What is the true purpose of year 6?
Whilst writing a blog post about how the true purpose of year 6 isn't preparing for year 7, I got to asking the the above question. During the last two years, due to Covid, year 6 children and teachers have had what has historically dominated their year taken from them: the year 6 SATs. Except that's not what they're called, is it? They're actually KS2 tests which take place in year 6 and therefore their tyranny over the final year of primary school is unjust. And so, with no further discussion, we will write off preparing for and conducting SATs as being the true purpose of year 6. If you've read my previous blog posts regarding transition to secondary school you'll also know that I also reject the notion of year 6's true purpose being a year of preparation for year 7. So, if it isn't about SATs and it isn't about transition, what is the true purpose of year 6? Here are just a few thoughts to answer the question: Teaching new content - first and foremost let's not forget that year 6 has its own curriculum, and it isn't exactly light on content. The main focus of year 6 should be ensuring that their learning journey continues. The fact that there were no SATs last academic year meant that this learning could be focused on the curriculum rather than the test content, however, this year (as far as we know) SATs is back and the challenge will be to ensure that the learning continues right to the end of the year and that there is no post-SATs slump.
Consolidating previous content - and before new content can be taught, the reality for year 6 teachers is that previous content must be recapped, retaught and in some cases taught for the first time before they can teach the year 6 curriculum. Much of this content will be essential as they move forward beyond year 6 so it is an important part of the year. Currently, due to the pandemic, it may even be the case that there is more previous learning to consolidate, or even to teach from scratch.
Closure - for children in primary schools (as opposed to middle or all-through schools) year 6 is their last year of a 6-8 year journey, often completed all within the same school. Year 6 is a good year for rounding off the primary experience on a high, not only consolidating curriculum content but some of the other 'soft' skills that they have been developing during their time in primary. It's a time when some children say goodbye to childhood friends as they go their separate ways and so some relationships need that closure too.
Reaching the top - there is something about being the oldest in the school that is almost a rite of passage. And with great power comes great responsibility - children who have been part of school life for several years have an important role to play. Year 6 children of great use when it comes to showing people round, tidying away the nursery toys and being playground buddies to younger children, and this responsibility is good for them too, developing them into more than just arithmetic and grammar machines and providing them with some real life skills.
Maturity - year 6 is a natural time for children to navigate their changing bodies, emotions and relationships whilst in a more familiar, safe setting. It's also a great time for children to be treated as those who are more mature - familiar adults who have seen them grow up are often able to have enhanced relationships with these children as they see them as who they really are: vastly developed human beings, as compared to how they were back in the early years.
Being the best - this is similar to the last two points, but brings in the idea of independence and autonomy as well. As mentioned in point 2, children have already learned a lot during their time at primary school and year 6 is a great opportunity to use and apply all that they have learned, having the responsibility released to them as much as is possible.
Year 6 is a great time for children to feel like they can give their all to every project, every piece of work and every opportunity - it is this spirit of independence that will set them in such good stead for secondary school (although they will need to learn to transfer this independence to other areas of school life once in year 7).
Finally, I am most interested in your views on the true purpose of year 6 - I would love to add to this blog post with ideas from others because I am certain there are more aspects of year 6 which could be considered as part of the year group's true purpose. Put a comment below or send me a tweet on Twitter and I'll add some ideas below! If you would like Aidan to work with you on developing your transition offer either at your primary school or your secondary school, please visit his website at https://www.aidansevers.com/services and get in touch via the contact details that can be found there.