We were joined this month by Charley Crowe, Lead Teacher for SLC&A at Integrated Services for Learning who led a very timely Check In and Chat on School Transitions.

No matter where we are on our journey there is always going to be transition. Change happens, it’s unavoidable, we have to experience it. And there’s no getting away from the fact that change is hard. It’s especially hard for our autistic children and young people who particularly struggle to predict outcomes and focus on trying to preserve ‘sameness’, predictability, repetition and routines to help them stay feeling safe.

Change can, however, be easier to manage if we are prepared for it, we know it’s happening, we can be exposed to it, start to visualise it and ultimately if we can begin to be accepting of it.

Charley’s talk today focused mainly on the transition from Year 6 to Year 7 – ie changing schools from juniors to secondary. However, much of the advice she shared can be applied to any transition whether that is starting school, changing school or moving between year groups or key stages.

When it comes to ‘moving up’ transitions at school it is all about maximising exposure – creating and taking as many opportunities as possible to experience and visualise what the new normal will be like.

As much as possible ensure that your children and young people are involved in transition plans and that their voice is heard and their views are taken into account. Talk to the school(s) about how they will enable the pupil’s voice to be present.

There were a huge number of tips and suggestions for strategies and approaches in this Check In and Chat, here were some of the highlights – don’t forget it’s helpful to have a specific transition planning meeting with the schools to agree a join approach and plan:

Some ideas for maximising exposure include:

  • Find out what other opportunities there are for your child to visit the school in addition to the standard ‘moving up day’ often offered to all pupils – create as many of these as you can
  • Ask if it’s possible for a visit just before term starts – this year most schools open to pupils on Monday 5th Sept but have Inset Days on the 1st and 2nd where it should be possible for your child to go in for a reorientation
  • Use school visits to practice getting to key places – eg
    • if they have a quiet/safe space where is this, what does it look like, how do they get there
    • where are the toilets, which ones are they most comfortable using (some children won’t feel comfortable in open plan layouts and it is a reasonable adjustment for them to have access to whatever toilets they are most comfortable using)
    • where will their locker be
    • how do you get to the dining hall etc
  • Visuals and photos of key spaces and staff including TAs – not just their form tutor – in a transition book (personalised photos of them in key spaces and with staff would be even better)
  • Copy of draft timetables

From now until the end of term:

The summer half term can be a tricky one – sports days, school trips, end of year parties and assemblies provide plenty of peaks of excitement but also the potential for many troughs of anxieties. Try to make the exit from this year as positive as possible. For example:

  • Plot out the next few weeks of school on a visual timetable so they know what is happening when
  • Talk to your child and to the school about what they need and how you are going to collectively manage and support the exceptional events that are happening

During the Summer Holidays:

It can be tempting when our children break up from school to put it in a box and not unpack it again until September! But the summer holidays are an important time to continue to help our children and young people prepare for the transition.

  • Update your pupil profile – things can shift quite significantly sometimes over a summer holiday. Support you child so their voice can be included in this if at all possible so it reflects their own self-identity, how they see themselves.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – eg
    • Exposure to school uniform (hanging outside rather than hidden away)
    • Practice wearing the school uniform, break in shoes
      • Some children and young people find sleeping in unforms can help them feel more comfortable
    • Practice the journey to school
      • Consider plans B and C – what happens if the bus doesn’t turn up for example
  • Spend time looking at the school website, looking at the transition book
  • Start making check lists of what they need to take to school when
  • Create low-demand opportunities to meet up with other children also transitioning to the new school if possible

Don’t forget:

  • Work in partnership with the schools to ask how they are supporting transition and what you can do to help. But don’t be afraid to ask if you feel there is more that could be done – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • It’s ok if you are anxious too but try not to let this show
  • If you are feeling wobbly contact the school at the beginning of September and ask for an urgent call with the SENCO so they can reassure you and/or work with you to put additional measures in pace