This last term has been a term like no other. We have all been through unprecedented times and each of our experiences from lockdown will have been so unique and different. This will be the same for our children returning to school in September or starting for the first time. Although some children have been at school throughout the pandemic, it will naturally be a very anxious time for many children, parents and teachers who are yet to return. As the DfE has confirmed there will be no expectation for schools to open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers over the summer holidays, all children and staff will be returning after a 6-week break or more to a very different, alien and new normal way of being at school.
As a mum and a teacher, I am immensely proud of all the children around the world who have been through lockdown. Their little worlds were turned upside down in one fast swoop and all that they knew changed. I hope, for the majority of children, they will look back and remember the extra days spent playing with their parents, the sunny weather and rainbows. In reality, I know for so many children this lockdown will have been a traumatic time including bereavement, abuse and loss. Feelings of bewilderment, frustration, hopelessness and uncertainty within our schools and communities will need addressing.
With this in mind and understanding that everyone’s experience and every child’s experience of lockdown will have been so different, it is something that as school leaders we need to try to prepare for, even though it is unlikely we will understand the true extent of lockdown for a while to come yet.
Transition into Reception or from EYFS to KS1 has always been vital in order to ensure a smooth progression of learning. Ultimately, if children are not happy, safe and secure in their environments they will not learn as best as they can. It is, therefore, even more important that we get it right given the current circumstances. So what can we do?
Ensuring the safety, security and emotional well-being of our children and staff is the top priority.
As per your safeguarding & GDPR policy, it is vital that information sharing that is clear and transparent is passed on to the new school for effective safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This is also the case within the school, the appropriate members of staff within new year groups should have communicated to them essential information that will ensure children in their care are kept safe.
Quality time needs to be allocated to staff briefing and or training to ensure once the new children start all staff know how to make them welcome and secure, taking account of their needs. A transition document can help with this to ensure consistency across the school.
Communication across the board is key for an effective transition. Communication with outside agencies and previous settings to pass on safeguarding information but also communication between parents, children and the school.
This is something that this year has had to be done in a very different way, due to being unable to carry out home visits, families visiting the school or transition days. Using technology is the most effective way to still connect and engage with new children and parents.
Regular emails, video meetings and phone calls have become so important. Schools and teachers need to become proactive in reaching out and engaging. Starting school information sheets, a phone call from their new teacher, videos whereby the staff show new children round their classrooms, where they will hang their coats etc and carefully planned home learning transition activities should be provided.
Communication has to be two way, so once the children and parents have engaged with the activities provided it is essential for them to get feedback from the teachers – a simple personal comment having read what the family have produced goes a long way in developing a positive and welcoming relationship.
There will be children, who as a school, you can identify for whom individual planning would be beneficial. For example, children with SEND, children who have been through significant trauma or who have a history of struggling with the transition. This may also be the case for parents who may need support beyond ‘normal’ procedures. A personalised plan should be provided for these children with resources such as social stories, visual prompts and communication profiles to share with their new teachers and support staff.
Children will be starting or returning to school with very different starting points. Many will have substantial gaps in their knowledge, many will have learnt new skills, discovered new hobbies and strengths. One thing that is for sure is that they will all be returning having had very different experiences. The curriculum we, therefore, provide for our children in September needs to give them the opportunities to rediscover their voices, to rediscover their confidence and to foster their love of learning. Children will need lots of opportunities for talk, play, reflection, physical activity and to be free to explore their creativity through music, reading and arts.
It is so important, more so now than ever, to protect and support our children and teachers’ mental health as they will have all been affected in some way either psychologically, socially, emotionally or physically. Coming to terms with change can be a difficult process for both children and adults and Covid-19 has caused a drastic amount of change in a short space of time as schools return to a ‘new normal’. Considering what their starting points may now be and how to gently and appropriately integrate children back into a system that prioritises mental health and well-being should be the highest priority.
”Considering what their starting points may now be and how to gently and appropriately integrate children back into a system that prioritises mental health and well-being should be the highest priority.
This year, transition looks so different to what it ever has before but the underpinning value has to be one of acceptance, compassion, understanding and support. Children will only begin to accelerate in their attainment once we have focussed on their well-being. Returning to school provides hope and routine but there has to be a transition period whereby the children’s lockdown experiences are talked about, valued and discussed with a focus on mindfulness and looking to the future. Once we have reconnected as a school and community then we can continue to help our young people flourish, learn and grow.
“You cannot make people learn. You can only provide the right conditions for learning to happen.” ~ Vince Gowmon