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.
Supporting and easing transitions
In Part One I discussed how transitions are experiences that we all go through all of the time, and that a better way to think of this is to reflect on how we manage change.
In Part Two I’ll look at how change, transition, can be managed, supported and eased. Once again it is important to remember that ‘transitions’ can be both positive and negative, and that we don’t all feel the same.
First and foremost, what voice do the children have in the changes and transitions at your setting? How much of what happens do they understand? How do you know? In order to reflect on this we need to look honestly at two things: what type of setting are we, and how old are the children? It is also important to consider the feelings of the adults too.
The Physical Environment
We all aim to make our environments, indoors and outdoors, as ‘enabling’ as possible. But how do they appear to the children? Do they understand how the areas are used or not used?
I know of a little boy in a Reception Class who got into trouble for going outside when he wasn’t supposed to. There are lots of things related to transition going on here:
How much was understood by the child, and equally by the adults? If the outside area is no longer to be available at all times, as it might have been in Nursery, then the reasons for this must make sense and be clear to all.
This must also be true of all rules and routines for the day and week, and all the horizontal transitions must take into account the needs of the children and the adults.
It is worth reflecting on these three questions:
- How many routines and rules in the group are totally in the interests of the children’s wellbeing?
- How many are for the convenience of the adults?
- How consistent are the adults with their expectations?
The Emotional Environment
This environment is not just about how many resources you have, it is about how people feel when they are in the setting. Does the environment enable feelings of ease, familiarity and care? Do children, families and staff feel respected and known? How does the morning transition into the setting in the work? Does everyone feel comfortable and welcome, and how do you know?
Reflecting on these two types of environment offered becomes crucial when vertical, life changing transitions are involved.
Remember, the children are still the same children but now they are expected to play a different role that probably isn’t of their choosing. Being older does not mean being different —
Whilst many of the children were looking forward to ‘being older’, there were some for whom the impending transition was causing anxiety and apprehension 1.
It is crucial to remember here that vertical transitions are mostly decided by the adults for the children, however this does not mean that they can’t be planned for carefully. Such planned transitions must be viewed positively.
Julie Fisher shares key principles for transition to Key Stage One, which I would recommend as key discussion points for any age group (please note we have substituted the word ‘school’ for ‘setting’)2:
1. Transition is a process and not an event
2. Transition is a whole setting issue
3. Transition should be viewed as positive and exciting
4. Transition should be a smooth and seamless journey for all children
5. Transition relies on joint working between all staff involved in the process
6. Effective transition will only be achieved after genuine consultation with children and parents
The other day I came across a quote that I’m going to end this article with. It is vital that we see transition, whether vertical or horizontal, as something that is done with everyone involved, rather than done to those involved:
Transitions are gatekeepers for institutional settings of education. How well the child passes through this gate has implications for life-long learning.
1. Fisher, J. 2020. Moving on to Key Stage 1. London. OUP, p45
2. Fisher, J. 2020, p49
3. International Journal of Transitions in Childhood, Vol.1, 2005., TRANSITION COMPETENCE AND RESILIENCY IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, Renate Niesel & Wilfried Griebel State Institute of Early Childhood Education and Research, Germany