Transition For Pupils With Additional Needs

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Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: Lynn...
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How can we support pupils and prepare them for change?

Transition and change can be stressful. Even as adults there are times when we are not at ease in a new situation. Where we can, we prepare ourselves to make the change easier. We familiarise ourselves with new materials before teaching them, we visit new places as a ’test run’ to ensure we can find them easily.

Children have the same need. They also benefit from preparation for change and transition.

10 Ways To Support Children With Additional Needs To Transition

Moving up a year group or changing class is a big transition for all children, but some will find it harder than others, and you can probably already predict which children will find the change the most stressful.

They may have a particular extra need or they may simply be an anxious children who is not on the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) register. Either way, here are a number of practical tips which will help make that transition more seamless.

1. The new class

Most schools have a ‘change around’ morning or afternoon to get to know new classes but this in itself can be daunting. Arrange for the child in question to meet new staff before transition morning.

One route around this for more sensitive children is to send them on regular, real or made up errands to their new teacher/Teaching Assistant/classroom. This helps them get used to the new faces and spaces.

2. New setting

For entirely new settings such as changing or moving up to school, see if extra visits can be planned.

When children are moving schools, the new school should visit the child in their current setting where possible to get valuable information.

3. Transition books

These can be made with children with particular needs for them to take home. This book could contain photos of their new classroom and new staff with some information. This can be shared regularly at home and discussed with the child in a positive way.

Secondary schools could produce a leaflet with key information such as maps or who to go to for help on it for children to refer to when needed.

4. Specific concerns

For children with specific concerns, circle time or small group discussions can often dispel any fears.

Discuss worries with the child as they might be concerned about things that appear trivial, such as finding their tray on the first day back or rules around using the toilet.

5. Interview a class member

Before they move class, see if an anxious child can visit and discuss with another child in the current class. The chosen child can share all the things that are good about being in the new class and show them where things are kept.

6. Share a story or teach a lesson

Can the new teacher spend some time in the child’s old classroom, sharing a story or teaching a lesson? This way, the child can see what the new teacher is like in a familiar setting. This is particularly useful for key stage changes where the teaching style may be slightly different.

You could arrange a regular class story swap in your school to add a bit of variety in staff over the year, getting anxious children more use to a wider variety of adults.

7. Include parents

Remember to include parents/guardians or other key workers in the discussions.

It may be an area for an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) targets. In EHCP meetings near the end of the year, get as many key adults involved as possible, as well as the child.

8. More than meets the eye?

Consider if there is a deeper issue with children who seem overly anxious  – perhaps they could benefit from some sort of mentoring or other support with anxiety issues throughout the next year.

June and July are prime months for thinking forward with timetabling of learning mentors. Regularly flag up your child of concern so they are on the radar ready for September and even when they have moved to a new class, double check early in the new term that they are getting the support needed.

Check with particularly quiet children about their transition worries as children who are very quiet in the classroom will not be relaying their worries to an adult. Getting anxious children comfortable with new staff and surroundings as quickly as possible will enable them to be more receptive learners and be more confident to speak in class more quickly.

9. Key info sharing

If you are a SEND Coordinator or responsible for Pupil Premium or English as an Additional Language (EAL), ensure that the children’s new teachers/TAs have all the information they need.

Hold changeover discussions in staff meetings and share up to date class SEND folders ready for the new term. Staff will need to liaise with other establishments to ensure all the information is shared effectively about specific pupils.

10. Proper planning and preparation

Remember no matter how much preparation is put in, children (and staff!) may still have first day teething problems until relationships and routines are established.

Deal with these sensitively. Plan in advance for a ‘safe space’ for the child to retreat to if needed. Nevertheless, it is still an important life skill for all children to be able to cope with unexpected or new things that are thrown at them. Teach them the skills to deal with these in an appropriate manner.

Useful links

For further ideas on transition, I have found the following links:

4 thoughts on “Transition For Pupils With Additional Needs

  1. In my own experience I’ve found making time to get to know those children in advance is key. It should be the case that the class teacher knows their new class weeks before the children know. Popping into their current class informally has worked well. However my best piece of advice is to begin the transition early with break and lunchtime chats. This way the class teacher gets a heads up and the child(ren) will feel more at ease when the news is broken. When new classes are known you can reflect on those conversations in difficult moments.

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