Transition - Supporting moves to next school

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Supporting Transition

Introduction

All children are affected by changes to their teacher, moving class or school. It is a time of uncertainty and no one enjoys that. For vulnerable students, particularly those with social anxiety and/or social communication needs this can be a very challenging time.

Addressing Needs

Prepare students for transition by providing answers to address any fears and concerns. Many of these students may be unable to articulate their needs and so it useful to provide a range of contextual information that address common fears. For example it is useful to explore the following:

Coping with learning demands - This can be a concern at any transition but may be more acute when moving phase. Some year groups, often where there are examinations, are also more likely to be the source of anxiety
Fear of bullying - Again this can affect all students when moving from being one of the oldest in a school to being one of the youngest. Many myths persist about secondary schools and it useful to explore the reality of these. Equally, some vulnerable students may benefit from additional training of standing up to bullying
Getting lost in a new school - Schools often get larger and more complex as children progress from nursery to tertiary. Supporting students with additional visits and tours can help. Also reassure them that staff will make allowances during the first few weeks if they get a little lost finding their new classrooms
Getting told off by staff and getting detentions - This is a common anxiety when moving to secondary schools but also within schools when moving class to a teacher with a reputation for being strict. These fears are fueled by both rumours and the reality of stricter application of rules and expectations. Though you want to encourage and support students to avoid getting detentions etc it is also important that they recognise that it isn't 'the end of the world'.
Forgetting things they need for lessons - This is often related to the fear of being told off or getting detentions. The expectations are higher as children mature and some students may need support with organising themselves. Creating a timetable of what they need and when is useful and placing copies where it will be useful. This can be by the front door or where they keep their books and bags etc.

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Running a change of school transition group

It is quite common for schools to run transition groups to support moves between primary and secondary. But there is also need to run groups at infant to junior transfer and secondary to tertiary for some vulnerable students. When setting up a transition group it is important to consider the specific needs of each student and not just lump everyone together. For example, it is usually best to avoid students with anger management problems that lead to violent outbursts being placed in the same group as students with anxiety or communication difficulties. Both need support with transition but in different ways. Where possible the group should have additional opportunities to visit their next school and ideally the new school can host some of these sessions possibly with students from other feeder schools. However, it is important to have sessions in the current school which can prepare the students before visiting their next school and to debrief them after their visits. Best practice for school transition:

group membership and size is appropriate to specific needs of students
staff who individually support students accompany child on initial visit to new school
additional opportunities to visit new school and meet other new students from other feeder schools
use of transition resources to help students explore their anxieties on general topics and those they express
pack of visual and information resources completed that student has to support them and their parents at the start of the first term
parental involvement so that they can continue supporting their child during transition
4-6 sessions are run before and after the normal transition arrangements for all students

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

All About Me

Circle Time

Transition Resources

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