This week’s post has been written by Karen Matthews, a current MA in Early Childhood Education student and early years practitioner. Karen is sharing her reflection on transitions within early childhood.
Taking a bit of time to reflect, as I often do but particularly at this time of year, on transition time; time to summarise children’s learning journeys at our settings and share enough information with their new teachers to support them until they are at ease in their new environment.
We went on our playgroup trip today. One of the children who came was a boy who began at the setting at two years old, not much more than a toddler, and took weeks to settle with strategies in place to support his separation from his Mum. He’s only recently seemed truly settled and at ease within our setting. We saw him beginning to make friends and play with other children, not checking where I was throughout the day and instead coming excited to tell me about his experiences. At the zoo I watched him holding hands with his friend, walking across to the bus, chatting, confident and at ease. In comparison to some of his peers his journey to this point has taken longer, but this doesn’t matter because this is all part of his unique journey.
Another child who spent the first months not wanting to leave the quieter room (not unhappy but not ready to be among a larger group) is now able to eat lunch with his peers and yesterday I saw him in the garden playing happily alongside his peers with sand, mud and the cement mixer: busy, engaged and involved. Both children have made progress at their own pace and it struck me how children will be ready in their own time. Some settle into the routine and environment of an early years setting more quickly than others, but like late spring flowers I see children who are just starting to open up as it is time for them to move on.
Policy dictates when our children are ready to transfer to school; each year in June or July they have transition days and visits to school before the long summer break. For the majority of children this transition takes place regardless of which of the previous eleven months that they had their fourth birthday, meaning that there could be up to a year’s difference in their age. Moreover, it does not allow for children’s varying early years experiences, prematurity, personality, position within the family, among other things, all of which potentially impact a child’s readiness for the transition into the reception class of an infant or primary school. And what is so important to remember is that once they have transitioned to school, the reception year is still within the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfE, 2017).
Preparation to support our children’s transition to be as smooth as possible includes building relationships with feeder schools, welcoming teachers to visit children at our setting and a parent and carer forum that encourages awareness of the emotions related to transition (both for parents, carers and the children themselves). These are all beneficial, but the activity that seems to have had the most impact is children dressing up in school uniform, giving them the opportunity to explore their ideas about transition to school through their role play (Greenaway, 2009: 39-40).
When this year’s children are starting the next part of their learning journey in reception classes in September I know I will be reflecting once more on this year’s process, identifying what has worked well and thinking about how all next year’s children can be supported during the transition to school. So what are your experiences of children’s transitions? How do you think they could be improved?