Planning and support required to ease transition to second level

The need for more co-ordinated planning and support for moving to second-level schools has emerged from research with students with special needs and their parents.

While previous studies on the transition to second-level education have focused mainly on general pupil populations, the team led by NUI Maynooth psychology department head, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes, worked with 32 students with a wide range of special educational needs (SEN) to examine experiences before and after moving from primary school. They had attended 22 mainstream and eight special schools and took part in focus groups late in sixth class and early in first year.

Most of their parents took part in focus groups and three were interviewed by researchers, who carried out the work for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

The worries facing pupils before moving, largely mirrored those of all children, such as anxiety about leaving primary school, fitting in at second level, and concerns about disapproval from teachers or peers as a result of not knowing what to do.

“What perhaps did differentiate some of these pupils was concern not to stand out by asking teachers for help,” Ms Barnes-Holmes told an NCSE research conference.

Things were not as tough as expected after the move, thanks to support, advice, and advocacy of peer mentoring, particularly for those reluctant to ask teachers for help as they did not want to stand out.

For their parents, emotion and anxiety were more evident, with particular fears about possible loss of supports and assistance.

“There were frustrations that information about pupils’ SEN had not been used effectively and some parents did not receive appropriate communication about supports. Some difficulties were attributed to lack of ready access to teachers, which some parents believed would have avoided small problems developing,” said Ms Barnes-Holmes.

“Lack of resources remained stressful and distressing for some.”

The parents whose children’s schools did not directly involve them regarding their special needs were more distressed and hard to reassure, but where such involvement did take place, parents were the most satisfied. So too were those given secure tangible supports before or soon after school entry, as well as extensive transition planning.

The researchers said these findings highlighted the importance of having a single contact in a school to co-ordinate the transition.

The conference also heard about research for the NCSE, reported by the Irish Examiner last week, which showed a need for greater support for students in the move from second level to college.

The study, led by Conor McGuckin of Trinity College Dublin, showed a need for information for school guidance counsellors on colleges supports and targeted initiatives to help students transfer to further education colleges.

More on this topic

Vandals target club for children with special needs for the second time this yearVandals target club for children with special needs for the second time this year

Parents of special needs children says failure by Government to provide more teachers will not acceptableParents of special needs children says failure by Government to provide more teachers will not acceptable

VIDEO: Dublin special needs school makes public appeal to get them a playgroundVIDEO: Dublin special needs school makes public appeal to get them a playground

Fire closes Bray special needs clubFire closes Bray special needs club


Aileen Lee meets Christina Kenny - co-founder and design director of Lamb Design - to talk about her work and inspirations.Christina Kenny of Lamb Design: ‘I love bringing the outside in and inside out’

Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her career and the worth of luxury fastion. By Paul McLachen.From Marc Jacobs to her own label, Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her life in fashion

The recent sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ana Kriégel has once again brought the issue of pornography into public discourse. The details of the case, which are finally coming into public knowledge, illuminate some very worrying trends that are pervasive in the modern adolescent world and as parents and indeed as a society we can no longer languish in complacency.Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds

HUSBAND and wife Justin and Jenny Green run Ballyvolane House, in Castlelyons, Co Cork. The mansion and former dairy farm, which was built in 1728, is where Justin grew up. Raised to Scottish parents in Hong Kong, Jenny met fellow hotelier Justin while working in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Having worked in the UK and Bali, they returned to manage Ballyvolane House, as an Irish country house, in 2004.Parents for the Planet: Green family has greener outlook at country house

More From The Irish Examiner