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Transition into secondary education

Moving between different phases of education can sometimes be scary. It can be even harder if you have additional needs.

At 11 or 13 years old a young person moves into secondary or upper school. The type of school your child attends depends on where they live in Somerset.

In some areas there is a three-tier system where children

  • start at first school until they are 9 years old
  • move into middle school until they are 13 years old
  • then onto upper school

In most areas children move from primary to secondary school when they are 11 years old.

At 16 years old a young person may move into sixth form or further education.

When children and young people move from one school phase to another it is called ‘transition’.

The experience of starting a new school can be an anxious time. Adapting to the change of environment, new routine and new people are all factors that can make us feel stressed. For young people there is the added uncertainty of making new friends and maybe leaving some behind.

We also use the word ‘transition’ for smaller changes such as moving up a year group. Whilst the school remains the same, the teacher, classroom and style can need adjusting to.

Supporting Me in Learning and Education (SMILE) Transitions and Changes leaflets below have been co-produced by young people, parent carers and professionals.

Document preview
SMILE Transitions and Changes

A document co-produced to offer support to young people, their families and those working with them.

PDF, 250 KB
Document preview
SMILE Teacher Responsibilities

PDF, 296 KB

A successful transition

The most important thing to make sure your transition goes well is to share all the relevant information with your education setting or employer/training provider.

Being in a new environment can be challenging. Your tutor or the wellbeing team can support you with getting to know your new education setting. This may include extra visits before you start.

Being with new people can also be worrying. Your tutor can help introduce people to you by sitting you next to someone new.

Information you may want to share includes:

  • exam access and learning support
  • SEN Support or EHC plan if you have one
  • safeguarding and pastoral needs
  • medical and physical needs
  • anything that may affect learning and wellbeing

Circle of support

A key part of developing support for young people is to build a circle of support. Often the support is made up of family, friends, and anyone else who you have made a connection with that you still want to keep in contact with.

The support can also include professionals such as social workers or a specialist. As you get older the circle of support can get smaller as you move away from some services you no longer need.

Having balanced support can help you have more people to go to when the support is important.

Find out more in this video by the Foundation for Learning Disabilities


You might find it helpful to record your own Circle of Support in My Important Stuff.  My Important Stuff is a place for you to write down information about yourselves in one place. This includes people, groups and organisations that can support you. You can carry “My Important Stuff” wherever you go, know who to contact and help others understand your needs.

Who to talk to if you have a worry about starting a new school or college

It is good to talk about your worries, including talking to

  • your parent carers
  • the pastoral team or school nurse

You can also talk about your worries on TellMi, a safe anonymous app for talking about absolutely anything. Moderators check everything to keep you safe, and counsellors are always on hand if you need extra support.

You may be worried that mental health is impacting your ability to go to college. You can self-refer to SomersetWorks who will help support you into education. You can also find more about people to support you with your mental health.

Last reviewed: January 9, 2024 by Helly

Next review due: July 9, 2024

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