It is September. It is week one of return to school. It is pandemic. The perfect planetary sized spanner to throw into the works for transitioning children from primary to secondary provisions smoothly. Now throw into the mix those children that happen to have additional needs and disabilities and we have created the potential for a category 5 transition storm. The difference, however, is that unlike a real-life hurricane where we may be given the heads up just hours in advance, with educational transition, the danger is more predictable, repetitive, and preventable for individual children. So, if this is the case, why are we more likely to get it wrong for children with SEND?
Let’s look at the first point for reflection- There’s a pandemic!!!
2020 has spanked schools like no other situation on record, other than arguably the last World War. Not only is it unprecedented, throw into the mix approximately 54346643 versions of DfE guidance updated 20 seconds before that guidance should be rolled out and we sort of have a rough idea of the impact it has had on a schools ability to manage its usual concerns and issues.
We do however need to inject some realism into the argument. Pandemic has not created the debate on our ability to transition children appropriately and effectively. It’s a debate that’s been argued for years and gets both schools and parents hot under the collar. Its especially been a bone of contention for the parents of children with SEND, who need careful support and planning, for as long as I can remember both as a practitioner and a parent of children with additional needs. It requires significant collaboration from lots of parties, particularly school to school transition, and is reliant on all those parties working together consistently. Transition is dependent on the village raising the child.
Pandemic did not give birth to ineffective transition.
Ineffective transition gave birth to ineffective transition!
Point two- Value.
Value is a jigsaw puzzle. In order for it to be viewed in its completed version, there are pieces put together that create it. Those pieces for transition include:
-Priority, level to teaching and learning
-Senior leadership driven
-Rigorous working, flexible, policy
-On agendas for discussion
When something is valued, the jigsaw is whole. Or at least is only missing 1 or 2 irritating pieces of the puzzled, but then we notice those pieces are missing and do something about it quickly. If we cannot tick the boxes to the transition values puzzle then the argument is that it doesn’t hold the value that it needs.
Point three- Understanding.
Do we REALLY understand what transition is? Is it just a case of a child moving from one educational setting to another or is it deeper?
WELL, now transition stops being a jigsaw puzzle and now becomes an onion!
Yes, it might make you cry but that’s not it. stay with me…
Transition has layers.
Layers you can peel off but all contribute to transition being done successfully. They include not just moving from one place to another but time and space. Transitions are any anything that means moving from one activity to another. We know changing school is a huge transition but it’s the little ones being recognised and planned for that make the huge one’s work. Secondary to primary, Key stage to key stage, year group to year group, term to term, month to month, week to week, day to day, morning to afternoon, hour to hour, minute to minute. Then you are starting to think of the importance and complexities.
The layers create the onion. If you view the big transitions alone then you no longer have an onion. You now have an orange. One layer.
Be more onion and less orange!
Point four- Planning
All schools have transition polices. Most mention the needs of children with SEND, but what does this mean?
What does it look like in context for the child? Are we planning the big transitions early enough or do we get to June, organise a visit and then think that’s transition completed?
A trap we can fall into is that we don’t talk about how vital it is to understand the impact transitions have on children with SEND. The big ones and the little ones. How when we are discussing children’s needs, do we plan for how a child may enter school? Move from the carpet input to being on task? Finish Maths and have snack then have their break? Go to the toilet or lunch and manage less structured periods?
Those are just the little ones. The little ones however have most power and influence on a child’s experience and engagement. They give you a sneak peak into the relationships created with adults in school. They help you understand their value because here is the most important point we should consider.
When we get transition right for children, particularly those with SEND we send a strong but subliminal message that we care about them. That we are a place that understands the importance of relationships and collaborating with families and other professionals, and we understand that you are an individual with needs that require some thought and assessment.
That you are important.
That we are onion not orange.