Planning for transition when schools are closed

by Dave McPartlin, headteacher at Flakefleet Primary School

Things have changed really quickly for schools, nurseries and families due to the Coronavirus, but one thing is for sure: none of us know when we might be able to open again to the majority of pupils. Once new primary school places are confirmed, families start thinking about the transition to big school. They have lots of questions - from practical ones about drop-off and pick-up, uniform and homework, to concerns about their child making friends or settling with their new teacher.

Transition is really important, partly to allay any worries children might have, but also for parents. It’s a much bigger deal for some families than others, but it’s the start of a seven-year relationship and schools will want to make sure it gets off to the best start possible. Like most schools around the UK, we would usually invite parents into school for information sessions and arrange for children to meet their teachers.

However we’re now thinking about alternative ways of helping new starters with the move to big school. This will be both in terms of how we can help them get a feel for the school, the staff and the way we do things, and what parents can do with children while they’re at home to get them ready for transition.

Parents are now likely to miss out on physically coming in to school before their child starts, but we’re exploring ways to make sure they have all the information they need, which will help everyone when school does begin. We’re already getting our heads around the options of video conferences, recordings shared on social media, or something online that parents can log into and ask questions.

Seeing the school building and layout can be really useful and we have a virtual tour on our website; we may see other schools recording their own walk-rounds or posting lots of pictures. Home visits will now be phone calls or video chats, and the extra work we’d do with families of SEND children will still happen, but in these new ways. Ironing out the details will take time, but no school wants families to feel unprepared.

Things parents can do to help

Getting ready for transition at home might be a new challenge for families whose preschoolers would ordinarily be in childcare in the run-up to starting school. BBC Bitesize Starting Primary School has lots of resources to help you have fun together at the same time as supporting their learning and sense of independence. Why not try singing nursery rhymes together, playing numeracy game Bud's Number Garden, or downloading a free All About Me worksheet with guidance on how to use it?

There's also advice on how to make your home a fun learning zone, and films to help your child develop independence skills like using the toilet and getting into good sleep habits.

One thing to remember is that pre-schoolers don’t need to do lots of what you might think of as schoolwork at home before they start. My Early Years team will always say that getting dressed and undressed and using the toilet independently are key skills which can be encouraged at home. The simple things can be really helpful, too: getting familiar with numbers, letters and sounds, singing nursery rhymes, and just doing things with your children like baking, getting out in the garden if you have one and simply chatting with them. Parents often underestimate the value of talking with their children, and that’s something that preschool children who are at home might get a lot more of.

How to talk to your child about the change in plans

Things are uncertain at the moment, but this doesn’t need to affect the way you talk about transition with children of this age. We approach a lot of things thinking like an adult, but kids tend to be more resilient than adults in many ways. They don’t need to know that things aren’t happening the way they would do normally. They take things at face value and tend to throw themselves into most things - we just sometimes need to shield them from our own worries. The conversation can be as simple as “we’re waiting for a message to tell us when you’re going to start school, isn’t that really exciting?” And it is really exciting, for them and for their school. We can’t wait to meet them.

For further information check out the rest of Starting Primary School which has lots of ways to help prepare children for different aspects of school life – both practically and emotionally.

How to make your home a fun learning zone
Bud's Number Garden
More Starting Primary School videos and articles