It is recognised that all children and young people will be transitioning into the new arrangements and models for learning. All children and young people transition into their next year of early learning and childcare, school or into life after school each year.
This year, in addition to those ‘usual changes’ the way in which they learn, and where they learn will also change. In the current context making the transition back to a school setting that feels very different will mean that all learners may benefit from transition support upon their return.
There are a range of sources of advice available on supporting learners through points of transition, much of which has been developed or updated in light of COVID 19. Education Scotland has developed a range of materials to support transition at each age and stage.
In line with the Additional Support for Learning Act the transition from early learning and childcare into primary 1 should be planned for in advance, and all appropriate documentation exchanged with the relevant school.
Through formal reviews health visitors explore attainment of individual developmental milestones and where developmental needs are not being met, for whatever reason they will seek to engage relevant and proportionate support to address unmet need. They will work with families and with relevant Education partners to support a smooth transition to school recognising the individual health and wellbeing needs of children.
Transitional support for children and young people with additional support needs
For children and young people who experience barriers to their learning, managing the transitions carefully and sensitively is vital. In particular, additional support for learning legislation requires that education authorities support the transitions of children and young people with additional support needs. These responsibilities apply for the transitions from early learning and childcare into primary schools, from primary school to secondary school, from secondary school into further or higher education, work or other post-school provisions, and include statutory timescales.
In the current circumstances, and as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of those plans for transitions may not have been able to be completed. For post-school transition, where planning should begin no later than two years prior to leaving, planning should be well advanced, and should be able to be resumed and completed. For other transitions, where the timescales are shorter, and due to the timing of the COVID-pandemic in the academic year, more work may be required, quickly. In recognition of this, as part of the Education Continuity Direction, any failure of the statutory timescales, will be disregarded to the extent that it is attributable to the direction. This means that the planning should be completed, as soon as practicably possible.
Pupils with additional support needs often benefit from enhanced transition. This is usually provided through extra school visits, to become familiar with the school building and opportunities to meet staff and other pupils, including where used ‘buddies’. Whilst there may be some opportunities to continue with these activities, they may have to be carried out in a different way. For example, using video, phone conversations, and technology to link pupils together, and visits arranged to schools in line with physical distancing guidance.
For some children and young people with additional support needs, who require specific communication supports, for example the use of sign language, Makaton, storyboards and symbols, these should be used as they would usually. Some children and young people may benefit from the preparation of a storyboard, containing photographs of key locations, their teaching, support and transport arrangements, and information to explain how learning will be different at school (for example, where a staff member may require to wear a face covering or personal protective equipment). These approaches, whilst not required, may be beneficial for all young people, and may be a positive learning activity.
Transitions for young people who are shielding
Consideration should be given as to how schools and local authorities support the transitions of children and young people who are shielding. As they will be unable to attend school, consideration should be given to how bespoke transition support can be provided online. This could take the form of videos from teachers, an on line tour of a new school or other such arrangements.
Potential barriers that learners could face
Young people making transitions back into education and across education stages and settings could face a number of particular challenges in the current context, for example:
- limited resource availability – books, stationery, craft materials, digital equipment and connectivity
- lack of engagement with supported on-line and home learning - digital poverty including lack of equipment, adult support, space to work, structure to the day and loss of routine
- wellbeing, social and emotional and pastoral care
- pressure on parents to return to working patterns which will prevent them from being able to supervise or assist with home learning
- families facing hardship and poverty for the first time, may find it difficult to access the support they need due to the unfamiliarity of support systems and being previously unknown to professionals
- missing out on rites of passage/ celebrating success
- limited opportunities for induction activities for example, school visits, meeting new teachers, or participating in fresher weeks at college or university
- challenges around transfer of data on progress and support needs
- lack of access to partnership learning such as Higher Education summer schools, and work placements
- different start dates for college or university courses
- helping children and young people with additional support needs to recognise and understand their next steps
Community learning and development (CLD), youth work and adult learning
In considering support for transition, education authorities may wish to also consider the support available through Community Learning and Development services as part of their local delivery plan. CLD, which includes youth work and adult learning is provided by local authorities, other statutory services and the third sector, and the youth work offer is coordinated by local authorities through a statutory CLD plan.
The types of support they can offer include:
- youth workers can provide an alternative trusted relationship for young people through both one to one and group support. Youth work is often targeted to individuals and communities furthest from engagement or inclusion
- CLD services often also include family learning, adult learning and ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages). These can be useful in supporting parents and carers to engage with the school and with their children’s learning
- many schools have youth and family learning workers working directly in the school but there are also many services which operate out with the school. These services are especially useful in reconnecting some vulnerable children and young people to reconnect with education
- CLD workers can also provide information and practical and emotional support to children, young people and parents and carers through transitions and, in partnership with other professionals, can support a holistic approach to meeting their needs
Principles to support all young people in making transitions
For all young people, regardless of the stage they are at or the challenges they face, there is a common set of 7 principles of good transition that can help with thinking about how to support them at this time.
These are intended to support reflection, and we are mindful that applying them in practice will be challenging in a COVID context.