Supporting an Effective Transition for Learners with SEND

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Supporting an Effective Transition for Learners with SEND

This term is all about beginnings and endings as we prepare our students for their next year group, key stage or the road ahead on their life journey. It’s also about preparing for your new students. For learners with additional needs transition into a new setting can be made all the more difficult by difficulties with:

  • Time management and understanding of time related concepts,
  • Speed of processing of new information,
  • Sequencing skills,
  • Organisation skills,
  • Difficulties with basic literacy and numeracy skills,
  • Self-monitoring and regulation of emotions,
  • Higher levels of fatigue,
  • Memory skills,
  • Social skills,
  • Sensory needs,
  • Spatial awareness,
  • Attention and listening skills.

The non-negotiables for any transition:

  • Acknowledge that change is and/or can be scary!
  • Pre-plan, pre-warn and share what it is coming wherever possible.
  • Give visual support to aid understanding. Consider how you can ‘show’ who, what, where and when.
  • Teach ‘surprise’ and ‘change’ as explicit concepts with a management plan.
  • Count it down into mini milestones and celebrate each one’s completion.
  • Have a rehearsed management plan for sudden changes in place and rehearse as much as possible. This should then just ‘click in’ if needed.


  • Allow the pupil to become familiar with key adults as soon as possible. It could be helpful to provide pupils and parents with photos of the key staff, their role – making clear how they support,
  • Contact details and how/when they can be contacted.

Supporting separation anxiety:

  • Establish a consistent and clear routine for pick up and drop off with clear boundaries for all parties.
  • Develop a quick goodbye ritual that can be rehearsed in advance.
  • Offer some reassuring experiences from home: small photo, smells, objects of reference.
  • Be realistic/honest about the time of return.
  • Teach relaxation activities and techniques.
  • Use social stories to develop ‘a script’ and explain the situation.
  • Make the pupil aware of what the caregiver is doing whilst away.
  • Role play – use small world toys to rehearse separations.

Sharing key information:



This is what I find difficult This is how you can help Especially in/when
Extracting information from a busy text. Use a buff background.

De-clutter worksheets.

Use Arial font point 14

Use double sized spacing.

All subjects
Following two step or more instructions. Give me a visual cue.

Simplify them.

PE – when there is a lot happening
Remembering subject specific vocabulary Pre-teach/expose Humanities and Science




You may also want to collect:

  • Assess, plan, do, review documentation,
  • Copies of EHCP/reviews,
  • Copies of reports from other professionals/outside agencies,
  • Timeline/chronology,
  • Pupil passports/communication passports,
  • One page profiles,
  • Assessment/progress data,
  • Safeguarding information,
  • Medical knowledge.

In practice for the pupil:

  • Start with the website – a virtual tour with a focus.
  • A video conference (Skype/Facetime) with existing staff/pupils.
  • Build a transition book.
  • Additional visits.
  • Meet the staff.
  • Email other pupils going – pen pals.
  • Have a positive experience!


  • Develop credit card sized or checklists stored in mobile phones/devices photo which will help the pupil know what equipment they need and when.
  • What to do if …. cards – these detail what to do in a challenging situation such as realising they have forgotten their PE kit or who to go to if they are worried.
  • Learn to use electronic reminders/calendar.
  • Practise packing and unpacking the bags.
  • Rehearse the homework recording system.
  • Rehearse reading the timetable.
  • Practise dressing and undressing efficiently.
  • What are their worries?


…and remember:

  • Transition is a process not an event!