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Transition – Moving schools, settings and into adulthood

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.

This section of the Local Offer website has been designed to help you understand and plan for transitions using local services. We have also included national links and helpful guidance.

Read Parent Carer, Natalie Abraham’s blog about her son’s move to secondary school

Moving to a new setting in September 2021 – The difference covid-19 makes

Moving to a new setting during the covid-19 pandemic means some changes have had to be made.

Each setting has put in place new and different ways to introduce children and young people to their new places of learning.  This is to make sure that everyone continues to be protected and stay as safe as possible.

Every education setting will have their own ways to welcome new children and young people this year.

Some settings will be offering visits, others will have online arrangements, some settings will be looking to give extra support in September.

If you’re worried about the extra support your child will need to help them through the change, you can do the following:

  • Look on the school, college or nursery website to read their general advice on starting with them.
  • Speak to the setting directly to find out how they will be supporting all new starters.
  • You can also talk to your child’s current setting about current support and how they will be linking in with the new setting.

Transition - Moving on

Starting Primary School

Starting primary school can feel like a big step for lots of young children and even more so for those who have special educational needs and disabilities. There are some things you can do to support your child to make the move into their first “big school”.

Speak to your child’s new school and share information early

Make sure you , the new school and your child’s nursery/pre-school all have ways to communicate and share as much information with each other as possible. This includes their likes, things they might struggle with and any medical needs they have. Make sure the right support is going to be ready for your child.  Writing a plan for the transition can be very helpful too.

Plan in plenty of time

Some children find change difficult – even small changes to routines can be hard for them to cope with. Make sure you give them plenty of time to prepare for the change. Extra visits to school, meeting staff early, pictures of the new school ( inside and outside), videos and photographs can all be really helpful. Having a timetable on the wall and clear dates as well as reading books about starting school can help children prepare. Some schools can even prepare personalised stories for you to read with your child.

If you have an early years worker or someone from portage supporting your family they can give you helpful advice and support too – it’s always best to speak with them and plan early.

Portsmouth City Council have produced a Top Tips for starting school guide. This guide is for all children starting school and some parts of this could be really helpful. Please note that for children with SEND we know they achieve things at their own rates in their own time, so please do not worry if your child cannot do any of the recommended things by the time they start – they will be supported once they start school.

Click here to read the early years 10  top tips for starting school 2021


BBC Bitesize have created a video about starting primary school when you have a child with SEN and additional information to support the move. Click here to watch the video and visit their website.

Moving from Primary to Secondary School

For some children with special educational needs, moving from Primary to secondary school can feel like a big jump.

Schools are often much bigger than children may be used to and they will most likely be seeing lots of different teachers and moving between different classrooms throughout the day. This is very different from having 1 consistent teacher and the same class friends at primary school.

Try not to worry too much – there is lots the primary school, the new secondary school and yourselves can do to make your child’s move a bit smoother.

Schools will be working together – The primary school will be sharing lots of important information about your child with the secondary school and will make sure you get to share your views too. Some schools create written profiles or passports that they share with the new setting , these contain details on any needs your child has, how best to support them, what has worked so far and any likes or dislikes. Sometimes this is called person centred planning. 

Secondary Schools plan ahead – Some schools will offer induction days (sometimes called moving up days) to give your child the opportunity to experience the school before they start. They should be asking to speak or meet with you to learn how best to support your child.

The school will put in place early any adaptations or support that your child will need when they start. The SENCO of the new school will be sharing information on your child with all staff that will be working with them. Some schools will also offer a mentoring or buddy scheme. They can also offer visuals and pictures to share with your child before they start.

Supporting your child at home –

  • Ask for information early – Contact the new school as soon as possible and ask for any information or visuals they might have to prepare your child. A map of the school can be really helpful. You can also visit the outside of the school and travel the journey to school either walking or on public transport.
  • Create a check-list – Having a list of everything your child needs can be really helpful in supporting them to be organised each day. You can create a visual for the wall that they can tick off.
  • Work on new skills – Your child may need to practice putting on a tie, ordering a lunch or following a timetable – these are all things they might not have come across before.

Click here to read Young Mind’s Transition tips for pupils with SEND – 

National Autistic Society – Starting or Changing School information

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