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Devon’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Local Offer

What to consider when children change school

When children and young people move from one phase in their lives to the next, either through changing schools or moving from school or college to higher education or employment, it can be unsettling.

Transitioning from one educational setting to another can be challenging for all children and young people, but particularly so for those with SEND, as it may be more difficult to get to know a new place with new people. Children and young people with SEND support in place will also need their support provision to be moved across too.

Young people with SEND and their parents should speak to a teacher, Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) or a careers adviser to get help with choosing where would be the best place to move to.

When you and your child have decided where you would prefer to go next, your teacher or SENCo should discuss the needs your child has with the new setting so that a system of support can be set up. This may include additional visits to the new setting, someone from the new setting attending SEND review meetings and opportunities to discuss needs with staff at the new setting.

If your child already has a support plan in place, the transition arrangements should discussed as part of this. If an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) is in place then the annual review will discuss transition. For young people in year 9 and year 11, an adviser from Careers South West will be invited to the annual EHCP review.

Education settings must consider whether a child or young person with SEND needs to have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan written for them. This plan sets out the actions to be taken and by whom to ensure the safety of a child or young person with a disability in the case of an emergency evacuation. This may be discussed at transition meetings.

A good practice guide for transition for schools and education settings has been produced by Babcock LDP, for children in early years all the way to leaving college.

Transitioning to primary school

When your child moves from an early years setting (such as a pre-school or nursery) into a school for the first time, there are plenty of people to help with this process. Schools will have their own system for transition and these should keep the needs of the child and family at the heart of all they do.

A transition meeting should be arranged so that you and early years setting staff, as well as any other professionals who work with your child, can discuss their strengths, needs and required support. Notes from the meeting should be used to help with transition and to ensure your child has all the help they need to settle into their placement.

Transitioning to secondary school

Secondary school environments are quite different from those at primary schools, and pupils have more responsibility for their own learning. Secondary schools should provide additional support for pupils with SEND during transition and the following may be suitable:

  • Making sure pupils have a map of the new school building. Colour-code subjects and classrooms and highlight important areas such as the dining hall, their locker and their form room.
  • Adapting timetables to make them more user-friendly.
  • Creating daily checklists so the correct items are taken to school each day.
  • Creating a user-friendly diary for organising homework.
  • Setting up a buddy-system with a designated friend, or group of friends, to help the move between classes.
  • Assigning a member of staff as a mentor to help if pupils become anxious.
  • Having a chill out area in the school that pupils can go to if they need a quiet place to have some space.
  • Considering having some structure, such as a ‘circle of friends’ or a lunch club, during break and lunchtimes as these can often be the most stressful time of the day.

Additional support should be agreed before your child starts at the new school to make the transition smooth. A transition meeting should be arranged so that you, your child and their current class teacher as well as any other professionals who work with your child can discuss their strengths, needs and the support required for transition and school life. Notes from the meeting should be used to help with transition.

Changing schools

If your child changes school at some time other than in September, then schools should still support them with transition. A transition meeting between staff from both schools as well as you, your child (if appropriate), and other professionals working with your child would be a useful way to plan for transition.

Information such as strengths, areas of need and required support should be shared between schools. It may also be useful for your child to visit their new school before starting there so they can familiarise themselves with a new environment and new people.

Transitioning into adulthood

This transition is a longer process and takes place across the final years of school (starting in year 9) and into the early years of whatever comes next.

This might include:

  • work
  • further education
  • vocational training
  • life skills work
  • independent living
  • social opportunities.

Planning for transition includes thinking about education, employment, housing and support needs, community and leisure activities and health needs.

To ensure a smooth transition for young people with SEND, all the needs of the young person will be considered and several professionals will work with the young person and family during transition. The aim of transition planning is to ensure continuity of support and that the goals and aspirations of the young person are at the heart of the plan.

The main things to remember about transition are:

  • that there are people to help you and your child through the process
  • that transition does not happen on the young person’s 16th or 18th birthday – it is a long process with plenty of time for you to find out everything you need and get the support that you want.

See the Preparing for Adulthood section for more information.


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