Below, Justine provides a summary of key points made during her podcast with Jo Fitzgerald from Primary2Secondary.

Justine explained:

“In years pre-COVID, transitions were particularly difficult for SEN children, those with attachment disorders, those who might be a young carer.

“However, this year, it could be anybody that’s going to find the transition difficult because their time at primary school was cut short for the vast majority of them.

“It’s new beginnings for them, and they haven’t finished school and grown as a year 6 normally would.”

Justine recognised the toll that lockdown had taken on the children not just academically, but socially too:

“Actually, students are quite robust academically and so I think that social interactions will be the biggest challenge for them when they come back.

“When staff came back, we were suddenly looking around at 70 other adults thinking ‘Oh, we haven’t done this for a while’.

“Students will feel exactly the same coming back into year groups of 200 people that they’ve never met before.

“They have gone from being at home in their family units since March, to being back in large numbers, so I think that’s the challenge for all of us.”

Justine Williams, Senior Assistant Principal and SENCO at Wykham Park Academy.


To make this change easier for the students, Justine created an extensive virtual transition programme:

“This year, we’ve gone virtual in our transition. Pre COVID, I’d have gone and visited each primary school to build a really good pen portrait of the children.

“We’d usually go back with one of that primary schools ex-students who would do a Q&A with the year 6 pupils, because when they have somebody that they remember being at their school who is talking to them, they feel reassured.

“Through the wonders of technology, I’ve still been able to meet all of the year 6 teachers at each primary school so we’ve still got that really rich pen portrait of the children.

“We’ve had a virtual meet the teacher, virtual tours of the school done by our current students.

“I also arranged a virtual parents evening for the students and parents to meet the head of their college, the principal and myself so that they had a real feeling of the school.

“All 200 students could also meet each other virtually too during this parents evening.”

Wykham Park also posted transition work to the year 6 students so that they felt they were doing some secondary work and getting ready for it.

The school made every effort to ease the transition process for the parents too, not just the students:

“Parental engagement is massively important – we are that team around the child and we’re in it together.

“We appointed two family support workers this year to build those relationships, and add that level of support to the families.

“We know that services are being stretched everywhere so we don’t want to leave parents out on the limb – we need to support the families in supporting their children.”


During the transition, Wykham Park worked closely with charity Standing in the Gap to support families who needed extra guidance.

Justine commented:

“It’s really important to us that parents are positive. Naturally, they will feel anxious – both the parents and the children.

“Feeling anxious is totally normal, so it’s all about normalising that anxiety and supporting them through it.”

All of Justine’s efforts to ensure students still had a thorough and supportive transition process into year 7 have allowed both students and their families to get off to the best possible start.