This book has been in process for almost five years. Each of us has alternately labored over it and set it very far back on our desks and in our minds. Nevertheless, it has continued to surface as a book that needed to be written. Our conversations with real teachers and students, along with insistently encouraging colleagues, have compelled us to draw together and consolidate some of our ongoing work and present it in a way that is accessible to teachers working in the field.
Throughout this time we have been involved, with a number of our colleagues, in a program of work that has contributed to and also helped evaluate the progress of school reform efforts in what are known as the Transition Years of Schooling in our province of Ontario. A key part of our program was a report, Rights of Passage (Hargreaves and Earl, 1990) which two of us co-authored under a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Education in Canada. Our task was to review selected international research on schooling in the Transition Years (grades 7-9), paying particular attention to innovative programs and services in the area. We were asked to detail any implications for the development of Transition Years policies. To our pleasure and mild surprise, the report quickly came to be discussed and disseminated throughout Ontario schools and school systems. It fed actively into the policy development process for restructuring education in grades 7-9 in the province, and it began to be used and referred to in other jurisdictions across Canada, and beyond it too—for instance, in statewide reviews of the middle years of schooling in Australia (for example, Eyers, 1992). Because the report, as a Ministry document, is not readily available, we have extended and updated it for this book aimed at a wider audience. We are particularly grateful to the Ontario Ministry of Education for setting us on this course of investigating change during this particularly interesting time in the lives of young people.
Addressing a broad professional audience across a wide geographical spread is never easy in educational writing and research. The administrative details of different systems vary, as does the terminology used to describe them. However, from our international review, it is clear to us that the problems of change experienced by early adolescents and the problems encountered in trying to change our schools so that they meet these young people’s needs more effectively are remarkably similar in may different countries. So, if the chosen spelling seems unfamiliar to you, or the details of our terminology are