In this third blog for her series on Supporting Smooth Transitions, Jennifer Ferguson from the Early Years Team explores some of the key things for us to bear in mind when planning transition for children with more complex, higher levels of need:
To reiterate what has been mentioned in my previous transition blogs, transition is something that must always begin with the child. Schools and families all play a crucial part to support children with ‘big transitions’, such as starting school. During this current climate it is even more important that transition processes are reviewed and modified to ensure a smooth transition for every child.
From the unique child transition level of need tool, teachers in nursery and reception classes should have received a wealth of holistic information about the children starting school in September 2020 and can progress to the next step of the transition process. The tool aims to identify children who may require a more individualised transition and the toolkit provides early years practitioners with resources to support this.
Where children have been identified with intensive or personalised needs, it is recognised that an additional level of support will be required when they start school. Many of the usual transition activities will be restricted due to Covid-19 and will need to be adapted to ensure that children and their families are provided with alternative opportunities to meet the staff, view the environment and have their questions answered. The blog Supporting smooth transitions with social distancing in place highlights ways in which transition processes can be adapted with these limitations in place.
Within the Supporting Smooth Transitions toolkit, resources have been developed to enhance current practices. Sections 10-12 provide schools with planners and proformas to create individualised transitions for those children and families that require it. The planner is divided into sections for each level of need and offers suggestions for effective transition processes that will support children starting school. The planner has been organised into months to support schools with their planning.
To demonstrate how this resource can be used, let’s explore the ideas for July. At the universal level schools would normally be carrying out visits to feeder settings, holding induction meetings and sign posting families to summer activities. Where a more targeted approach is required, schools may offer additional induction sessions to these families. At a personalised level, schools will need to offer additional induction sessions and may need to look into the CPD needs of staff. Finally, if a child requires intensive support, the school will implement the suggestions as before and should begin to arrange future meetings with parents/carers and external professionals. As previously mentioned, it is vital that ways for these processes to be carried out are reviewed and amended during the current context of Covid-19.
"We know that happy, well settled children learn better and have higher wellbeing. We know that children need support to adjust and move from place to place, person to person. If we hold children in the highest regard and place highest priority on their needs, then a transition plan that caters for their needs is essential."
Cathy Gunning, Pedagogic Lead, Early Education
The potential barriers that children have on entry to school must be identified to be addressed and could, in many situations, be diminished. It is recognised that effective transition processes will allow children to settle into school more quickly and therefore allow them to thrive sooner, improving their life chances. Where children have significant barriers to learning, a transition that meets their individual needs will do the same but will look vastly different compared to a child who merely requires universal support. Therefore, it is essential to prioritise transition for children and families who will require a significant level of support when starting school. Using the planners as explained here has a range of benefits including, allowing leaders, where necessary, to organise the class splits for September, focus early years practitioners on the specific needs of the children joining them and allow schools to identify the support they may require sooner.