Transition is usually viewed as an event that involves change and that throws up a common problem – change is challenging. Most people would agree that change can be a difficult process if it’s not prepared for and handled well.

Imagine you have been working in a job you like, with people you get on with and you are clear about systems, processes and expectations. Now think about being moved to a new office, maybe you went once to visit and had a look round, but by the time you got there to start, you had forgotten a lot of what was explained to you.

There are different expectations, equipment, rules and lots of new people to meet and learn about. You are left feeling a bit overwhelmed and on occasions inadequate so therefore it’s not unreasonable to expect that your productivity would probably dip in the first few weeks, while you adjust to your new role.

Now imagine how this feels for a small child, dependent almost entirely on the adults around them to feel safe and secure and not yet having the skills or confidence to cope with major changes in their life.

It seems ironic then, that there is potential for more transitions as children move through the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) than in any other stage of the education system. A child may move from home to a childminder, onto a playgroup, then into nursery and finally into school all before they reach their fifth birthday.  

These transitions need to be carefully planned, as if they are not, they can be a very confusing time, causing anxiety and preventing children from engaging quickly and fully in the learning opportunities on offer. Transitions should therefore be the highest priority for schools and settings, planned with individual needs in mind, building confidence and resilience through gradual change, so there are bridges to cross and not hurdles to jump over.  

Every child is different

The more confident a child is the quicker and easier they will settle into school. Yet it is also worth noting that the more vulnerable and disadvantaged a child is the more difficulty they will have adapting to new relationships and surroundings, acting as a barrier to engagement and learning.

This process of constant change and their lack of resilience to cope with it may go some way to explain why there is a 17% gap between disadvantaged children and their better off peers at the end of the EYFS.[1]

But transition programmes are happening already, aren’t they? All across the country transition is well underway and children are being prepared to move to their new settings or schools. But is it enough?

Maybe for some it is, certainly there is a lot of good practice out there but is enough being done to support the most vulnerable children who definitely need a longer and more gradual approach to build their confidence and self-esteem? One of the key recommendations in the Hundred Review, (2017)[2]concerned transition and promoted the view that it was more about an alignment of practice rather than an event:

“In order to establish an effective transition into YR (Reception Year), it was strongly believed that this was best viewed as a process that emphasised continuity rather than a single event”

If we keep the four key principles from the EYFS in mind it can help the planning process:

  • A unique child – keep in mind every child is different and some will need more support than others to make successful transitions

  • Positive relationships – all adults working together makes for smoother transitions – parents and carers and professionals understanding the impact transition will have on the child. A key focus needs to be involving parents as an active partner 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 – consider the child’s holistic needs around all aspects of care and learning

Achievement for All Sheffield Transition Project

The Achievement for All Sheffield Transition Project set out to explore the issues around transition to see what could be done to make it even better. Two schools and four feeder preschools worked together to identify what they were doing well and how they could improve the journey for children and families.

The strengthening of relationships between the schools and their feeder nurseries led to a more focused, and more consistent approach to the transition process.There is now a secure agreement across clusters that the transition process needs to be ongoing throughout the year, valued as an alignment of practice, rather than a summer term event, in order to secure the best outcomes for all children. 

As a result, children now move seamlessly through the EYFS from setting to school, supported by adults who know and understand their needs, getting off to a much better start to their school life.

Learn more about how to successfully manage transitions in the early years at Achievement for All’s Every Child Included in Education conference on 17thOctober 2018 at Newbury Racecourse. Keynote speakers will include June O’Sullivan MBE, Chief Executive of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF). Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England and Thelma Walker MP, member of the Education Select Committee, amongst many others.

In the afternoon break out sessions, managing transitions will be discussed and debated with an expert  panel alongside 11 other session topics such as Terrific Twos, excellent provision in early years; speech, language and communication need (SLCN) interventions that really work in the most challenging of circumstances and engaging children in reading.

Tickets cost £90 and can be booked here. Achievement for All schools and settings are eligible for a 50% discount.

Parents and carers join free and group discounts are available. Email tickets@afaeducation.org for more information.

[1]DfE – Early Years Foundation stage profile attainment, 2017

[2]Early Excellence, 2017 – Teaching four and five year olds: The Hundred Review of the Reception Year in England