Latest article: The Pre-transition Experiences of Parents of Pupils with Additional Needs Moving from Primary to Post-primary School in an Area of Social Disadvantage in Ireland (Primary to Secondary School Transitions special issue)


Dupont, M., Scanlon, G., Doyle, A., Kenny, N., & Flynn, P. (2023). The Pre-transition Experiences of Parents of Pupils with Additional Needs Moving from Primary to Post-primary School in an Area of Social Disadvantage in Ireland. International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 2(1): 3, pp. 1–17. DOI:



You can listen to Dr Maeve Dupont providing an overview of the article.

Transcript of the podcast

This study explores the experiences of parents of 6th class children before they transition to post-primary school in an area of social disadvantage in the Republic of Ireland.

The purpose of the study was to help to identify a model of support required for all students with additional needs including those with; special educational needs and disability; English as an additional language (EAL); and those experiencing social disadvantage. It is hoped that an appropriate model of support would enable pupils to make a seamless and sustainable transition from primary to post-primary school.

Ten parents of male and female primary school pupils were interviewed.

They were asked about: information they had received about their child’s transition to post-primary school; their perception of their child’s thoughts and feelings about moving to a different school: their choice of post-primary school; whether or not they had discussed differences between primary and post-primary with their child; whether or not their child had participated in any transition activities; the type of help they anticipated their child would need; and whether or not they had discussed support needs with post-primary school personnel. They were also asked about their vision for their child’s education and how this could be achieved; and their worries and concerns about transition.

The findings revealed that parents were very conscious of the social, emotional and curricular challenges their child might encounter at second level.

For example, parents anticipated that greater curriculum support would be required in Irish language as a subject and minority ethnic parents highlighted the difficulty for their children in managing a broader and more complex curriculum whilst still grappling with English language proficiency.  Parents also worried about friendships and mental health, and children who were less mature and less confident, and who would consequently find it difficult to take ownership of a new learning environment

The findings revealed that parents were not included as co-experts in the transition process and hence were largely unaware of: pupil information that was transferred from school to school; homework practices, streaming and assessment polices; available resources and support; subject choices; and curricular provision.

Parents were also found to require significant levels of support and guidance in navigating admissions procedures and the delay in confirming school places also added to parental anxiety, particularly for parents of children with special educational needs.

Although this study only included a small sample of parents (from one geographical area) this research has highlighted parents’ concerns about their children’s coping skills and their need for support with developing a sense of belonging and confidence at post-primary school. It is also apparent that parents are unsure of how they might support their children throughout the transition.

These findings are particularly important within the overall aim of the study, which was to assist in the identification of a model of support required for all students in one local area of significant social disadvantage. Therefore, the authors suggest that a coordinated effort is required to develop a strategy to enable a seamless transition for all pupils and improve transition outcomes. For example, parents and students might benefit from an annual, localised ‘transition fair’ which enables students and parents to connect with post-primary school staff and students, ask questions about the curriculum, subject choices, and extra-curricular activities. A similar strategy is in place in Ireland to facilitate the transition from post-primary to further and higher education, and this is a model that could be easily replicated.

An emotion-focused intervention might also form one component of a transition strategy where pupils are supported to develop not only their own coping skills but also how they can draw on the support of others-particularly parents.

However, any transition interventions would need to be implemented alongside other changes to the wider system with the child at the centre.

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