Research Publication: Primary to secondary school transitions: systematic literature review

Date: 7th March 2019
Category: Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities, General measures of implementation


The University of Dundee has been commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake this literature review to provide insight into the impact of transitions and the factors that support or hinder a successful transition from primary to secondary school.

Several studies over the years have identified that there is a 'dip' in attainment at the time of primary-secondary transitions. Various reasons have been given for this dip in academic attainment and that it persists across education systems based on data from various countries, namely Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Tasmania and England. The specific research questions addressed in this systematic literature review are:

1. What does the evidence from the UK and other countries suggest about the impact of the primary to secondary transition on educational outcomes and wellbeing?

2. What does the research suggest about the experiences of children and young people during their transition from primary to secondary?

3. What are the key factors that make a positive or negative contribution to the primary-secondary transition?

4. What does the evidence suggest about the differential impact of transition on children facing additional educational barriers such as poverty or additional support needs?

5. What does international evidence suggest about the characteristics of educational systems that support or hinder the transitional experience?

The findings point to a number of important recommendations for educational policy and practice. The review highlighted important gaps and methodological limitations in existing literature on the primary to secondary school transition; the final section of the review provides a number of recommendations for future research exploring this topic. Read the full report here