In this edition of the LINC Programme blog we examine how early years teachers can ensure a smooth transition for children as they embark on their education journey.
Both Aistear and Síolta highlight the importance of supportive and smooth transitions in early childhood. The Aistear-Síolta Practice Guide defines a transition as the process of moving from one situation to another and taking time to adjust. The Guide highlights that it is important to consider that transitions are a significant milestone in a child’s life and to consider that transitions are a significant milestone for children’s parents/carers also. Mary O’Kane 1, who has researched transitions in the Irish context, highlights that transitions are a shared responsibility and that a successful transition for children must be considered in the context of relationships between various stakeholders in the child’s life. Therefore a significant part of planning for smooth transitions is ensuring that we do this through collaboration with parents, children and other relevant people in a child’s life.
The Government’s First Five Strategy acknowledges the impact that a positive transition has for young children’s learning and development and emphasises the importance of supporting the child as they navigate through the education continuum. The document states that “to support positive transitions we need to understand that the transition from one environment to another is an important milestone for all children” 2. For children who have additional needs, it is important to work in partnership with the parents, the child and the relevant professionals to develop a plan to ensure that the supports required to meet the child’s individual needs are available and implemented so that the transition process can be as smooth as possible.
A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019-2028 p.6 & 7
We are aware that children’s early year’ experiences mark the beginning of various transitions in a young child’s life, from their home environment to the early learning and care setting, between early learning and care settings, from there to primary school and from an aspect of the daily routine to the next.
We must remember that transitions are essentially an ongoing process of change for children, their families and education services. Therefore early learning and care settings have a key role in laying strong foundations for ensuring the continuity of experience for young children and supporting their transition from one setting to another. An element of this process is the transfer of relevant information, with parental consent, from one setting to another. Research highlights that for effective transition practices, we need a commitment to building secure respectful relationships, along with developing policies and procedures that promote consistency and collaborative practice among all stakeholders in the child’s life.
Three key areas have been identified 3, 4 as best practice when supporting children’s transition from their home environment to the early learning and care setting, these are:
Working in partnership with parents
Parents play a key role in supporting their child to feel comfortable with the transition process. It is important that parents feel that we acknowledge and value the wealth of knowledge they have about their child. Parents feel valued when their involvement in their child’s transition experience is actively promoted. Building this relationship with parents at this initial transition stage can lead to parents feeling comfortable visiting the setting and discussing and planning for their child’s learning and development. Such an approach develops a trusting relationship between a parent and the staff, which is important for all children, but is especially important if we need to discuss with parents that their child may need additional support in an area or areas of development. Building a trusting relationship with parents right from the initial transition stage is beneficial for early years teachers and parents. This is especially important when a conversation is being initiated around accessing the supports available under the AIM model, for example, or documenting the strategies that are successful for supporting a child in an individual access and inclusion plan. Early years teachers should also encourage parents to visit the setting with their child on several occasions as part of their settling in process. This will support children and parents in getting to know and building relationships with key members of staff. You can share information about your setting such as your ethos, your image of the child, and your mission or curriculum statement prior to enrolment. Having an open day is also a good strategy for sharing information with parents and provides parents and staff with an opportunity to ask questions and to get to know each other.
Getting to know the child
An important aspect of a child transitioning into an early learning and care setting is to ensure that the environment reflects the strengths, needs and interests of all children. This can be supported by meeting the children and parents before the child begins in your setting and encouraging parents to share information with you about their child and what may have special significance for the child. It is important to share information in relation to the child’s strengths, interests, likes and dislikes; routine; eating patterns and perhaps special comfort objects or toys that the child may have. Explain to the parent how you will use this information and that this information will support the child settling into the new environment. This information can be easily collected by inviting the parents to complete a “getting to know you” booklet with their child or using a child profile form. You can also engage in observations and interactions once the child has started in your setting and this will support you further in getting to know the child.
Parents and carers need to have clear information about what their role in the transition process will be, and what the child will be doing while attending your early learning and care setting. You should give clear information to parents about your setting’s curricular approach, policies and procedures. In particular, you can discuss your partnership with parents’ policy and inclusion policy with parents. This should outline for example how your setting conducts observations and how you will share the information you record on your child’s learning and development with them. You can discuss with parents the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) and the role of the INclusion COordinator (INCO). This information will be beneficial to share with parents at the initial transition phase. You can then, if necessary revisit this process in the event that an access and inclusion profile has to be completed for the child in order to avail of supports under AIM while they are attending your setting.
When transitions are facilitated well, they help children to develop confidence and acquire skills to manage future changes in their life.
Another useful publication that can support you in managing transitions effectively is ‘Ambitions for Transitions: A Guide to Support Every Child’s Progression from Early Years Services to Primary School’ available at https://dspace.mic.ul.ie/handle/10395/2391
(1) O’Kane, M. (2016) Transition from Preschool to Primary School. National Council for Curriculum and Assessment: Dublin.
(2) Government of Ireland (2018) First Five: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families. Stationery Office: Dublin Interdepartmental Working Group (2015) Supporting Access to the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme for Children with a Disability, Available at: https://www.preschoolaccess.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/inter-Departmental-Group-Report-Launched-Nov-2015.pdf [accessed July 1 2018].
(3) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), (2015) Aistear/Síolta Practice Guide, Dublin: NCCA. Available at: http://aistrearsiolta.ie/en/> [accessed July 1 2018]
(4) ABC Start Right Limerick (2018) Ambitions for Transitions, Limerick: ABC Start Right. https://www.paulpartnership.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Family-Transition-Resource-Pack.PDF
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