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.
For further ideas on transition, I have found the following links:
- Moving On: This mainly focuses on Year 6 pupils moving to secondary.
- Planning For Transition from SEN magazine
- Transition guide from NASEN
- The School Run has helpful information to signpost parents to on SEND transition to secondary