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Preparing for transition - Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

A good transition into a setting will have a significant impact on those children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities).  

It is important that you work in partnership with parents/carers and children in order to settle them into their new environment.  The chart below outlines the key stages in preparing for transitioning a child into a setting.



Home visit Invitation to a meeting Transition action plan Pre-visits to the setting Starting at the setting Settling in diaryPlanned review

Home visit

Staff in the setting will arrange a home visit once they are in receipt of information about the child, if possible. This allows them to gather information about the child and enables the child to begin to form an attachment with the key person in a familiar setting to them. The staff will aim to gain a better understanding of the child’s likes and interests.

For parents/carers and children, a visit provides the opportunity to meet the key person in a safe environment where they feel confident and at ease. The visit provides the opportunity to establish early, positive contact, see children in their own familiar setting, meet other family members who are important to the child and understand the learning that goes on at home. It can also establish what equipment/resources/strategies are used at home.

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Invitation to a meeting

This meeting allows for the discussion of the transition into the setting. Ideally this should take place in the half term before the child is due to start to enable sufficient time for any plans or support to be put into place. Parents/carers or any professionals involved and the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) would be invited. The purpose of the meeting is to begin gathering information. This helps establish a further relationship with the family, to offer opportunity to raise concerns and to familiarise the family with the setting.

A proforma will be used to ensure that parents/carers share important information about their child. At this meeting a key worker would be appointed, a home visit arranged and a flexible transition action plan agreed.

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Transition action plan -  SEND transition action plan (485 KB)

The transition action plan is a tool by which any necessary adaptations can be identified, planned for and put into place before a child starts. This will be based on the information shared in the initial meeting. The plan will clearly set out what needs to be done, by whom and the time scale of any actions. A copy should be given to all those present at the meeting. See transition action plan (485 KB)  for proforma action plan.

This may involve identifying

  • equipment and resources available in the setting
  • equipment and resources that would be needed
  • training that staff have undertaken
  • training that staff will need in order to support the child
  • assigning a staff member to carry out a risk assessment
  • a consideration of staffing ratios needed to support the child
  • activities (planning and differentiating)
  • self-care and medication needs of the child and their management
  • agreeing a settling in plan. See  SEND Settling in plan (482 KB)

It will be necessary to identify who could offer this support within the setting.

A key worker must be assigned to the child. The child may need a second keyworker assigned to support and manage personal care, medication administration and use of equipment. A transition booklet for children, which might include staff photographs, key areas, routines etc. could be provided to families to share with children before starting at the setting. During this preparation time training may be required to challenge stereotypes and promote positive attitudes amongst all children and staff.

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Pre-visits to the setting

Some children may already have a diagnosis or identified SEND. For others, this could be identified when attending the setting. It is therefore important for pre-visits to be made to the setting to help plan for the child’s start. This would be an opportunity for parents/carers to meet key worker/s and meet other staff and for the child to begin to become familiar with the setting.

This would also give staff opportunity to consider accessibility to different areas in the setting. There will be a plan to organise the environment so that it is suitable for those with SEND. This may include ensuring that activities are kept in well-defined areas or setting up space between activities to allow for wheelchair access; to reduce the occurrence of trip hazards; or to create support for those with visual difficulties (3.55 of EYFS Premises Safety).

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Starting at the setting

There will be flexibility around attendance, length and frequency of sessions reflecting the needs of the individual child. A graduated start may be necessary where the child attends for a short period of time per day, or attend for a reduced number of days per week. This is based on the work of Ainsworth and Bowlby (1991) and their theory of attachment and the work of Emmi Pikler (2001, 2003).

  1. Initially the child may need support from their parents/carers in the setting.
    During this time, the parents/carers should be available to support their child, easing the transition for their child from home to the setting as well as helping staff get to know the child.
  2. The child spends time in the setting room whilst parents/carers are in another part of the building. Parents/carers and the key person will discuss when the child is ready for this step. This allows the child to explore the setting and have her or his needs met by the key person and the rest of the staff. This might be for quite a short period of time at first, and then for longer stretches of time. It is important that the parents/carers say clearly to their child that they will be leaving the setting room. It is also important that parents/carers do not leave the building without talking with the key person first.
  3. Leaving the child at the setting independently will be discussed with parents/carers and the key worker when the child is ready. It will remain important for parents/carers to say goodbye to their child clearly and say when they will return, so that their child knows what is going on and can express how he or she feels about it. Some parents/carers find it easiest to set a limit on how long they will stay at dropping‐off time, for example “I’ll read two books with you and then it will be time for me to go.”

An example of the possible stages in the settling in process is illustrated in the table below: 


What happens

Stage 1 Parents/carers and child spend an hour together in the setting.
Stage 2 Parents/carers and child spend an hour and a half in the setting. If appropriate, the child will spend 20 minutes in the setting without the parents/carers. Parent/carer needs to stay in the building.
Stage 3 Once the child is comfortable separating from their parents/carers, child builds up to 1 ½ hours in the setting without the parents/carers. Parents/carers stays in the building.

 Some children will require a longer period of time at some stages and this will require monitoring and discussion between setting staff and parents/carers.

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Settling in diary -  SEND Settling in diary (488 KB)

This diary can be used to record the length of stay, what the child enjoyed doing, any distress the child experienced and how they were comforted. It can be completed every day for 10 days whilst the child settles in and can be extended if necessary. It conveys the idea that settling in is an on-going process which is monitored and adjusted to suit individual children’s needs. It also provides a way of ensuring communication between setting and parents/carers, particularly when an adult other than the parents/carers collects the child.  Additionally, as the child’s needs are identified at the setting, the baseline development areas in the SEN Early Years Support Plan can begin to be filled out by the child’s keyworker. See settling in diary (488 KB) .

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Planned review

A planned review can be used (which could be after 6 weeks or at another agreed time) to discuss how the settling in and transition process has been for parents/carers, staff and the child. This can also be an opportunity to fill in the SEN Early Years Support Plan six week review of development areas.

Some children will require an Educational Health Care Plan (EHC plan) to support their ability to be included within the setting and this is the responsibility of all Early Years practitioners to cooperate with this process. 

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