Primary to secondary school transitions for children with special educational needs: the importance of listening to concerns and promoting resilience

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Objectives: Although the importance of successful transitions for academic and psycho-social functioning is well recognised, the evidence base concerning transition for children with special educational needs (SEN) is limited and little is known about children’s actual concerns and experiences of transition.
Design: This longitudinal study compared the transitional concerns, bullying experiences and psychosocial functioning of children with SEN (N = 16) with matched (age, gender) Typically Developing children (N = 16) at two time points: Pre (primary) and Post (high school) transition.
Methods: At both time points children completed objective measures of functioning (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, Children’s Self Concept Scale 2), and subjective measures (semi-structured interviews supported by visual props) to explore concerns about transition and adjustment to high school. Questionnaires utilised standard scoring and interviews were thematically analysed.
Results: Children with SEN reported more social concerns, bullying, behavioural difficulties and lower popularity self-esteem both pre and post transition than their Typically Developing peers. In comparison to pre transition scores, children with SEN reported less prosocial behaviour and Typically Developing children reported lower intellectual self-esteem post transition. Pre transition subjective concerns were significantly associated with objective measures of psycho-social
functioning post transition for all children.
Conclusions: Subjective concerns about transitions and Objective psycho-social adjustment patterns were different for children with SEN both pre and post transition. Therefore, listening to children’s concerns may help identify potential risk factors for transition and inform interventions to support resilience and effective coping strategies. Adopting a resilience-based approach to transition may be beneficial for all pupils.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2015
EventBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference 2015 - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 May 20157 May 2015


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference 2015
Abbreviated titleBPS 15
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • School transition
  • Special education needs
  • Resilience
  • Primary to secondary school transition


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