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How can we improve children’s emotional well-being over primary-secondary school transition?

Bagnall, Charlotte Louise (2020) How can we improve children’s emotional well-being over primary-secondary school transition? Doctoral thesis (PhD), Metropolitan University in collaboration with Keele University.

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Abstract

Primary-secondary school transition is a major life event for eleven-year-old children in the UK. During this time children face simultaneous discontinuity and challenge, which can heavily draw on their ability to cope. However, support efforts to improve children’s emotional experiences of primary-secondary school transition are minimal, both in research and practice. Interventions that have been developed to counter the negative outcomes children commonly experience during the transition are limited in number, sustainability and reach. Furthermore, very few interventions focus on supporting children’s emotional well-being. Talking about School Transition (TaST), which is an emotional-centred support intervention, was developed to fill this gap in the literature. To inform the design and delivery of TaST, data were collected in both the UK and USA, in mainstream and special schools, obtaining insight from multiple stakeholders. For Study 1, UK children’s, parents’ and teachers’ retrospective experiences of school transition and how they felt this period could be improved were explored using focus groups. For Study 2, case study research was conducted in the US to examine the ‘optimal time’ for school transition and examine differences in transition preparations and experiences. For Study 3, case study research was conducted in a special school to examine how children with pre-existing emotional problems cope with the added apprehension and anxiety that comes with school transition and how they are supported. Together this insight was used to develop TaST which was evaluated in Study 4. The evaluation of TaST consisted of a longitudinal follow up questionnaire-based design and investigated the efficacy of TaST in improving children’s coping efficacy and adjustment, assessed using the outcome variables Emotional Symptoms, Peer Problems and Transition Worries. Results suggested that TaST had immediate positive implications for participating Year 6 children who showed a significantly greater reduction in Transition Worries scores once at secondary school, compared to control children. TaST also has implications for educational practice and policy in elucidating the importance of supporting children’s emotional well-being over this period. Further research is needed using larger sample sizes followed over time and contrasted with targeted approaches.

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