Transition from one year group to another, or from one setting to another, is a long journey rather than a short day trip. The transition suitcase inside each child needs to be packed with all the essentials – familiarity, confidence, orientation, friendships, community… This year, everything has been turned upside down and inside out, and that includes the transition journey. Those suitcases are looking empty.
Although some children attended settings and schools throughout lockdown, and more have been returning, there will be many children who haven’t been in their educational space for months by the time we get to September.
In some ways we have been experiencing one big transition: the sudden transition into lockdown, children remaining at home, those still attending settings adapting to new ways and new relationships, children coming back and shifting from a long time at home to a new-look learning space.
All of which has meant the gentle journey of transition to their new year group or to starting primary or secondary school has been derailed. We will have many children who will be arriving at their destination before they have packed their suitcase with those survival essentials.
Schools and settings have been supporting two transitions – the immediate one as lockdown has shifted, and the one coming up in September introducing new schools or new year groups. There are so many challenges – perhaps the greatest one being how to reach every child if they are not attending at the moment. Video messages or stories from their new teacher, virtual visits to their new classrooms or virtual home visits, phones calls to parents and carers, online platforms, welcome booklets in the post, social stories to support children with additional needs – all these offer the best that educators can provide right now. But they are not same as actually being there, opportunities for daily chats about change, two-way visits from new teachers to their new children and for the children to visit their new spaces, and knowing that children have had these experiences because you have seen them, all over a period of time (really good transition preparation happens all year round – back to that ‘long journey’ again).
What does this mean for children and educators? It means children will need time and support to pack their suitcases when they get there. Time to become familiar with people and places, find their way around, rediscover old friendships and build new ones, create a sense of group/community again, to find their feet and be confident. Some children will whizz round, throw everything in at once and appear ready for anything very quickly. Others will want to take one thing at a time, and fold everything into their suitcase very carefully.
We are all different, we all prepare for our journeys in our own way. And normally we do it before we arrive. But in a new version of normal, who says we can’t find the things we need when we get there? So, come September, let’s get packing.
You might be interested in reading this short article on Transition by Maureen Hunt, Head of Early Years Achievement for All.
Edited by Jules