The transition from an early years setting to a school setting is a much-researched area of early years practice. One aspect of this transition, however, appears to be undervalued – how parent partnerships can support positive transitions for children. Transitions do not always have to be a challenge; they can be fun, exciting and provide a pleasurable experience if supported appropriately.
Quite often it seems that the transition of starting school is more problematic for parents than it is for the children, which can lead to a transference of parental anxiety on to the child. Part of the role of an early years practitioner is to ensure that parents understand the importance of projecting a positive perspective and enabling the child to enjoy the process of change despite the implications of moving to a different environment.
So how do early years practitioners involve parents in this area of practice and enable them to understand that this transition can be positive? Here are some key points to reflect upon when planning for the summer term with the inevitable moving on of a cohort of children.
Have respect for the professionalism of the school teachers and for the knowledge parents have of their children. When relationships are respectful, it can lead to an open dialogue which is more supportive of positive transitions. This can include meeting with the schools to discuss how they deliver literacy and numeracy teaching and how you can work together as settings to smooth the transition from one style of teaching to another. Find out how the schools communicate with parents and share with schools how parents engage with practitioners at your setting. Building a mutual understanding of the processes involved in the ways the different settings work can help to also build respectful relationships.
Talk to parents. Encourage them to write down any questions they might have about what the transition involves. You could set up a meeting for the entire cohort or speak to parents individually. For children who are usually collected by a relative or childminder, consider emailing parents to ask if they have any questions about the upcoming transition and how you might be able to help. Working parents will need to be made aware of their options for wraparound childcare to alleviate any concerns they might have if the school day is shorter than the early years setting day.
Invite school teachers to visit children in the setting as well as having home visits and encourage them to follow these visits up with a call to parents, describing the interactions they had with their child. This will help parents to feel more involved in the process and will give them an opportunity to give any feedback on how they are feeling about the transition. Taking children to visit their new school with a trusted adult and peers who will also be attending can aid a positive transition, by encouraging children to explore the new environment from the safe base of people they know. Parents should also be invited to attend settling-in sessions with their child, giving an opportunity for all parties to have an awareness of where the child is coming from and where they are going to.
Parents need to have a clearly defined role in the transition process. In conjunction with the school, parents can be informed of the best ways they can help to prepare their child for the transition; for example, supporting them with dressing themselves, personal hygiene, trying new foods or regularly going to the park nearest the school to familiarise themselves with the area. This should be individual for each child depending on their current abilities and what would help them to settle in to a new environment more easily.
Invite schools to donate some uniform for children to try on in the early years setting. Have plenty of story books available depicting the move to school, both within the setting and also for children to borrow and read at home with their parents. Story books can be a helpful way for children and parents to understand the upcoming transition and also to trigger any concerns or questions they might have. Visit schools to see how they set up their classrooms and consider developing a role play area for children to explore in the early years setting.
Recognise that as well as all children being unique, so are their parents and their new teachers. There can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this transition and it is important to consider the individual needs that children and their parents might have. Some families may need more reassurance; some may have several older children who have successfully negotiated this transition in the past and they have no concerns at all. This is why respect and communication are such vital factors in enabling a smoother transitio
This article has been produced by Nursery World with sponsorship from Tribal. It was written and produced by Nursery World to a brief agreed in advance with Tribal.
Tribal's Quality Mark Early Years programme takes account of recent studies in early childhood education and a global understanding of best practice for our youngest children. The award recognises improving standards in the provision of communication and language, and mathematics. It provides evidence of high-quality education and care, and can support inspection preparation.
To share further good practice about improving provision in early years settings, Tribal is hosting a webinar, 'The Strategic SENCo at the Heart of School Improvement'.
- Tribal Quality Mark case study: Improving practices, provision and performance of Early Years language, communication and mathematics
- Tribal Quality Mark case study: Striking the perfect balance of external challenge and recognition of excellent work
- Tribal Group blog: Five steps to embed a culture of continuous improvement in early years settings