Helping all children become happy learners
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.
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
Students worrying that the 'work will get harder' and they will not be able to cope can be a concern during any transition year but may be more acute when moving phase. Also when moving into year groups where there are examinations and other formal assessments and tests can make students more anxious at transition.
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 it is need can be useful. Parents can place copies where it will be seen as the student gets ready for school. For example, by the front door or where they keep their books and bags etc.
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 may include:
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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