Alongside the birth of a sibling, the transition to school is likely to be the first major event in many children’s lives. This period is, for most children exciting and enjoyable, but it can also bring academic, social and practical demands that some children find challenging.
Within the early years, it isn’t just the one transition children have to make. They begin by leaving their parent or carers full time care for the first time to attend nursery, private day care, or be looked after by a child minder or other family members. They then transition to full time schooling in reception or foundation stage two, and then have another change, as they move into year one/ key stage one, where they will begin to access a more formalised curriculum. This is lots of change to experience within just a few years. Lots of new routines, rules, expectations, curriculum demands, new places and faces to get to know, and friendships to make.
This time can be just as worrying for parents, as it can for the children who are going through this period of change. Parents and carers want to know that there child will be happy, nurtured and cared for, and that any specific needs they may have will be met. Research carried out by PACEY (Professional Organisation for Childcare and Early Years) shows that almost three quarters (71%) of parents were anxious about their child starting school for the first time in September, with close to half of parents (48%) being more anxious than their child about starting school.
By developing positive relationships between the setting staff and parents will enable effective planning and sharing of information to take place. Think about how this can be facilitated, for example, visiting the school or setting, receiving setting making home visits, holding/attending open events, and planning 1-1 meetings.
When sharing or gathering information about the child, think about what it is useful to know? This might include medical information, dietary requirements, home language, family information/people who are special to them, things they like to do at home, things they are good at or find difficult, amongst many other things. This could be recorded in the form of a pupil passport, all about me document or an information booklet. If there are professionals involved with the child, it would be useful for them to be involved in the transition process too – the wider the network of support, the more positive the experience should be.
It is useful for parents to think about how they can their child to be ‘school ready’. This could include providing opportunities for the child to dress themselves, put on their own coat and shoes, looking after possessions, peeling fruit, using and flushing the toilet, being able to wash their hands, experience of playing with other children and interacting with different people, sharing toys and taking turns, holding a pencil and making marks, listening to stories and handling books.
- Plan transition visits, so the child has experience of the setting before they start.
- The production of a photograph information book (e.g. new teacher and TA, the door they come in, classroom, cloakroom, dinner/PE hall etc.) may be useful to be used regularly at home before the child starts.
- Create a social story about starting school.
- Staff from the new setting to visit the child in the home or in their current setting.
The Early Years Team are qualified early years specialists. They work with children who have special educational needs from birth to the end of Key Stage 1.
When a child is either starting or leaving an early years setting their transition will be supported by the setting SENCO who in turn is guided and supported by the Local Authority Area SENCO and the Early Years Team. They work very closely with parents and settings to support children as they make the move into nursery school.
Many children with additional learning needs will have a 'Passport' in which their various needs are laid out in a simple way. The idea of a passport is that the child or parent can give this to a teacher in their new school. The teacher will then be better informed about the individual's needs. It is also useful to give to a teacher who is perhaps new to the class or on supply cover for the absence of the child's usual teacher.