Supporting Young People's Emotional Wellbeing During The Transition To Secondary School In Regional Australia




Australia, rural, regional, school transition, secondary school students, wellbeing


Extensive international literature is available on aspects and impacts associated with students' transition from primary to secondary school. However, in regional and rural Australia, it is challenging for educators and healthcare professionals to ensure that interventions supporting the emotional wellbeing of students transitioning to secondary school are informed by context-specific evidence. This paper presents a narrative review of research published since 2010 investigating students' emotional wellbeing and psychological impacts of the transition to secondary school, with a focus on programs implemented to support young people during this transition. Research specific to students in regional and rural areas of Australia was lacking, with a marked absence of studies in regional and rural settings outside Western Australia and Tasmania. Similarly, research evaluating programs to support the psychological wellbeing of students transitioning to secondary school was lacking. However, this review provides a comprehensive overview of factors influencing the transition to secondary school from the perspectives of young people, their parents and teachers. These Australian data capture particular concerns and features that may inform development and implementation of interventions specific to the needs of young people in regional and rural communities across Australia. In schools where no specific intervention is planned, this review provides general guidance regarding challenges faced by transitioning students and possible ways students can be supported. In particular, this review highlights the need for educators and researchers to work together to develop and evaluate programs to support young people as they transition from primary to secondary school.

Author Biography

Rachel Cathrine Rossiter, Charles Sturt University

Associate Professor Rachel Rossiter is a teaching/research academic in the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Indigenous Health, Faculty of Science at Charles Sturt University and an endorsed nurse practitioner with extensive clinical experience in mental health and primary health care.  Her research includes mental health literacy and mental health workforce development, developing capacity for advanced practice and clinical practice development.  Underpinning her research activities is a focus on enabling practicing clinicians to further develop their clinical reasoning skills and reflective practice and to strengthen their capacity for therapeutic communication (core components of ensuring a culture of care and safety).


Akister, J., Guest, H., Burch, S., Woolsey, L., Katz-Leavy, J., Chamberlain, P., . . . Bausmith, J. (2016). Can Activity Projects Improve Children's Wellbeing during the Transition to Secondary Education? International Education Studies, 9(12), 1-11. doi:10.5539/ies.v9n12p1

Benner, A. D. (2011). The Transition to High School: Current Knowledge, Future Directions. Educational Psychology Review, 23(3), 299. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9152-0

Bosacki, S. (2016). Social Cognition in Middle Childhood and Adolescence: Integrating the Person, Moral and Educational Lives of Young People. Newark: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Boxall, M., & Lucas, S. (2010). Nurture groups in school: principles and practice (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Coffey, A. (2013). Relationships: The Key to Successful Transition from Primary to Secondary School? Improving Schools, 16(3), 261-271. doi:10.1177/1365480213505181

Dray, J., Bowman, J., Freund, M., Campbell, E., Hodder, R. K., Lecathelinais, C., & Wiggers, J. (2016). Mental health problems in a regional population of Australian adolescents: association with socio-demographic characteristics. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 10(1). doi:10.1186/s13034-016-0120-9

Edwards, B., & Baxter, J. (2014). The tyrannies of distance and disadvantage: Factors related to children's development in regional and disadvantaged areas of Australia. Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia, 21(1), 14-18.

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: W. W. Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Ganeson, K., & Ehrich, L. C. (2009). Transition into High School: A phenomenological study. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 41(1), 60-78. doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2008.00476.x

Gniewosz, B., Eccles, J. S., & Noack, P. (2012). Secondary school transition and the use of different sources of information for the construction of the academic self-concept. Social Development, 21(3), 537-557.

Goodenow, C. (1993). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30(1), 79-90. doi:10.1002/1520-6807(199301)30:1<79::AID-PITS2310300113>3.0.CO;2-X

Hanewald, R. (2013). Transition Between Primary and Secondary School: Why it is Important and How it can be Supported. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(1). doi:10.14221/ajte.2013v38n1.7

Hopwood, B., Hay, I., & Dyment, J. (2016). The transition from primary to secondary school: Teachers’ perspectives. The Australian Educational Researcher, 43(3), 289-307. doi:10.1007/s13384-016-0200-0

Hopwood, B., Hay, I., & Dyment, J. (2017). Students' reading achievement during the transition from primary to secondary school. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 40(1), 46-58.

Johnson, S. E., Lawrence, D., Hafekost, J., Saw, S., Buckingham, W. J., Sawyer, M., . . . Zubrick, S. R. (2016). Service use by Australian children for emotional and behavioural problems: Findings from the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 50(9), 887-898. doi:10.1177/0004867415622562

Keay, A., Lang, J., & Frederickson, N. (2015). Comprehensive support for peer relationships at secondary transition. Educational Psychology in Practice, 31(3), 279-292. doi:10.1080/02667363.2015.1052046

Kourmoulaki, A. (2013). Nurture Groups in a Scottish Secondary School: Purpose, Features, Value and Areas for Development. Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 18(1), 60-76. doi:10.1080/13632752.2012.693755

Kroger, J. (2012). The Status of Identity. In P. K. Kerig, M. S. Schulz, & S. T. Hauser (Eds.), Adolescence and Beyond Family Processes and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lester, L., & Cross, D. (2015). The Relationship Between School Climate and Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Over the Transition from Primary to Secondary School. Psychology of Well-being, 5(1), 1-15. doi:10.1186/s13612-015-0037-8

Lester, L., Waters, S., & Cross, D. (2013). The Relationship between School Connectedness and Mental Health during the Transition to Secondary School: A Path Analysis. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 23(2), 157-171. doi:10.1017/jgc.2013.20

Mackenzie, E., McMaugh, A., & O'Sullivan, K.-A. (2012). Perceptions of Primary to Secondary School Transitions: Challenge or Threat? Issues in Educational Research, 22(3), 298-314.

Maguire, B., & Yu, M. (2015). Transition to secondary school. In Australian Institute of Family Studies (Ed.), The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Annual Statistical Report 2014 (pp. 83-104). Melbourne, Vic.: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Marston, J. (2008, 30 November - 4 December). Perceptions of students and parents involved in primary to secondary school transition programs. Paper presented at the International Education Research Conference, Brisbane, Qld.

McLaughlin, C., & Clarke, B. (2010). Relational matters: A review of the impact of school experience on mental health in early adolescence. Educational & Child Psychology, 27(1), 91-103.

Neal, G., & Yelland, N. (2014). (Dis)advantage and (Dis)engaged: Reflections from the First Year of Secondary School in Australia. Journal of Education and Learning, 3(3), 1-14. doi:10.5539/jel.v3n3p1

Rice, F., Frederickson, N., Shelton, K., McManus, C., Riglin, L., & Ng-Knight, T. (n.d.). Stars report Identifying factors that predict successful and difficult transitions to secondary school. Retrieved from

Riglin, L., Frederickson, N., Shelton, K. H., & Rice, F. (2013). A longitudinal study of psychological functioning and academic attainment at the transition to secondary school. Journal of Adolescence, 36(3), 507-517.

Riglin, L., Petrides, K. V., Frederickson, N., & Rice, F. (2014). The relationship between emotional problems and subsequent school attainment: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 37(4), 335-346.

Seddon, K. H. (n.d.). Epictetus (55–135 C.E.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

Topping, K. (2011). Primary-Secondary Transition: Differences between Teachers' and Children's Perceptions. Improving Schools, 14(3), 268-285. doi:10.1177/1365480211419587

Towns, S. (2011). Are students at risk of academic achievement loss following school transition? Australian Educational Leader, 33(4), 28-31. Retrieved from;dn=849593087438957;res=IELHSS

Vaz, S., Falkmer, M., Ciccarelli, M., Passmore, A., Parsons, R., Black, M., . . . Falkmer, T. (2015). Belongingness in Early Secondary School: Key Factors that Primary and Secondary Schools Need to Consider. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0136053. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136053

Vaz, S., Falkmer, M., Parsons, R., Passmore, A. E., Parkin, T., & Falkmer, T. (2014). School belongingness and mental health functioning across the primary-secondary transition in a mainstream sample : Multi-group cross-lagged analyses. PLoS ONE, 9(6), e99576. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099576

Vaz, S., Parsons, R., Falkmer, T., Passmore, A. E., & Falkmer, M. (2014). The impact of personal background and school contextual factors on academic competence and mental health functioning across the primary-secondary school transition. PLoS ONE, 9(3), e89874. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089874

Waters, S., Cross, D., & Shaw, T. (2010). Does the nature of schools matter? An exploration of selected school ecology factors on adolescent perceptions of school connectedness. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 381-402. doi:10.1348/000709909X484479

Waters, S., Lester, L., & Cross, D. (2014a). How Does Support From Peers Compare With Support From Adults as Students Transition to Secondary School? Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(5), 543-549.

Waters, S., Lester, L., & Cross, D. (2014b). Transition to secondary school: Expectation versus experience. Australian Journal of Education, 58(2), 153-166. doi:10.1177/0004944114523371

Waters, S., Lester, L., Wenden, E., & Cross, D. (2012). A Theoretically Grounded Exploration of the Social and Emotional Outcomes of Transition to Secondary School. Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 22(2), 190-205. doi:10.1017/jgc.2012.26

Werner-Seidler, A., Perry, Y., Calear, A. L., Newby, J. M., & Christensen, H. (2017). School-based depression and anxiety prevention programs for young people: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 51, 30-47. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2016.10.005

Williams, D., & Boman, P. (2002). Voices from schools: listening to Australian students in transition (in transition from primary to secondary school). Academic Exchange Quarterly, 6(3), 129-135.


Additional Files


24-11-2017 — Updated on 24-07-2022


How to Cite

Rossiter, R. C., Clarke, D. K., & Shields, L. (2022). Supporting Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing During The Transition To Secondary School In Regional Australia. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 28(1), 73–86. (Original work published November 24, 2017)