For many of you, it is probably the first time you have met your new class. Moving up day is your chance to support children in their transition from their previous setting into your own school environment. It is your chance to familiarise children with the unfamiliar, demystify the unknown and provide reassurance to them and their parents or carers.
Many people see ‘starting school’ as a normal part of growing up. But starting 'big school' is a significant transition that can have a clear and direct effect on a child’s development.
Transition = adjusting to change
"Transitions can be an exciting change with new opportunities but they can also be times of uncertainty!"
(Early Years Matters, 2019)
Transitioning into a school environment is a huge change for a young child. For a successful transition, or ‘change’, the child should be able to adjust to this new environment and forget that this 'change' ever happened.
Planning is key
Moving up day can become a casualty of time pressures as this session is often around the same time as sports day, the school trip and report writing - to name just a few from the list of summer term events!
So, if thinking about and planning for this important day is left too late, it can become little more than a hurried story, an unstructured ‘play in your new room’ or a stressful ‘paint a self-portrait for a display.’ Careful thought and planning for this session is imperative and can play a key role in ensuring a smooth transition not only for children but also for yourself and your staff alike!
Transition is a process
Transition is a process that involves a number of people including children, practitioners and parents. It is not a one off, isolated event that just happens. So, ‘Moving Up Day’ should be just one of a series of planned events.
"Transition has been described as an ongoing journey rather than a destination."
(Early Years Matters, 2019)
Consider using some of the following suggestions to make the moving up day session as successful as possible but most importantly – part of a process.
Before Moving Up Day
Speak to any previous setting that your new children are attending such as pre-school or childminders to gather as much information about your new children as possible. Better yet, visit the preschool yourself. This will ensure that you are a familiar face to the children when they enter your setting. You will also be able to make a connection easier as you reminisce on what you did together.
The New Ofsted Framework refers to ‘Cultural Capital’ which highlights the importance of practitioners knowing their children’s previous experiences.
On Moving Up Day itself
The question box!
With some forward planning, children could have the opportunity to discuss their feelings and thoughts about moving up. Current staff could scribe any thoughts or questions to go in a question box. A ‘question and answer’ session could allay some fears and address any misconceptions. You might want to extend the question box to parents - they are moving up too!
A class manual
The current class could produce a ‘What happens in this class!’ book. This would provide a focus for a piece of shared writing and would allow children to share with their younger peers all the exciting resources and events that await them! This book could be read and introduced on ‘Moving Up Day’, taken and kept in the children’s current environment and then read to the group in the weeks running up to the move into their new setting.
Meet the experts!
A lovely follow up event would be for small groups of children to meet with members of the current setting. The ‘year group experts’ could share their experiences of the routine and learning environment, and could answer further questions. This would be even more nurturing if the younger peers could prepare a healthy snack to share!
Consider the things that are important to you when you start a new job; you want to know where the toilets are and where and when you will eat. Children will want to know the same things! Give children some photos of key areas of their new learning environment (such as the toilets/cloakroom/specific resources/pets/staff) and ask them to go on a hunt ticking off places and people as they find them! If children will be eating lunch in a different space, do take time to visit this place. Perhaps take a light snack to eat there (remember to check allergies and food intolerances and medical needs prior to the session.)
Design your new room
The learning environment that the children visit will be the space designed for the current group of children. It would be unrealistic to expect you to ensure that it meets the interest and needs of your new children at this point. Be explicit with the group; explain that you want the environment to be an exciting place that has areas that interest them and resources they want to use. Ask the children to share what resources they like in their current setting but can’t see in this new space. Make a list of items they want in their room and create a map of areas the children suggest. Use these to inform how you organise the space for September.
If you really want to know what the children think of the current space give each child some ‘blu-tac’ and two emoji pictures; one with thumbs up and one with thumbs down. Ask them to identify a space in the room/a resource that they like and use the thumbs-up emoji and use the thumbs-down emoji for a space/resource that they do not like. This will immediately provide you with feedback on their thoughts about the current environment- prepare yourself for their brutal honesty!
After Moving Up Day
- Consider giving your children a transition photo booklet of staff members and key places/features of their new space. This will provide a talking point with parents and carers and can be looked at over the summer
- Consider setting a fun summer activity that the children can bring in and talk about in September
- Ask your new parents to fill in an ‘All About Me’ sheet for their child over the summer holidays so it can be brought back in in September. This will help you and your staff tailor your provision to reflect your children’s likes and interests in the early days, easing transition
- Host welcome meeting for your new parents
- Consider conducting home visits
‘Moving up’ can be a big step for some children and their families and without careful thought and organisation, transition can have a negative impact on a child’s wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.
The above mentioned activities will allow children to share their thoughts and ideas and inform your set up for September. Do keep any recording from these sessions; lists, classroom designs, child’s voice and photos for a personalised display. This will facilitate a sense of belonging for the children when they return in September.