Transition from Primary School to High School: Developing a framework to guide future Centacare delivered interventions for young people transitioning from primary to secondary school: Report

Rachel Rossiter, Deborah Clarke, Linda Shields, Tanya Judge, Kathryn Kent

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)

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Executive Summary:
CentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes (CWF) provides a range of services to the communities within its footprint. The Family Mental Health Support Service (FMHSS) focuses on providing early intervention and support for vulnerable families with children and young people (0-18 years) showing early signs of, or are at risk of developing mental illness.
The team’s focus on identifying and responding to the needs of rural and remote communities whose needs are not met by existing services led to this exploratory research project. School Principals in several schools suggested that support for children struggling with the transition to secondary school was needed.
This report outlines the findings from three separate data sources examined to identify the specific needs of the target group (young people aged 10-14 years transitioning to secondary school) and review existing evidence that could inform the development of evidence-based interventions.
1. Analysis of Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS) referral and service usage data
A comprehensive analysis was undertaken of the referral and service usage data collected by the FMHSS as part of the required reporting processes. This analysis demonstrated a steady increase in service delivery was throughout the period July 2015 to April 2017. A shift in focus from intake and assessment interventions constituting 27% of activities in 2015 (as would be expected of a new service), to 37% of all interventions focussing on advocacy and support in the period July 2016 to April 2017 was noted. 60% of referrals over the period July 2015 to February 2017 came from an educational agency, with 77% of referrals made being for mental health concerns. From July 2015 to February 2017, 75% of registered participants were aged between 10 and 14 years.
The introduction of a new data base in July 2016 enabled the capture of a formal needs assessment. For the target age-group, the data indicated 40% of the needs were identified under the category ‘mental health, wellbeing and self-care’, with 30% of the sub-area issues within this needs category relating to issues associated with self-esteem.
2. A comprehensive literature review ‘Supporting emotional wellbeing during the transition to secondary school in regional Australia.
The literature review examined recent research (2010-2017) focused on emotional wellbeing and the psychological impacts of transition to secondary school as experienced by students in regional areas of Australia and programs designed to support the psychological wellbeing of these students as they transition in regional schools. The review demonstrated a paucity of research specific to students in regional areas of Australia and a total absence of research conducted in regional NSW. Likewise, research reporting on programs designed to support the psychological wellbeing of students as they transition to secondary school is lacking. The research reviewed did however provide Australian data that could be used to inform the development of interventions specific to the needs of the regional communities in New South Wales and other regional communities throughout Australia.
3. Findings from a qualitative project designed to ‘Investigate rural teachers’ perspectives of young people’s transition from primary to high school.

This project employed a qualitative descriptive design utilizing recorded semi-structured interviews to capture rural teachers' perspectives on the factors that they have observed as impacting on students' transition from primary school to high school; to identify the factors that they believe predispose rural young people to poor transition and to explore the strategies employed by in the target schools that are designed to assist young people successfully transition from primary to high school. Teachers from two co-educational government high schools in regional NSW were interviewed.
The findings from the data analysis relating to poor or successful transitioning from primary to high school could, in general, be classified into three categories of demonstrated behaviour: i) academic; ii) organisational; and iii) social and emotional. Poor transition behaviours were often seen to be interrelated, for example those young people whose academic transition was difficult, also struggled emotionally and organisationally in their transition to high school. The small and supportive nature of the regional communities, and their commitment to assist in aiding young people to successfully transition was of particular note in each case study site. The small regional communities voiced their ‘ownership’ of the young people of the towns as a whole, and entrusted the schools to employ strategies to encourage successful transition of their children.
4. Recommendations
The recommended framework for development of strategies to support the emotional wellbeing of young people transitioning to secondary school incorporates four key areas. (See p. 65 – 67)
• Actively engage with primary schools to identify vulnerable students in Year 6
• Investigate Year 6 students’ concerns in regard to transition to Year 7
• Enhance data collection for 10-14 year old young people referred to FMHSS
• Evaluate existing strategies already in place to support transition
The research team recommends that all development activities include an active component of rigorous evaluation with dissemination of the findings from such activities in peer-reviewed journals and presentations of relevant conferences. This level of rigour in evaluation of programs will enable the widespread implementation of evidence-based programs and will serve to support CentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes reporting to funding bodies and applications for future funding.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherCharles Sturt University
Commissioning bodyCentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes
Number of pages68
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-86-467310-4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017

Grant Number

  • 0000101927


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