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Next steps after primary school

Moving from primary to secondary education is a significant milestone for any child. For parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), this can bring about unique challenges and considerations.

This guide aims to provide you with practical steps to support your child’s smooth move into secondary school, often referred to as their transition.

Understanding what is involved in the move to secondary school

The move to secondary school often involves a change in routines, environments, and expectations.

For children with SEND, these changes can be particularly overwhelming. It’s essential to understand the potential challenges your child may face and how best to prepare them for this transition.

What does transition mean?

Transition is a word that is used a lot in SEND. It simply means moving from one setting, stage or phase to another.

Examples of transitions are: moving from nursery to primary school, primary school to secondary school, secondary school to post-16 education and from post-16 education to adulthood. For some children there is also the change from infant school to junior school.

Transition can also be used in a more general sense to talk about daily changes such as the transition from home to school each morning or moving classrooms between lessons. Any change or move is considered a transition of some kind.

For many children and young people with SEND, changes and moving places can be a challenge – so it is important that careful planning is put in place as early as possible. There are lots of strategies, techniques and support that can be given to help children and young people with SEND manage change and adjust to their new environments.

Preparing for the move to senior school

Graphic o a man on a mobile phone talking to a lady at a desk with a computer and headset,

Step one

Get ahead and start communication early

Speak to your child’s current school and their secondary school. Discuss your child’s needs, strengths, and any support they currently receive.

Make an enquiry through the school’s administrative team who will refer you to the special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) at the school. The sooner you do this the better but it is never too late. Schools will always do their best to accommodate your family’s needs.

Step two

Attend a transition meeting

Once you have spoken to both schools, a meeting will be organised to discuss your child’s specific needs. This is the chance to ask questions and understand the process in more detail as each school will be different.

Picture of a school corridor with directional signage.

Step three

Arrange a familiarisation visit

Children who have SEND may feel anxious about new places and surroundings. To ease the move to a secondary school, arrange a familiarisation visit.

This will help children grow accustomed to the layout and facilities. If possible, arrange a meeting with key staff members who your child will interact with during the school day too.

 

Supporting your child

It is important to create a routine that is familiar for your child as it decreases any anxieties they may have.

For a happier move, establish these habits early in the process, which will make those next steps to secondary school smoother.

A photo of a man and a woman having a meeting

Step one

Ensure appropriate support continues

In most cases, this will happen during your first meeting with your primary school, before any transition begins.

Discuss the support you and your child may need as you move to the secondary school. They will recommend organising a meeting with the new school to also support the move.

 

A man with a boy helping him to cut paper.

Step two

Use strategies to make change easier

There are strategies and techniques you can use to make the move easier. This includes visual aids to help your child understand what to expect in their new school environment.

Role play can also be used to practice daily routines, such as navigating the school corridors or meeting people, to build confidence.

Step three

Get support from parent/carer groups

While school staff will support you and your child’s move to secondary school, families who are going through the same journey can become a vital support network.

Parent/carer groups include Portsmouth Parent Voice and Portsmouth Carers Board. They can make recommendations on what services or groups you can speak with.

 

Top tips from the teachers!

Teachers from local primary and secondary schools gave us top tips to help parents prepare their child for secondary school.

  1. Ask the school for your child’s tutor’s name/s and use this when talking about the move with your child.
  2. Try on uniform. Show it off to family prior to attending school.
  3. Set routines ahead of the summer. Ensure a good bedtime, get clothes out the night before, remove devices etc so that this is the norm when they start school.
  4. Attend transition evenings, meetings, and induction days.
  5. Arrange a tour of the school – most schools will accommodate this.
  6. Travel with your child on their route to and from school, whether walking or on the bus a few times.
  7. Speak positively about the move to the next school. Use phrases like ‘fresh starts’ and fresh opportunities’ and the excitement of making new friends.
  8. Avoid holidays at the start of the academic year.
  9. Communicate with school from an early stage. Be honest and share information.
  10. Don’t be afraid – there are lots of pastoral staff on hand to help.

A photo of school equipment including a backpack, books, alarm clock, pencils etc.

 

 

Encouraging children to be independent at home

Trafalgar School have kindly shared some tips they give to primary school parents to encourage children to develop their independence and organisational skills, making them feel more ready for senior school. You could try some of these things at home.

Developing independence

Avoid doing too much for your child. Try asking them to do some of the following:

  • Selecting their own clothes and getting dressed independently
  • Making their own bed
  • Finding what they need for a lesson, pencils workbooks etc
  • Deciding the order they will do their tasks in
  • Pouring their own drinks and making their own snacks
  • Using task boards to structure what they need to do

Small jobs around the house 

Try introducing small jobs around the house for your child to complete. This gives them responsibility for something and helps to build their self esteem. This could be:

  • Sorting washing into colour
  • Hoovering
  • Helping younger siblings get dressed
  • Laying the table for dinner
  • Hanging out washing
  • Learning how to cook basic meal
  • Washing up
  • Taking out rubbish

Emotional support

You can support your child transitioning to secondary by having conversations around:

  • How to talk to new people
  • What friends do and do not do
  • How to stay calm when feeling angry
  • What to do when things go wrong
  • What to do if they need help

Basic life skills

Build your child’s confidence by teaching them life skills such as:

  • How to add up money and knowing the value of the coins
  • How to tell the time
  • How to pack a bag
  • Personal hygiene skills
  • Folding clothes when getting changed
  • Road safety rules
  • Stranger danger rules
  • Setting an alarm and getting up when it goes off

 

Trafalgar also have a checklist for primary schools which parents/carers may also find useful.

Parent and SENCo stories on moving schools

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From the SENCos – Supporting the move to senior school

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Parent Point of View – Making the move to senior school

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Jackie’s story – strategies for making the move to school

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Final thoughts

The transition from primary to secondary education is a significant step for any child, but with careful planning and support, it can be a positive experience for those with special educational needs and disabilities. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Reach out for support, stay informed, and most importantly, listen to and empower your child throughout this process.

 

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