Supporting smooth transitions in the Early Years

    Published: 06 March 2020

    This point in the academic year is a good time to review the transition processes for your school. In the not too distant future, new class lists will appear on admin computers and EYFS practitioners will begin the balancing act of managing their time between continuing support for the current cohort and the influx of information about the September starters. Organisation is key here… as well as an understanding EYFS team and supportive SLT.

    ‘Research suggests that transitions are central to young children’s development and emotional wellbeing, and the way in which the first transitions are handled could have a significant impact on the child’s capacity to cope with change in the short and long term’

    The educator UK.

    With this in mind, here are a few points to consider when reviewing and planning the processes you have in place to support smooth transitions:

    Top tips to support smooth transitions into school

    1) Develop a transition timetable and make the whole school aware of it

    Transition processes need to be gradual but they also need to be robust. It should start as early as possible to ensure that children are able to receive their full educational entitlement with minimal disruption. It would be beneficial for EYFS leaders to compile a list of the processes involved with transition and plot them against the annual planner for the whole school. This will establish a clear vision of transition, ensuring that processes are embedded in practice and acknowledged by everyone.




    2) Exchange meaningful information with previous providers

    Many of the children joining the school will have attended a previous setting or childminder and it is vital that time is set aside to share information about the child and family. It is important to remember that some children may have been with the previous provider from three months old and others may have only been with the provider for a term. Conversations between professionals must be mutually valued and ensure that information gathered is used to support smooth transitions.




    3) Build relationships with the families

    ‘The EYFS seeks to provide partnership working between practitioners and with parents and/or carers’ Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage 2017. Regardless of home background or family needs, positive relationships must be formed between school and parents and carers. It is imperative that these relationships are made as soon as possible. Parents and carers can be just as, if not more, anxious about their child starting school than the child themselves and, as you will be aware, parents and carers are their child’s first and most important teacher. They will be able to provide you with a wealth of information about their child and in some cases children may have only been cared for at home, therefore, this information is even more pertinent.  



    Child and parent


    4) Plan and organise your environment to meet the needs of your new starters

    The information gathered from conversations with previous providers, parents, carers and children should be used to inform your planning and environment organisation for when the children start. Ensure that children’s interests and needs are catered for by reviewing your provision and making enhancements that will make children feel welcome.  ‘When small changes are supported by responsive, knowledgeable adults, children will gradually discover that their world is a safe and predictable place’ Seamless Transitions – supporting continuity in young children’s learning, DfE 2006.



    Child and teacher


    5) Be prepared for anything

    Even with all of the careful planning and preparation you put in place, situations will always arise that were never expected. This term would be a great time to reflect on the processes you put in place for supporting smooth transitions last year and identify any developments that could be made to further develop these building on the way you have coped with the unexpected previously.





    ‘Transition has been described as an ongoing journey rather than a destination’ Early Years Matters 2020

    The key thing to remember with transition is that it happens over a length of time and must be adapted to meet the needs of every child. Educators in the early years know that young children can be unpredictable, impulsive and egocentric beings, requiring varying levels of support in a number of circumstances. In fact, it can almost be guaranteed that for the majority of the first day in September, most adults spend longer in the toilets with children than in the classroom. The following week will be constant reminders of where to find belongings or resources and possibly by the third week some routine might start to take shape…….possibly!

    Did you know a toolkit has been developed to support smooth transitions? Further resources will be accessible here for you to download, as they area developed through the HfL transition project commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council:

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