The most effective transitions occur when a lot of communication is taking place. This communication flows in so many directions and requires the input of every person involved in the child's day to day life.
Michelle is about to start Reception. She has been going to a private Nursery for the past 3 years having attended a child minder before this. She has a school place at a school around the corner. Her mum and dad are separated but dad is involved throughout the week and often picks her up from Nursery. Mum has had a conversation with dad about the school which Michelle is going to. They have both has separate conversations with Michelle's key person in the Nursery as well as the room manager and SENDcO about a particular concern they have regarding an existing SEN. They have been invited to attend an open evening where they will find out more about the school. They attend and talk to the headteacher, school SENDcO and class teacher. They are also invited to a transition day where Michelle will stay without a known adult for a short time to become used to the setting. Mum and dad are both working so the Nursery has had a conversation with the parents about supporting Michelle on this day. Behind the scenes the key person has been talking to the class teacher via phone and has arranged for the teacher to visit Michelle in the setting before transition day. The nursery SENDcO and the school SENDco have been emailing each other to discuss Michelle's individual needs and has arranged a CAF where other professionals can attend and discuss their concerns and inform the new staff on the best strategies.
- All of this for a single child. This is repeated for each child moving into the Reception teacher's class.
The example above is typical of the transition for Nursery to Reception, although in an ideal world there would be a few more visits considering Michelle only lives around the corner. With Michelle having SEN it would also be beneficial for her to visit earlier than her peers and have more time to transition in September - arrangement which would be made with the SENDco. Think about what communication you need between settings and where there is a large distance, use email and phone calls to support in this.
So my nifty tip #1 is - Communicate Communicate Communicate
As part of communication parents should know everything going on with their child. For many, it will be high stakes. They'll want to know their children are with friends and not with little Jonny would hits people! Settings have to decide how to create classes or which room to send children to based on the child's needs - but have that conversation with the parents. They have to accept that you are making decisions based on their child's needs and if they think their child has different needs, listen! The EYFS is all about working together in partnership with parents and even if children are moving out of this phase, they're still in whilst you make these plans.
So nifty tip #2 is - Involve parents
The best transitions begin early. When I worked in a school Nursery I started taking small groups over after Easter. We weren't sure if they were going to our Reception at that point but we knew they were going to a reception class somewhere. Each key person took their own group over for 10 minutes at a time each day and started this during provision time where there were lower expectations of sitting, listening to a teacher or for doing something they were less used to. We built this up throughout the term until they could be left for the whole of transition day without any support because they knew the staff, and they knew the room.
This isn't always possible if the children are moving from setting to setting or from home to setting. But you can build in a number of visits even if they are just to the school office, or the to entrance to the school. This all alleviates stress and anxiety for children so that transition day is not so traumatising and children can enjoy it. I would highly recommend that the new room leader or teacher visits the child at home too ASWELL as the setting. This helps the new staff member to see them in two environments and to really work out what makes the child tick.
Nifty tip #3 is - Frequent and informal visits
If you've made those setting and home visits then you know a lot about the child. You've had conversations with parents and now they're coming to your setting. You've got them ready for you, right? NO! The children are coming to you but you have to adapt your setting to match their needs. This may not be true for the rest of their lives, but in the Early Years children have a difficult time self-regulating and so need familiarities to support them. That means looking at the roleplay area in their previous setting and adapting yours to support them in continuing the same play. If they've been learning about dinosaurs, make sure you make provision that reflects their current knowledge and extends it further.
I know a lot of people get really frustrated at this. But its not your setting or classroom. Its there for the children and so should reflect them entirely. This debate is influenced by secondary school VS Year 6 teachers a lot but by the age of 11, children are more skilled at self-regulating so there can be more change and they will adapt. Not so 0-5!
So my nifty tip #4 is - Your setting should get ready for them, not vice versa.
There is no great mystery to transitions. You just need to have a clear plan that all of your staff know about and can enact. Each year is different so don't plan on recycling your old stuff! Have a team meeting early on before transitions begin about how to support children who are coming to you and make sure all staff know the expectations and how to interact with settings and parents on this issue.
Thats my final nifty tip - involve the whole team.