A Smooth Transition

There are moments in any child’s journey through school that remain pivotal to a smooth and enjoyable experience. Any teacher would be able to create a lengthy list of what these moments are and each would endeavour to create an enjoyable time at each moment for all of the pupils. But what if any of these times could potentially cause a child to worry?

In UK Primary Schools, teachers work hard to ensure that both parent and child enjoy their school experience, from the first days of nursery to the final days at high school and beyond. This learning journey will be peppered with milestones; times when essential and necessary changes are made to ensure that the learning journey is a progressive one. These milestones to which I refer are the specific times of change such as moving into a new class, to a new ‘key stage’ (with reference to the National Curriculum for England) or from primary school to high school and can be collectively named as ‘transition’.

Transition needs to be carefully planned for to minimise disruption to established routines. Change need not impact on a child’s progress and attainment and almost certainly should never risk the happiness, wellbeing and safety of a learner. A child of primary school age should be well prepared for the move to a new class and specific discussions can be tailored and focussed on this topic alone. Every pupil needs to know who their new teacher will be and where the class is to which they are moving, even more effective is when time is allocated for children to visit their new class and spend time with the teacher. This might be done as a whole class or in much smaller groups and will be scheduled to a timeframe that has been previously agreed between teachers. Should the visits be rushed, unprepared for and unplanned, then the time spent can be detrimental and the effect could more harmful then helpful.

Time too should be timetabled for the teachers to meet and share professional dialogue with each other to consider every child’s needs but also learning styles, medical conditions, special requirements and unique attributes and interests so that the best possible start is made in the new environment and the child feels well prepared.

Parents must be clearly communicated with at all times and be made aware who the new teacher is and what their expectations are. It is good practice to host a parents evening and invite the new teacher to be introduced to everybody. Meetings with groups of parents is critical in ensuring that everyone receives the same messages and is aware of the main differences and changes between old and new. An agenda needs to be sent prior to any meeting so that even non-attendees are made aware of key points and a ‘Q and A’ style event can highlight what the parents’ concerns are which can then be addressed immediately. Often, these are issues that may not have been considered by the teacher but are all equally valid.

Contributors to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Children need to be familiarised with their new classroom and teacher by discussion and well planned visits
  • Teachers need to share key information about each pupil
  • Parents must be informed of any new changes and curriculum requirements and the expectations of the incoming teacher

Transition in a school should be an exciting time for everybody involved and is reliant on maintaining professional courtesy and transparent dialogue. Every teacher and each pupil will experience moments of transition during their journey but it is never easy to say goodbye to a class of children. However, professionals do understand that it is their duty to prepare children properly and fully equip them with the skills that they will need to take the next steps in their learning.

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