Supporting children with SEND at transition

Published 16/09/2021

Any new academic year brings new challenges, but the trials facing teachers now and over the coming months are like none they have known before. As students return to school when again unpredictable changes are likely, teaching staff are reviewing priorities and refining systems to ensure that key students and common gaps are quickly identified. Many of these decisions will be setting-specific but one common theme, recurrent throughout, will be ensuring that all judgements are well considered and supported by evidence. 

In preparation for transition, teachers will be asking themselves: ‘What do I already know about the cohort, class or individual? Which students must I prioritise? And where are the universal areas of challenge?’ Now is not the time to rush but to reason. Many of these questions, especially when considering students who may experience barriers to learning, cannot (and should not) be answered overnight - they need time and consideration.

The process of transition should therefore start long before the first day of term, especially at transition between primary and secondary school when the changes are so many and varied. Daniel Sobel, founder of Inclusion Experts, recommends readying vulnerable students and families for the move to secondary from as early as Year 5 to allow relationships and support structures to develop.

SENCOs, in particular, will have a sharp focus on using prior knowledge and data to meet the changing needs of vulnerable students and those with SEND as they transition between classes, year groups or phases. They will work to facilitate additional transition support which may include:

  • Organising discussions with key stakeholders including students, parents, new teachers and support service providers
  • Coordinating decisions that factor in academic, physical and emotional needs
  • Arranging additional visits, activities or resources to support transition 
  • Identifying and sharing the students’ current strengths, interests and challenges 
  • Ensuring education, health and care plans are reviewed and amended in sufficient time for the move between key phases

In a recent blog for the EEF, Kirsten Mould, secondary school SENCO and learning behaviours’ specialist, references several research studies which have shown a dip in attainment coinciding with transition. She notes a trio of challenges which need to be addressed: curriculum continuity, school routines and expectations and healthy peer networks. She advocates a joined-up approach where stakeholders work together to reflect on the appropriate pathways of support which will most likely lead to the greatest levels of success in responding to these challenges. Mould also believes that information and data associated with academic progression and emotional wellbeing must be interrogated. Finding the nuances to really understand a student’s specific strengths and challenges will lead to actions that are appropriate and timely - rushing to conclusions rarely leads to productive outcomes, however well intentioned!

Many schools are finding innovative ways of using available data from cohort and specialist assessments, like those offered by GL Assessment, to ‘triage’ those most in need of support. Accurate assessment data allows the most vulnerable students to be more easily identified so well-matched measures of support can be planned to ensure aspirational achievements. Whether the challenge is in reading, language skills, peer relationships or learning readiness, having a detailed profile of evidence will help to build the most complete picture of a student and inform next step or transition decisions.

Explore our Long Transition microsite to see how schools have used assessments to support their students over recent months and how they are approaching transition in autumn 2021.

Formerly an Inclusion Manager at a multi-academy trust school in the UK and across a highly respected school group in Dubai, Emma was a well-established strategic leader for inclusion.  In her overseas role, she enhanced the inclusive experience of families and students within her own setting, whilst offering extensive support to colleagues across the wider SEND professional community of the UAE.  
Emma now works as an Education Adviser at GL Assessment, supporting multi-academy trusts to effectively engage with their assessment data.

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