Transition to Nursery and Reception
When a child sets off for their first day at school, they should be full of positive emotions – excitement, confidence and happiness. This happens if they know exactly where they are going, who will be there, what they will be able to do when they get there and how long they will be staying there. A successful transition means the child settles quickly into school, learning and developing from day one. Practitioners welcome a class of children and these children are settled, confident and ready to learn.
Transition will be successful if:
- Practitioners know each child, including their interests and needs
- The school is able to meet these interests and needs
- Practitioners have formed a relationship with each family
- Children know the practitioners
- Children are familiar and happy with their new school environment, its routines and expectations
- Children have met and made friends with some of the other children who will be in their class
- Getting to know the new Reception children
Most Nursery age children attend a preschool setting and practitioners there will know them very well. In the Summer Term, the Reception teachers visit children in their preschool and see them operating in an environment which they know, with staff that they trust. At the visit, before the child knows who we are, we observe them to assess their social skills, independence, confidence, language and physical ability. After about 20 minutes, we have a good picture of the child and can then play with them for a while, having some fun so that they have a happy first impression of us. Finally we spend time talking to the key person and looking at any records or “special books”.
Play sessions in school
Children from our Nursery visit and play for an hour at a time, with a few of their friends. For children from outside the school, we invite 3 or 4 at a time (with a parent) to come and join in with a free flow session in Reception. This allows the children a chance to explore their new class and to meet some of the staff and children that will be coming to school with them.
We spend the first week of the Autumn Term carrying out home visits and making final preparations to the class environment. This visit is crucial as the starting point for building a relationship with the families, a time to exchange information and a further opportunity to gain a better understanding of the children.
Photos of families are on display when the children come to school for the first day. This is just one more way to help them feel welcome and valued.
Preparing the environment
Staff prepare the environment to ensure that every child will have a wide choice of activities and also that routines and expectations are established from day one. For example, coat pegs, self registration, resource storage and labels must all be ready so that routines are established from the first day.
The induction period is carefully planned to ensure the children remain happy and confident at this time. Once we have some knowledge of the children, we decide which children would benefit from starting school in the first sessions. These are the quieter and least confident children, possibly the youngest children and we also bring some good role models into this group.
This means that in the vital first few days there are small numbers of children in each class with all the staff. Therefore, the children get quality adult attention and routines and expectations are established immediately. It also means that staff get to know the children so well, that initial assessments are completed with confidence. Parents also play a crucial part during the induction period. We encourage them to stay with their child for as long as necessary and they help teach the routines too. This is especially valuable for children with English as an additional language as the parent can translate the messages from the staff.
By the time the children arrive for their first day at school, we already have a relationship with the children, and their families, and the children are already familiar with the school. Thus, many children settle immediately and the parents are able to leave them within minutes. For a few children, they may need a parent with them for several weeks and we accommodate this for as long as necessary. Eventually, we will make the decision, along with the parent, that they should leave. The most important aspect of this decision is that it is made jointly with the parents and also that the child is aware of what is happening.
The final aspect of transition is to decide when the children should stay full time (for Reception Children) or stay for their full five sessions (for Nursery Children). Rather than have a set timetable for this, we treat each child as an individual and decide what is appropriate for that child. We have devised a list of criteria that we would like the children to meet before they stay, the benefits of this are discussed with parents at the home visit.
Getting transition right is vital to reap the benefits for the whole year. We have a group of children who are deeply engaged in their learning because they are with adults who know and understand them in an enabling environment that meets their needs and interests. It is definitely worth investing time and energy in this vital aspect of our work.