Girls more fearful than boys of the Transition to secondary school

According to a report by the ESRI, girls worry more about making friends and learning in a secondary school environment.

Girls worry more than boys about making the transition from primary to post-primary school, according to a new study from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

As they move up that big step in life's ladder, girls show more concern about making new friends and become much less self-confident about learning. Children from migrant families and young people with special educational needs experience the greatest difficulties at this transition point, the study found.

It is the first time such findings have been presented in Ireland in relation to these two minority groups, and the ESRI now wants more research on the processes of inclusion and exclusion shaping their school lives. The study drew on data from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) report, to look at the influence of parents, friendships and teachers.

ESRI head of social research Dr Emer Smyth looked at the ease of settling in to second-level through the eyes of parents, and changes in academic self-image, as reported by young people.

Parents were asked about transition difficulties experienced by their children, including missing old friends and making new ones, and adjusting to school work. While few such problems were reported, a significant minority of mothers pointed to difficulties around friendships, according to the report, 'Social Relationships and the Transition to Second-level Education'.

Generally, boys, children from middle and higher social classes, and children who did well academically at primary schools settle in to post-primary more easily. Social relationships, such as with parents, friends, and teachers, were found to play an important role, and talking to parents about their day-to-day lives emerged as much more important for children than having parents help them with their homework.

Having large networks of trusted friends also smooths the transition, as does positive interaction with their second-level teachers. But, even when account is taken of social background and other factors, "girls were significantly more likely than boys to experience transition difficulties. In keeping with previous research, this appears to reflect the greater reliance on girls on the friendship networks they created at primary level".

The finding on confidence about school work over the transition to second-level is based on responses from the young people themselves. Girls, those from lower education and non-employed households and those with special educational needs, became less confident about learning during this period.

Again, social relationships were found to be important. First years who have good friends, good relationships with teachers and who talk regularly to their parents, or where their parents attend school events, are more self confident.

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