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Supporting Children with Medical
and Mental Health Needs at School


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How to help students with the transition from primary to secondary school

Transition from one phase of education to another or from one school to another can be exciting and full of new opportunities. However it can also present challenges and concerns for many children and young people.

Recent research indicates "there is evidence of a negative impact of transitions on wellbeing, a decline in feelings of school belongingness and connectedness, poorer social and emotional health, and higher levels of depression and anxiety"1 when students move from Primary to Secondary School.

It’s important for schools to take a proactive role in managing transition for all students but for those that have acute or chronic health conditions the need to prepare and plan for the move from Primary to Secondary School is vital.


  • Advise parents to visit potential secondary schools early in year 5 so they can look at facilities and speak to the SENDCO/ Medical Needs Lead. 
  • Encourage parents to ask the secondary school what support would be available for their child’s medical/mental health needs.
  • Be proactive in preparing students for change. Organise class or group sessions to discuss the opportunities and challenges of going to a new school.
  • Address practical questions about changes in routine, subjects, and new friendships.
  • Let students know that it is normal to feel anxious but that they can talk to a member of staff at any time.
  • Give students the language to talk about how they are feeling and offer support and validation.
  • Encourage students to make the most of transition visits. Allow time when they return to school to discuss the visit. If appropriate follow up any concerns they may have with the secondary school.
  • Respond promptly and fully to secondary schools that make enquiries once the student has enrolled.
  • For students with Individual Healthcare Plans arrange a handover, if possible include named health professionals in arrangements.


  • Arrange for school staff to visit feeder primary schools over a period of time so that students can start to build a relationship.
  • If possible some joint sessions with primary teachers to enable staff to learn from each other and discuss individual student needs.
  • Liaise with individual schools and gather relevant, up-to-date information to facilitate planning for students with identified needs or those that have been identified as needing additional support with transition.
  • Provide information packs which give details on subject curricula, extra-curricular activities, resources, school procedures.
  • Timetabled sessions to explore mental health and wellbeing, covering feelings, language, peer support and explicit information on how students can get help if they need it.
  • Ensure clear home-school communication systems are in place. 
  • Complete an Individual Healthcare Plan as soon as possible so that all information is collated and accessible to staff.
  • Provide opportunities for subject teachers to learn about specific medical needs and establish a formalised system for the dissemination of appropriate information to teachers.
  • When a student is newly diagnosed disseminate information quickly to staff that need to know. 
  • Ensure there is a clear and effective anti-bullying policy in place and that students understand the process.

Useful Links

A resilience and coping framework for supporting transitions back to school
 A short paper published by The British Psychological Society looking at nurturing resilience as part of the transition back to school process. 

Film Resource on Primary to Secondary School Transition from Young Minds

Information and Advice for Young people transitioning from school to University

Information and Advice on Moving from School to University for Young People with Autism and their families.

Recent research evidence on Primary – Secondary Transitions
(1) - Primary to secondary school transitions: systematic literature review - key findings 2019

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HOPE (Hospital Organisation of Pedagogues in Europe)