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Supporting transitions for learners with SEND

As we begin another academic year, many young people will imminently be experiencing a transition in their education, whether that is a change of class, of school or of phase (from nursery to primary or primary to secondary). This is a big step for any child and can be a real challenge for learners with SEND. There are many ways to support young people during this process and with the right input, transitions can be made much less stressful for all concerned.

Moving to a new class:

When I supported a 1:1 with her transition from Reception to Year 1, I did a written handover document for new teacher and support staff and made sure there was more than one copy available so all necessary staff could access it. The document contained information about the child’s immediate family (including the dog!) as she would speak/sign about them so wanted to make sure others understood what she was communicating about. I also made a note of her particular friends and children she mixed well with, her favourite toys and activities/lessons that she liked. It is very important to pass on any strategies developed for supporting learning, such as using symbols, pictures or other visual aids, allowing for movement breaks and pacing learning to suit individual needs. Details of any support needed outside the classroom should also be included; in my handover I added information about lunchtime, as the child needed help and supervision while eating.

It is also important to make sure the new teacher is aware of any other professionals who are involved with the child - in the handover I did, there was an outside Speech and Language Therapist who came into school regularly so I made a point of introducing them to each other.

Visiting the new classroom is a crucial part of transition and one which may need to be done a few times to familiarise the learner with their new environment. If possible this process should be taken at the learners pace - do more visits if needed or build up the length of time gradually. Another great tip is to have photos of the staff available for the leaner to look at. Talk about the new classroom, teacher and 1:1 during the final term and make a point of saying hello if you see them around school. All these steps will really help a young person adapt to a new situation.

Transition to a new setting:

Changing education setting is something I often with in my current job, as our students come to us for the next stage of their education after leaving school. We are fortunate to have a dedicated Transition Support Worker based in our provision, whose job is to liaise with schools and arrange visits – either for staff to see a young person at their school or for the young person to spend time at the college. Every setting is different, for other schools and colleges, the transition process may involve the SENCO communicating with the new school or new teachers, for example when moving from primary to secondary. It is also important that those closest to the learner are involved in the process, such as parents/carers and current teaching staff. Sharing information and building relationships between professionals and parents/carers is vital, as they will know the young person best. Being able to visit the new setting, if possible with a familiar staff member or parent/carer, benefits the learner as they have some consistency in a new place and benefits the staff in the new setting as they can receive information from someone who knows the learner well. Visual support can also be very effective if this appropriate to the learners’ needs. Having photos of their new teachers/support staff and of significant places such as their classroom, the toilets, canteen and outdoor spaces that learner can keep and look at when they want to, can really help them to adjust at their own pace.

Communication is vital and establishing good working relationships between educators and parents/carers is really important. Sharing key information about the young person will ensure that everyone involved knows how to best support them through the transition and through the next phase of their education.

If you would like advice and guidance about preparing your child for a transition in their education, contact us at
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