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Don’t Rush The Transition Process

Transitions within, or from, early years settings are defined as ‘a process of change’, with the emphasis on ‘process’.

  • Don’t Rush The Transition Process

We often talk about children moving up a room or class, or moving to school, as if it is a single event – however, the most successful transitions are managed as a guided, gradual process.

This process can be an exciting time for children, but it may also be a source of anxiety as well. It should also be remembered that transitions affect the whole family, and practitioners, not just the children.

Of course, children manage the transition from home to setting every day, and some children may have a series of such transitions throughout the day, so as practitioners we are constantly helping to make transitions a positive experience.

However, here I have considered how the particular transition from early years setting to school can be achieved smoothly, from the perspectives of the different people involved.

1. The children

Preparation is key. Use plenty of props that children can engage with, for example, putting school uniforms in the dressing up area and adding albums of photos of each new school and staff children are likely to meet, including TAs, midday assistants and auxiliary staff.

It’s often reassuring for children to meet older children who have already moved up. Ideally, new teachers should visit the children in your setting, so the children are in a familiar environment. This could be coupled with a visit to the school with key person.

2. Other children

The children who remain at your setting may also be affected by the transition, especially if it breaks up long-established friendship groups. It may change the balance of personalities and genders within the setting, as well as affecting the size of the cohort left.

The effects will vary year to year, as some years you may have lots of children leave, whereas others you may only have a few. Explaining the changes beforehand, reinforcing the positive aspects of change and maintaining contact with children who have left can reassure children.

3. Mums & dads

It can be just as confusing for parents when children move up to school. They need to know the new procedures for dropping off and picking up their children, and the names of new teachers and TAs, along with any variations in their working days or hours.

It is helpful to have some parents who have already made the transition available to discuss the process, whether at a formal parents’ information evening, or on a more informal basis, for example, giving parents a list of ‘Things I wished I’d known before my child started school’.

4. Your practitioners

It is a very emotional time for practitioners when children move on from a setting.

Having a formal event, such as a ‘graduation’ can help everyone mark the occasion and gives an opportunity to reflect on the children’s progress, their time at the setting and all the magic moments that have happened.

5. Teachers & TAs

Although not a requirement of the EYFS, most settings will produce a folder or book that parents can share with school when children move up.

These can be vital to convey information for teachers to help settle children, meet the children’s needs and ensure their interests are understood. You can do this concisely using a one-page profile.


Children with special needs may need an additional transitional document to hand over to school SENCOs (with parents’ permission), with details of professional agencies involved and any programmes currently being undertaken.

It is advisable to let the multi-agency professionals who are you are working with know that children will be transitioning, where to and when, so they can transfer any responsibilities in good time.

7. Reflective practice

It always feels a bit strange in the setting when children have ‘moved up’ and you start to welcome new children in their stead. This is an excellent and necessary time to reflect on your own practice and environment.

The new cohort of children will be at different stages of development and may have very different interests, which needs to be reflected in your practice.


A school may feel very different to your setting, which can be a source of great anxiety. Keep up to date on schools’ routines, so you can share the following information with parents:
• which door children are picked up from
• whether parents are allowed to settle children
• the library routines
• where the coat pegs are
• which are the boys toilets and which are the girls toilets

Kathy Brodie is an Early Years Professional and trainer based in East Cheshire, and has worked in both nurseries and schools, and today specialises in the Early Years Foundation Stage and special educational needs. For more information, visit kathybrodie.com

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