Change is both stressful and an opportunity for growth. School transitions should be viewed as a process of change which requires careful managing, rather than a one-off event. Transitions during primary school years can cover a range of experiences, all of which involve some degree of challenge and readjustment.
Poor transitions, particularly to secondary school, are a significant risk factor affecting children’s mental health.
Children at risk
Overall, children at greater risk of struggling with transitions include pupils who:
- Are less ready than their peers for starting school.
- Struggle to develop good relationships with school staff.
- Don’t feel a sense of belonging to their school.
- Have multiple experiences of loss and transient living (e.g. children in care).
- Have been bullied.
- Have mental health difficulties.
- Particularly struggle with changes to routine or with noise such as those on the autistic spectrum.
- Describe severe and overwhelming stress at the point of transition (particularly to secondary school).
Types of transitions
School transitions include:
- Adapting to primary school after being at home or in early years settings.
- Children who are new to a school or changing school.
- The important transition between primary school and secondary school.
- Children with SEND or identified mental health needs – either moving into alternative education and then transitioning back, or moving from primary to secondary.