Research project

Primary to secondary school transitions: analysis

Analysis of experiences relating to the transition from primary to secondary school using data collected from Growing up in Scotland (GUS).

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Start date

March 2021

Completion date

March 2021



Scottish Government

Moving from primary to secondary school is an important marker of progression in children's lives, with increased choices and opportunities. To ensure children are well supported, it is crucial to get a better understanding of their primary-secondary transition experiences. A recent literature review commissioned by the Scottish Government (Jindal-Snape et al., 2019) identified important gaps in our knowledge about transitions, including lack of longitudinal dataset analysis, in a Scottish context. Drawing on data from the Growing Up in Scotland Study (GUS) – a large-scale longitudinal cohort study tracking thousands of children and their families across Scotland – this report aims to plug some of these gaps. Specifically, the report draws on data collected around the time the children were in the penultimate year of primary school (Primary 6) and when they were in their first year of secondary school (Secondary 1).

The report addresses four key aspects of the transition experience:

  • it identifies features of positive and negative experiences of the transition to secondary school;
  • it explores differences in the transition experiences for children in different contexts and with different characteristics;
  • it analyses the impact of the transition to secondary school on outcomes for children and their families;
  • it explores other developmental and life events and how these may influence cognitive ability.