Dr Sue Allingham holds an MA and EdD in Early Childhood Education and is a leading voice in UK Early Years practice. Sue is the author of Transitions in Early Years.
Transition is a process, not an event
This article could also be called ‘Transition is not just about moving into Year One’. Over the years, it has increasingly been seen as just this; however, it is vital that we as Early Years understand that ‘transition’ is about a great deal more.
At this time of year the word ‘Transition’ starts to become a significant word in all Early Years settings, from birth to five. This is because it is getting close to when children move into different rooms, or year groups, often with different adults, in different buildings, or even other areas of town that require different journeys.
How would you cope with having to completely change your environment every time you became a year older? As adults we have lots of life experiences that we can draw on to help us to work through transitions and it is our job to help children to deal with what are daily occurrences.
Any transition automatically involves change. Notice that, in the sentence above, I said that transitions are daily occurrences. What did I mean by that?
With everything that has been going on over the last year, now is a really good time to challenge our thinking around ‘Transitions’, in order that we get it right for everyone involved.
There are two recognised definitions of transition and we all go through at least one of them everyday, wherever we are — even at home.
· Horizontal transitions
· Vertical transitions
These are the transitions that occur as part of our daily routines. For example moving from room to room, going outside and coming back in, or having a snack. Horizontal transitions are the things within the day that are part of a regular routine or timetable
These are the transitions that are not regular, familiar, or part of the flow of the day or week. What has happened over the last year has very much been a vertical transition as it has been a significant event.
Consider how many transitions you’ve been through today, this week or this year.
Which were ‘horizontal’ and which were ‘vertical’? How have they affected you? How have you coped with the change? It is important to remember here that not all transitions are negative; in fact many are exciting and positive.
I would also add two more definitions to the two above, as I think they are useful subheadings for us to consider exactly what we are looking at, in order to reflect on how everyone is supported.
Consider this list of planned transitions (1), from:
· Home to childminder
· Home to non-maintained setting
· Room to room in a day nursery as children grow older
· Non-maintained setting to maintained nursery or school
· Home to maintained nursery
· Home to full-time school
· Maintained nursery to full-time school
· The Foundation Stage (reception class or foundation stage unit) to Key Stage One
· Home to Key Stage One
· Or between non-maintained settings
Some children go through more than one of these every day. These are all horizontal changes in routine, but each transition might require a different way of being, uniform, or reacting. It is also worth noting that all these transitions have been decided by the adults for the children.
So what happens when something different happens? For example, the degree to which we have all had to adjust personally and professionally to this pandemic, or also things like:
· Snowy, windy or very wet days
· New babies
· Family break-up
· A dog appearing on the grounds
· A surprise treat that only the adults know about
There are so many things that may happen during the day that may disrupt it for someone, adult or child, that the central tenet here must be ‘understanding’, which must be shown to all involved.
Whilst this is true at all times, in this pandemic world points of view can be challenging.
Thinking about ‘transition’ is so much more than just about moving into a new year group; I shall explore this in my next upcoming article.
(1)(Allingham, S. 2011. Revised edition 2015. Transitions in the Early Years A practical guide to supporting transitions between early years settings and into Key Stage One. Practical Preschool Books, MA Education Ltd)
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