This page was written following our Community of practice about transitions. We had a lot of sharing and questioning about this and so we thought we would share it here.

Transitions are inevitable

Transitions are an inevitable part in every child’s journey. Many papers, articles and books have been written on the subject, some of which we share here. 

Start from the child

Early Education supports a child-centred approach which meets the needs of every child. We encourage you to develop and review your practice, because being a self reflective practitioner, critiquing and reviewing your current practice to improve and enhance your pedagogy, means that your transitions processes will become even better. 

When planning to support children’s transition into Key Stage 1, practitioners should always remember that the best preparation for children’s learning in the next stage is success at their current stage of development. They should, therefore, reject any inappropriate expectations of young children and resist strongly any pressure to introduce over-formal practice in the Foundation Stage. (Nursery World, 18 October 2006)

Preparation and time

It helps to have conversations in partnership in support of the child – involving parents, carers, children, any additional agencies involved, future and current teachers, keypersons and practitioners. Carrying these actions out requires much time, organsisation and clear agreement in policy. 

Research suggests that a more unified approach to learning should be adopted in both the early childhood education and the primary school systems, and that attention should be given to transition challenges faced by young children as they enter school. The search for a more unified approach has generated different policy options. France and the English speaking world have adopted a “readiness for school” approach, which although deefined broadly focuses in practice on cognitive development in the early years, and the acquisition of a range of knowledge, skills and dispositions. A disadvantage inherent in this approach is the use of programmes and approaches that are poorly suited to the psychology and natural learning strategies of young children. In countries inheriting a social pedagogy tradition (Nordic and Central European countries), the kindergarten years are seen as a broad preparation for life and the foundation of lifelong learning. Facilitating transitions for children is a policy challenge in all systems. Transitions for children are generally a stimulus to growth and development, but if too abrupt and handled without care, they carry – particularly for young children – the risk of regression and failure. (OECD, 2006:13)

(Achieving excellence in the early years: a guide for headteachers, Early Education, 2015: 19-20)

Every child is unique

Alison Gopnik in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter, writes about nature and nurture in children – that no two children even from similar genetic and nature upbringings will be the same. Many are in fact poles apart. Where one child is fearless, another sibling might be fearful and timid. Gopnik states:

It’s not just that children have different genes and different experiences, and that genes and experiences interact- it’s even more complicated than that. Some genetic factors make children more or less sensitive to their environments. Some children are resilient… They are like dandelions that flourish just about enywhere. Other children are more sensitive to differences in their surroundings; they do espcially well in rich circumstances, but do especially badly in impoverished ones…. So these children not only are difference from one another – they also react differently to their surroundings.

(Gopnik, 2016:32-33)

Happy settled children learn better

We know that happy, well settled children learn better and have higher wellbeing. We know that children need support to adjust and move from place to place, person to person. If we hold children in the highest regard and place highest priority on their needs, then a transition plan that caters for their needs is essential. 

A healthy and thorough keyperson approach is essential. Achieving excellence in the early years: a guide for headteachers states:

The role of the Key Person also continues to have great importance since he or she can provide emotional security for children and parents. In establishing a close working relationship with parents the Key Person can support children through the transition from home to school or setting. Failure to make such llinks places an unjustifiable burden on the child – who must then themselves act as a bridge between the two. (ibid: 85) 

Implications for practice

To ensure the wellbeing, attachment, play and learning needs of every child are met, transition conversations and plans that are well thought out and given time will be essential in your practice covering many aspects which include

  • the child’s learning story – how do they tell it or how do I tell it?
  • the child’s developmental and learning needs
  • any special or individual needs
  • attachment needs and any early trauma – especially in connection with change and transition
  • support and partnership of parents and carers
  • support and partnership of practitioners, teachers and leaders in both current and future setting or school
  • learning environment set up – similarities and differences between rooms and settings
  • philosophy and delivery of EYFS – similarities and differences between rooms and settings
  • home visits carried out to visit the child and family in their natural and comfortable (usually) home environment
  • paperwork and sharing of information – including handover of information and papers
  • progression and expectations of child in change process
  • resilience and wellbeing of the child – this varies form child to child
  • supporting practice and policy between settings
  • current research, practice and advice regarding transitions
  • value placed on child’s involvement, consultation and participation in the process

Links, references, research and guidance to support your practice and planning

Some papers and links to help you on your journey towards great practice. 

Also please read our Settling children well article.


  • Gopnik, A. The Gardener and the Carpenter 2016 The Bodley Head, London

This page written by Cathy Gunning, Pedagogic Lead in Spring 2018 and updated April 2020