Pupils with SEND will need access to a well-planned transition programme to help prepare them for secondary transfer. It is good practice for schools to have this in place for all their pupils; however children with SEND may require something different from or additional to what is on offer for other pupils. It is more likely to be a successful transition if you have planned to make it so.
Tips to facilitating a smooth transition for pupils with SEN
- Visits to the new school are essential. Aim to build up the time spent at the new setting from a short stay at the beginning of the term, gradually increasing time spent there leading up to a full day before the end of the term.
- Ask schools to provide a map of the site if possible – this will help allay any concerns they may have. Taking photos of the various areas of the school e.g. science block, gym, music rooms etc. can also be beneficial.
- Pupils may need to practice moving around the school during quiet periods, they will need clear information to guide them – it is essential that they have access to an accurate timetable or schedule to follow.
- Visits should be factored in to a pupil’s timetable so that s/he can see when to expect them – springing a surprise visit unexpectedly will induce anxiety.
- Visiting the school website can be helpful in preparing pupils for their first visit.
- Provide reassurance and make time to discuss worries or concerns, remind them that change can be positive and is part of growing up.
- Do not leave visits until the last week of term when things can easily become rushed and stressful and may mean that pupils with SEND miss out of some of the fun end-of-term activities.
- Involve the pupils in making a transition book at their level of understanding; this could include photos of their new school taken during visits showing key people and places – key worker, head of year, form tutor, form room, toilets, dining room etc
- It is always useful for a pupil to know that there is a particular adult they can go to if they need to, try to identify, meet and take a photo of this person for the transition book.
- Social stories™ can be used to clearly explain in advance what secondary school will be like and give information about the expected social behaviour of pupils at the school. There are many examples available from the internet; however we have produced an editable template which you can access here:
- Ensure that appropriate liaison between staff who have been, and those that will be working with the pupil, takes place. Include the child’s parents as much as possible in this process.
- It is helpful if a member of staff from the secondary school can visit the pupil in their primary school to see them in a familiar setting prior to transition
- It is crucial that relevant paperwork is handed over to the new school and that this is shared with all staff working with the pupil prior to their first day: Pupil profiles, Behaviour Support Plans, Communication Books etc.
- The receiving school will need to know in advance about the expected pupils with SEND in order to ensure that staff are properly trained to meet their needs.
- Pupils with autism in particular will need additional support to ensure transitions go as smoothly as possible; the following websites give specific advice on how to meet their needs in particular:
For more detailed advice on primary to secondary transition the resources are recommended.
Moving On – Top Tips for Pupils Moving on to Secondary School
A guide for pupils with special educational needs moving on to secondary school
Moving On – Suggestions for Busy Teachers to Support Pupils with SEN Moving from Primary to Secondary School
The Downs Syndrome Association also has advice: