For practitioners who read the blog ‘Supporting Smooth Transitions in the Early Years’ you will have seen that one of the top tips was to ‘be prepared for anything!’ This level of preparation was probably the furthest thing from anybody’s mind. However, in this unusual time, it is even more important to reflect on transition processes and how they will need to be adapted.
With schools remaining open and working in a very different way, consider some of the positives:
- Everyone is becoming an expert with their school’s technology
- In a weird way some teachers may have been given the gift of time to complete that never ending list of paperwork and mundane jobs… or maybe not?
- Ways of engaging parents even more in home learning has become a priority
- You may even have been getting a head start on end of year reports….perhaps?
Ok, whether you see some of these as positives or not, it is truly admirable how resilient and responsive school teams are being. These attributes enable practitioners to consider how best to support children due to start school in September with effective transition processes under these more challenging circumstances.
The Supporting Smooth Transitions toolkit, commissioned by HCC and developed by Herts for Learning, contains a range of resources for schools and settings to use. All of the resources are available digitally for download and many can be amended to suit the bespoke needs of schools and settings, enabling a really tailored approach to supporting smooth transition processes in each school.
Here are some documents that schools will find useful to support planning and preparation of transition, with suggestions of ways that they can continue to be used, even whilst social distancing:
Transition Audit (Ready Schools – Section 35)
This tool was piloted with schools last Autumn and was received positively. It allows practitioners to review and reflect on current transition processes, highlighting any areas for further development or strengthening. It has been designed to consider ways in which practice supports families and children as well as focusing schools on how they manage transition processes.
Home and setting visits (Ready School – Sections 21 & 23)
As the African proverb states, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ During these extraordinary times it is imperative that schools do their utmost to facilitate opportunities for all parties to communicate effectively. Within the toolkit, there are proformas for teachers and practitioners to use when carrying out home and setting visits. We know a phone call is no substitute for the huge benefits of visiting children in their homes and current EYFS settings, however it does offer an opportunity to gain information about the child. So instead, where possible, try remote contact with feeder settings in a similar way to face-to-face visits. Agree a mutually appropriate time to discuss children starting school via telephone or video call.
Families will be appreciative of any form of communication as there will be a great deal of anxiety during this time about their child starting school. Communication with families will vary from school to school and from family to family. Schools might wish to consider using video calling so that the children can see their teachers, however please be mindful that some families will not have access to this type of technology. Written communication via post or email might be appropriate, however, for families with language or literacy barriers ensure information is simple to understand. Schools might consider including visuals or images to support their messages. You may even consider a pre-recorded video message to send via email, put on your school website or social media page about how you will manage contact with families prior the their child starting with you.
Induction meetings and school tours
The school website is a tool that is there to provide families with important information, especially for new and prospective families. Where schools offer a tour of the school as part of the induction, a video of the school environment can be shared on the website instead. If a video feels a bit ambitious, a collection of photographs of specific classrooms or activity areas could be shared. Induction meetings are vital for welcoming families to the school and for sharing expectations with the new parents/carers. In the current climate, a welcome meeting will probably be more appropriate early in the autumn term. However, schools might want to consider sharing slides from a presentation on the school website to give parents/carers an insight into what can be expected when their child starts school. An induction presentation and guidance document can be found in the Supporting Smooth Transitions toolkit for schools to amend as appropriate (Ready Schools – Section 14). Why not try adapting this for a digital upload to your school website or social media page.
Documents that can been sent directly to parents/carers
Within your admissions packs, you might consider including some of these useful documents to provide children and families with information you have not been able to share face to face:
‘This is my School’ booklet (Ready Child – Section 43)
A template for schools to create a booklet containing photographs of the school. A guide for how to create the booklet has also been included in the toolkit.
Transition activities (Ready Child – Section 44)
A selection of activities have been included in the toolkit that practitioners may find useful to share with families prior to starting school. The products from the activities could be used to support children settling in.
My First Day (Ready Families – Section 41)
This document allows schools to personalise the dates and times for specific children and gives parents/carers some top tips on how to prepare their child for the first day of school.
Getting ready for school (Ready Child – Section 45)
A document that provides families with simple tasks they can complete prior to starting school in the local community.
However schools plan to facilitate transition during these unusual circumstances, it is essential that they consider what this will look like for each individual child and their family. Schools will know their community and the best ways to proceed but for a little extra help with resources and ideas the Supporting Smooth Transitions toolkit is available.