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Navigating Transitions & Starting School

By Danica from Little Bloom Consultancy

Transitions are “times of significant change, such as when children first attend early childhood education and care or start school” (Australian Government Department of Education [AGDE], 2022). Also known as onboarding or orientations, they’re the actions we take when creating a bridge between settings (such as between the early learning setting, home and school) (Dockett & Perry, 2015).

When they’re done well, transitions have the potential to:

•               alleviate stress and uncertainty for children and families;

•               support you in meeting the needs of the child in the most effective way possible;

•               foster belonging-ness;

•               prioritise children’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing; and

•               pave the way for children’s long-term wellbeing (Gregory et al., 2021).


There are three elements that deem a transition as effective:

1: when a child feels a sense of belonging in their new community (Australian Education Research Organisation, 2022);

2: when the transition is a collaborative process between educator, caregivers and child with each playing an active role (AGDE, 2022; Dockett & Perry, 2013); and

3: when educators are responsive to each child and family’s strengths, needs, knowledge and experiences (AGDE, 2022).


The National Quality Framework also puts forward that transitions are significant for children and require purposeful and intentional planning in order to maintain and promote children’s wellbeing, strongly reflected in Quality Areas 5 (Relationships with children) and 6 (Collaborative partnerships with families and communities). They’re simply too critical to leave to chance.


Effective transitions sound like an impossible feat, but I assure you - when you’ve got a well thought out transition process, you can achieve all of this and more! By keeping the above in the back of your mind, you can create some transition magic for children transitioning from the early learning setting into big school.


Supporting the transition process from the early learning setting into big school – reflections for educators, caregivers and teachers.


Early learning settings + educators

1: If you have several children transitioning to the same school, can you organise a short play visit to the school for the children and families?


2: Is there any documentation you can provide the school/teachers that can be useful? Think beyond academic achievement here towards information about social and emotional development, temperament, sociability, major interests, engagement with educators, toileting, behaviour (ie: any challenges, triggers, strategies etc.) and independence skills. Don’t just focus on the challenges, too – share the positives!


3: Don’t get too caught up in the ‘school readiness’ trap but, instead, focus on encouraging skills of independence. For example - can the child wash their hands independently? Put their shoes away? Get a drink of water?


Schools + teachers

1: What can you learn about the children before they start the year with you? Can you reach out to the child’s early learning centre for information? Is there a way to collect information from children and families prior to day one (such as through a transition/onboarding form)?


2: How can you share information with children and families about you, the school and the classroom? Can you create a welcome guide, booklet or video? Can you meet the children and families prior to day one?


3: How can you let information about each child and family guide a tailored transition process for each child? Transitions don’t need to look the same for every child, nor should they. Where is there room for flexibility, especially for the children who need more support?


Families + caregivers

1: Think about what you can do before school starting. Can you visit the school grounds and have a play on the playground? Can you share images from the school website? How can you practice and rehearse the process of separating before day one (hint: play is excellent for this – try hide + seek or role playing with teddies)?


2: Do you have the feeling that your child will need a little more support with their transition and you may need to take things slowly with a tailored approached? Don’t be afraid to share this information with their teacher. You can also try and create a social story to support your child’s understanding of the transition process.


3: Think about how to support a successful drop off. Have a predictable goodbye plan and share this with you child beforehand – follow your plan and be sure to never leave without saying goodbye. Think about a transitional object that your child can keep with them (family photo, a teddy, a special item of yours).

Danica has very kindly offered a discount code to her guide for school-based teachers around the transition process. You can use the discount code TPP10 for 10% off your purchase of this guide!

You can also follow Danica on social media via @littlebloom.consultancy


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