Successful Transitions That Work
Is It Time to Reconsider?
Transition is typically viewed as an event that involves change, which raises a common issue: change is difficult. Most people would agree that change can be difficult if it is not correctly anticipated and managed. Adults frequently struggle with change, even when they have planned for, anticipated, and seen the benefits of it. Assume you've been working in a job you enjoy, with people you get along with, and you're clear about systems, processes, and expectations. Consider getting a new job. Perhaps you went to visit and look around, but by the time you arrived to start, you had forgotten a lot of what was explained to you. Everyone appears to be pleasant, but you don't know them, and they don't know you and behave in very different ways. There are different expectations, equipment, rules, and lots of new people to meet and learn about, and you want to make a good impression, but you sometimes feel overwhelmed and inadequate. It is reasonable to expect a drop in productivity during the first few weeks as you adjust to your new role. This would be bad enough, but in our current crisis caused by Covid 19, you may have been away from work for 6 months and are completely out of routine, even things you were confident in doing before now seem unfamiliar, you may not have even met your new boss, let alone visited your new premises, and it is all just too confusing and completely overwhelming.
Consider how this feels for a small child, who almost entirely relies on the adults around them to handle safe and secure, and who lacks the skills or resilience to deal with significant changes in their life. 6 months is a lifetime for a four or five-year-old child. Children who were starting school or nursery will most likely have forgotten everything when they return. But, let's face it, most students will not return to their old class or teacher; instead, they will have moved on to a new class, key stage, or even a new setting without the benefit of the previous year or any of the planned transition activities that are part of regular practice. Given that some children struggle to transition from the EYFS to Y1 under normal circumstances, it is easy to imagine how difficult it will be for them to adjust after being away from school for so long. When we consider children who may have done very little in the way of'school type' activities, experienced trauma at home, or even lost loved ones, we have a huge task ahead of us to ensure these children are nurtured and settled in before any truly major changes in pedagogy or practice hit them.
Even schools with the best transition practices will need to rethink their approach this year and make new arrangements for children starting new classes and moving to new Key Stages.
The highest priority for schools and settings should be to consider what children will have missed, where their starting points may be, and how to gently integrate them back into a system that puts their well-being at the heart of what it does. Planning processes and activities with individual needs in mind and gradually introducing change will be critical steps toward success.
School leaders may feel pressured to 'catch up' by focusing quickly on educational outcomes, but in reality, the more confident and reassured a child is, the quicker and easier they will settle into school and the sooner they will be able to access the learning opportunities fully. It is also worth noting that the more vulnerable and disadvantaged a child is, the more difficult it will be for them to adapt to new relationships and surroundings, which will act as a barrier to engagement and learning.
Successful transitions are tailored to the needs of children and families and are linked to a practice alignment so that change builds on what has come before. One of the Hundred Review's key recommendations (Early Excellence , 2017 – Teaching four and five year olds: The Hundred Review of the Reception Year in England) concerned transition and promoted the following viewpoint:
"It was strongly believed that in order to establish an effective transition into YR, this was best viewed as a process emphasizing continuity rather than a single event."
So much transition planning focuses on events like meeting the teacher or spending a day in your new class, which will sadly not happen this year. As a result, less time is typically spent on aligning practice, which will undoubtedly be necessary this year if children feel safe and secure in their new environment.
It can help the planning process if we keep the four key principles from the EYFS in mind:
- A one of a kind child - keep in mind that every child is different, and some will require more assistance than others to make successful transitions.
- Positive relationships - all adults working together makes for smoother transitions - parents, caregivers, and professionals understand the impact transition will have on the child, with a key focus on involving parents as an active partners in the process.
- Enabling Environments - taking the time and trouble to align practice so that the environments are similar in terms of provision and expectations.
- Children learn in different ways and at different rates - congruence.
These four key principles are part of the EYFS framework, but they apply to all ages and provide a good starting point for thinking about this topic.
Achievement for All is creating a bank of materials to help schools prepare for children entering and returning to schools and settings, with materials appropriate for all ages and key stages. It will provide a framework for auditing your current practice and will offer ideas to compensate for what children have missed and what you can do differently this year and in the future.
This resource will assist you in putting children's well-being at the center of the process, so they are nurtured and ready to learn. If there was ever a time to ease off the gas pedal and focus on children's well-being, it is now; building gentle bridges for children.