View our Privacy Notice.

Top tips for using essential skills to support with transition

The transition between Primary and Secondary school is a big moment in the life of every student. At this time of year, pupils build on the learning from the previous phase of their education. However, they also face the challenges of adjusting to a new setting. 

In all settings, bridging the transition gap is not simple. Teachers need to consider any potential loss of fundamental subject knowledge, the development of new subject-specific skills and building the essential skills that are fundamental in every subject.

Icons depicting the Skills Builder Universal Framework. These essential skills include: Listening, Speaking, Problem Solving, Creativity, Staying Positive, Aiming High, Leadership and Teamwork.

The Association for Science Education, a leading, active membership body representing science education professionals, is keenly aware of the challenges faced by teachers and students during transition. Its latest issue of Education in Science focuses on the topic, providing advice and guidance to its member schools and colleges. In their article, the Skills Builder Partnership outlines ways that schools and colleges on Skills Builder programmes build the eight skills into different aspects of transition. 

Evidence has shown that building essential skills supports better wellbeing, something critically important at what can be an uncertain time in a student’s life.¹ 

So, how do you incorporate the essential skills into your school or college transition plans?

Transition events: 

The majority of schools and colleges run transition activities and events for upcoming students. These sessions are a timely opportunity to introduce students to the essential skills. Alongside familiarising them with what Year 7 lessons will be like, you can also show students what they can expect to learn beyond, and within, the academic curriculum. 

Here are a few examples of how you could do this in your setting:

  • Essential skills could be referenced in any of your transition lessons. This is something which has been rolled out successfully by Blythe Bridge High School where students learn about a particular skill in conjunction with that lesson’s academic focus.
  • Students could complete a self-reflection on the skills and where they think they are in developing them. This in turn, will provide a solid starting point for teachers come September, as they’ll be able to identify what prior-knowledge students have before starting. The self-reflection could be done verbally, as part of a wider lesson or through a reflective resource such as the Skills Passports on Skills Builder Hub.
  • Students could complete a challenge day where they can apply the eight essential skills to work towards solving a real-world scenario. Some schools and colleges run these as an alternative to transition lessons using either their own days or adding some to their Skills Builder programme.
  • Schools or colleges could put on a careers fair for prospective and upcoming students. Penryn College includes this as part of their transition events to introduce future students to the careers available to them in the local area as early in their secondary education as possible. As well as demonstrating the career learning that will take place at the school when they attend, it also shows how the essential skills fit into these careers as they are interwoven throughout the day.

Promoting the school:

Another key aspect of transition is promotional events and literature provided to new students and their families before they join. Much like the events we’ve already discussed, they help to demonstrate the learning students will encounter while also giving more context on the school or college itself, including how the essential skills are built in.

What could this look like for you?

  • Transition talks are one way of sharing information with families. South Devon UTC holds these at local feeder schools. By mentioning the essential skills, the new students are exposed to them and see how they will be building them sequentially alongside their STEM learning.
  • Skills can be included in the school or college prospectus and you could add this using support from an Education Associate whilst on a programme with us. Ormiston Bushfield Academy have done this, using their prospectus to show how the essential skills are underpin their school life. 

Our Programmes

Each year, around 200 UK schools and colleges develop essential skills, through transition and the taught curriculum, on the Accelerator programme. The Accelerator is a year-long programme where schools take a best-practice approach to develop essential skills as a central part of the education they provide. You might be eligible to apply for a fully-funded place on the Accelerator programme. 

You can check your eligibility and register your interest online to find out more. 


Angus, A., Millard, W., Joshua, V., Baars, S. & Bowen-Viner, K. (2020) How do essential skills influence life outcomes? An evidence review. Retrieved from: