The first thing to say is that you’re not alone. Many parents and children are worried about the move to a new school and a new stage in their lives especially during such difficult times. This move is a big one and this year it’s going to look and feel different for both schools and students.
It might help to think about transition as a journey that’s going to take time. There are many things you can do to prepare your child before they start at the new school. Then you will be supporting them in the first few days and weeks and after that, helping them to feel settled and safe throughout the whole of year seven. A successful transition that works well will set the tone for the rest of their time at secondary school.
Talk to school staff about transition for your child now
If you haven’t had direct contact with the SENCO or staff at the new school about the support that will be in place for your child, ask for a meeting. Ask staff at your child’s current school to be involved too, such as their class teacher, TA and SENCO.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to meet face to face, but you can ask for a video or telephone call or talk by email if that is better for you. Ask to discuss your child’s transition, what their needs are and what kind of support they’re likely to find helpful. If you need help to do that you can talk to the staff at your child’s current school or contact us for advice.
Before the meeting, be as prepared as you can. If your child has an EHC plan, go through it and make notes of the main things they will need help with. So, for example, if your child finds relationships with others difficult, they’re likely to need to support to meet key staff and make new friends. If organisation and planning are challenging, they may need extra support finding their way around or need to make use of breakfast club to get organised before school starts.
If your child doesn’t have an EHC plan, ask for a copy of their school plan or make your own list of the areas where they will need support. All secondary schools do enhanced transitions for children with special educational needs where extra support is planned for each child.
Transitions are in two parts and it’s important to prepare for both
Your child is leaving one school and going to another and the ending of one school life is as important as the beginning of the next one. That means remembering and celebrating the things that happened in primary school and what life was like there, as well as preparing for a new start.
The end of year six is usually full of activities that help children do just that – leaver’s church services and assemblies, the last sports day, having year six leaver’s hoodies, having social time together, putting on a play or writing a year–book. They’re all ways of helping children move on in a positive way and are part of their transition. Ask the school staff how they will be helping year six students to do this in a different way this year. You can also talk to other parents to see if there are ways to help celebrate or mark the end of primary school.
For many children with SEND, the staff at primary school and the relationships that have with them are hugely important too. Saying goodbye to teaching assistants, teaching and support staff is likely to be very hard for some children, especially where those relationships are long standing or close. Some schools ask teaching assistants to write cards, postcards and memory books with their students as well as going on school visits where possible, before and after they move to their new school.
You can also ask the new school if your child can be in the same class as a friend. Many schools will try and do this if it’s possible.