Barnsley Early Start and Family Services

What is the purpose of the guidance?

The purpose of the document is to offer practical ideas and solutions to some barriers created by social distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The advice has been created to ensure children moving into their reception year have a successful transition.

Who is it for?

Schools, early years settings, childminders and parents/carers. It is to be used in the context of your setting’s circumstances, including the uniqueness of the children and families whom you support.

How to use the guidance

The guidance considers three main different groups and offers guidance and ideas to consider for each of the following:

  • children who have accessed the early years setting in term 6 or have accessed during COVID-19 restrictions (critical worker and vulnerable children)
  • children who have not accessed the early years setting during COVID-19 restrictions or children who have not accessed any form of early years education before
  • children with SEND and vulnerable children

Please note that some ideas are relevant for both children who have attended provision in term 6 and for those that have not, which will mean that some ideas are repeated in more than one section. There are other ideas that are more pertinent and unique to the specific groups.

Within each of the 3 groups we have separately considered ideas to support:

  • The children successfully transitioning into the reception year
  • What the early years setting can do to support the transition process
  • What the school can do to support the transition process
  • How parents and carers can be best supported through their child’s transition to school

These are a collection of ideas gathered from a range of practitioners, it is not an exhaustive list nor a tick list to work through. The ideas you choose will depend on your context and you will need to decide what will work best for your school, setting, community and families.

Consideration for children who have accessed the setting in term 6 or have accessed during COVID-19 restrictions (critical worker and vulnerable children)

Child

  • What would you like to know about your school? Do you want to know about the uniform/teachers/classroom/lunchtime/toilets/toys?
  • Look at your teacher and any photos or videos they send through.
  • What do you want to tell your teacher about you and your family? They will love hearing about this.
  • If you are worried talk to an adult. May be share stories like Ruby’s worry to find out how your worries go away

Setting

  • Ensure that the routines enable plenty of time to talk and play with children to focus on re-establishing relationships with key workers and peers.
  • Develop emotional literacy with children. Talk about their feeling and experiences of lockdown. Label emotions and come up with solutions together.
  • Listen, value and respond to what children say. Some children may not be able to vocalise so well so speak with parents and observe children’s behaviours.
  • Plan from children’s interest which will engage and motivate them. This will provide them with comfort.
  • Give children time to settle into routines and new ways of working. Use visual prompts, songs and talk about what is happening next.
  • Find out what school children are going to and become familiar with key information about the school.
  • Help children who are transitioning to the same school to re-establish friendships. Consider grouping children who are transitioning to the same school together.
  • Support children to become confident and independent in their personal hygiene and self-care. Read stories and sing songs about hand washing.
  • Complete a summative assessment for each child based on practitioner knowledge
  • Complete BMBC revised EYFS transition record and send to the child’s school.
  • Contact between professionals is vital to successful transitions so have telephone/video call with teachers or arrange times where they can safely see the child in setting.
  • Video calls can be set up for the children to see their new teacher for a story telling session.
  • Find out about songs they may learn in school and sing them with the children.

School

  • Find out if the children have attended a setting and make contact with them. Ensure transition records are received and talk to key persons about the child.
  • Make a video of the environment, include where the children will enter the classroom, coat pegs etc, where they will eat lunch, the toilets they will use, the outdoor area. Try and film at child height where possible. Make this available to families and settings. Upload on to the school website/social media.
  • You could share videos of storytelling sessions.
  • Record songs and rhymes for children to learn so that they are familiar with them. Include signs or visuals. 
  • Send a postcard or letter to each child telling them about yourself.
  • Create a ‘mini me’ of yourself and other key members of staff for the children to play with in setting 
  • You could do doorstep drop offs to introduce yourself and share key resources or information. 
  • Share pictures/make a picture book of key people in your EYFS team or those that the children will regularly come into contact with (e.g. lunchtime staff) and the environment children will be in (e.g. classroom, hall, toilets). Also, if possible, provide photos of school uniform, book bags – all the things that will help children become familiar with their new environment.
  • Key events could be shared – a picnic day for example and they could send in photos of their picnic.
  • Set up a Class Dojo account or similar with the new classes so it creates another way for parents/carers to contact staff if they have any queries. 
  • Provide opportunities for individual children to come and visit the school with their families through informal meetings, if at all possible, prior to September. These meetings could be arranged by booking a specific date and time for families to attend, e.g. after school. 
  • Consider offering transition sessions in the last couple of weeks of the summer holidays. These could be individual or very small groups in line with government guidelines at the time.
  • Transition meetings could take place virtually. Make information visual/ and you could add FAQ section.
  • Consider if stay and play sessions are appropriate in September.
  • Children will need lots of settling in time to establish routines. Consider allowing for plenty of time for talk and play to allow children time to adjust.
  • Timetables and expectations could be adjusted to reflect spring term expectations instead of those expected at the end of summer term.
  • Talk to parents about the child’s experiences during lockdown if they feel comfortable to do this.
  • Plan to develop emotional literacy with children. Talk about their feeling and experiences of lockdown. Label emotions and come up with solutions together.

Ask parents and carers to consider

  • Talking to their child about returning to the setting or the changes there. If they find separation difficult, talk about routines of the day, what will happen and the staff there.
  • Sharing with their child’s key person about their experiences or any difficulties during lockdown.
  • Talking to their child about how they are feeling and try and find solutions together if they have any worries.
  • Helping their child to become confident with personal hygiene like washing their hands and blowing their nose.
  • Sharing information with their child’s key worker about the school their child will attend in September. This will help them to support getting them ready by talking, sharing pictures of uniform and staff.
  • Asking parents to familiarise children with the journey to the provision, this could be by walking/driving/cycling the route

Considerations for children who have not accessed the setting during COVID-19 restrictions or children who have not accessed any form of early years education before – remote or virtual transition for children

Child

  • What would you like to know about your school? Do you want to know about the uniform/teachers/classroom/lunchtime/toilets/toys?
  • Look at your teacher and any photos or videos they send through.
  • What do you want to tell your teacher about you and your family? They will love hearing about this.
  • If you are worried talk to an adult. May be share stories like Ruby’s worry to find out how your worries go away.

Setting

  • Complete a summative assessment for each child based on practitioner knowledge up to the child’s last session – for most early years settings this was completed in March.
  • Complete the revised BMBC EYFS transition summary record including attaching a photograph of the child. 
  • Make contact with the child’s new school to have a conversation with the new teacher and arrange to send the EYFS transition summary record information
  • If you normally hold a ‘graduation event’ or farewell party and are not able to do this, could you do this using virtual means, a secure video call? Alternatively, send a certificate or a wow moment to the child celebrating their achievements with you at the setting.
  • Send a ‘Goodbye’ or a ‘Good Luck’ card to each child – could this include a photograph of the child when they were attending the setting (from the child’s learning journey perhaps.)
  • Continue to promote and support home learning and opportunities for families to have fun and learn through play together. Suggest to parents the following useful sources of information:
  • Do take a look at the Barnsley Early Years Consultancy Facebook page which has ideas for fun home learning.
  • Consider how you will pass on the child’s learning journey (if in hard copy) to the family.

School

  • Arrange to telephone call or video conference call all new starter families. Perhaps send a letter to all parents of new starters and asked which type of call parents would prefer. Use this as an opportunity for parents to tell you about their child. What are they interested in, favourite toys/games? How were they in their last setting? 
  • Gently explore families experiences during lockdown, changes of routine, loss, trauma, how they have affected the child and the family. Be very aware that some families may have DV, financial, mental health issues. 
  • Make a video of the environment, include where the children will enter the classroom, coat pegs etc, where they will eat lunch, the toilets they will use, the outdoor area. Try and film at child height where possible. Make this available to families. Upload on to the school website/social media. 
  • Share pictures/make a picture book of key people in your EYFS team or those that the children will regularly come into contact with (e.g. lunchtime staff) and the environment children will be in (e.g. classroom, hall, toilets). Also, if possible, provide photos of school uniform, book bags – all the things that will help children become familiar with their new environment. 
  • Staff could record themselves reading a story (video) and ask questions, send this to families. This will give them an opportunity to share their ideas aloud at home. 
  • Record songs and rhymes for children to learn so that they are familiar with them. Include signs or visuals.
  • Send a postcard or letter to each child telling them about yourself. 
  • Create a ‘mini me’ of yourself and other key members of staff for the children to play with at home 
  • Ask families to complete an ‘All About Me’ sheet. Include questions about lockdown as it is their current experiences. Ask for photos of family and pets to create an area of comfort and a sense of security within the setting. 
  • Contact the settings that your children are coming from to have a conversation with the key person about the child’s development and well-being. Arrange for receiving the BMBC EYFS transition record 
  • Sending out to new starters activity ideas packs (things that children might have experienced as part of a stay and play transition session) Could these be dropped off at children’s homes (door drop). Packs could be designed for new children due to start nursery and reception. 
  • Providing a detailed information pack for parents (as a group new starters parents meeting is unlikely to take place). Add in frequently asked questions based on experiences from previous meetings held (things you know parents will ask). As this is likely to be quite a lengthy letter/booklet consider breaking it up with photos of the provision and key information (staff etc). 
  • Set up a Class Dojo account or similar with the new classes so it creates another way for parents/carers to contact staff if they have any queries. 
  • Provide opportunities for individual children to come and visit the school with their families through informal meetings, if at all possible, prior to September. These meetings could be arranged by booking a specific date and time for families to attend, e.g. after school. 
  • Consider offering transition sessions in the last couple of weeks of the summer holidays. These could be individual or very small groups in line with government guidelines at the time. 
  • Timetables and expectations could be adjusted to reflect spring term expectations instead of those expected at the end of summer term. 
  • Communicate effectively with parents about the expectations and plan for starting school. Explain how you have made changes considering the current situation. Parents may be very anxious that their child is not ready for school due to the reduced amount of time in settings or the difficulties they have experienced during the lockdown period.

Ask parents and carers to consider

  • Establishing a sense of routine so that their child knows what to expect when.
  • Supporting their child to be confident in basic life skills including going to the toilet, using a knife, fork and spoon, opening containers used in lunchboxes, putting on a coat. 
  • Practice getting dressed and undressed in the correct order. Being able to do buttons will come with time. 
  • Helping their child to become confident with personal hygiene like washing their hands and blowing their nose. 
  • Talking to their child about how they are feeling and try and find solutions together if they have any worries. 
  • Supporting their child to be confident in speaking to different adults for example encourage their child to talk to another adult on the phone. 
  • Sharing these ‘I can’ statements and support their child to develop their skills - pacey: steps to starting school. Please give extra consideration to some of these statements during this time. For example, it is currently more challenging for children to have the opportunity to be confident in separating from their parents or carers (red block). 
  • Providing lots of opportunities for talking and having conversations with their child; listen to their views and don’t rush them to answer questions too quickly. Singing is a brilliant way to develop children’s language. 
  • Providing plenty of opportunities for their child to develop their gross motor movements so that they develop strong muscle memory. These include walking, running, jumping, skipping, lifting and pulling. 
  • Talking about the new school as often or as little as their child is comfortable to do so. 
  • Taking part in any transition ideas the school share with them. This will help their child to feel part of their peer group when they return to school. 
  • Asking parents to familiarise children with the journey to the provision, this could be by walking/driving/cycling the route

Additional considerations for children with SEND and vulnerable children

This guidance document has been put together for all children and is based on what makes them unique and individual. However, as always, extra consideration will be needed for children with additional needs or vulnerable families with safeguarding concerns. It is important to remember that communication including the passing on of important records and plans is vital for vulnerable children.

Child

In addition to the above section

  • What toys or object help you to feel safe and give you comfort?
  • What activities do you really enjoy?
  • What are your particular interests?
  • Who is special to you?

Setting

In addition to the above section

  • Continue to work with any other agencies or professionals supporting the child/family and make sure that the school is fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the child, including important information on what makes he or she unique. 
  • Complete BMBC revised EYFS transition record and send to the child’s school. 
  • The range of information gathered needs to include sufficient detail for the new setting to understand the child’s stage of learning and development, their likes, dislikes, who and what is important to them, their routines, and, importantly, how the child communicates. 
  • Pass on SEN support plans to the school children are transitioning to. 
  • Ensure any medical needs of the child are fully discussed with the school
  • Consider a virtual transition meeting that includes parents, staff from the current setting, the school and possibly other relevant professionals involved with the child.
  • Refer to the following Department for Education guidance: Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening for children who are continuing to attend an early years setting 
  • Take the children on the journey to school. Look at the outside of the building and take photos to look at and take home.

School

In addition to the above section

  • Contact the settings that your children are coming from to have a conversation with the key person about the child’s development and well-being. Arrange for receiving the BMBC EYFS transition record. Ask for SEND paperwork to be passed on to school.
  • Consider a virtual transition meeting that includes parents, staff from the current setting, the school and possibly other relevant professionals involved with the child.
  • Ask parents to produce a profile with their child that includes likes, dislikes, things they’re good at and what they find challenging. 
  • Take photographs of key adults and places that will be important to the child, label, laminate and send home or send electronically. 
  • Create a social story about starting school. 
  • Make a short visual timetable for a child’s first day at school and share with home. 
  • Once children start it will be important to know what things they find calming and reassuring. At first they may need to bring familiar, preferred items to look at, touch or smell. 
  • Find out from parents whether the child has any sensory processing needs e.g. might they need a quiet space to withdraw to? Do they need sensory resources such as a weighted cushion?
  • Pass on any SEND support plans and other key information to the school SENCO.
  • Consider arranging for the SENCO to contact parents/carers to introduce themselves and allow parents/carers to ask any questions.
  • Make sure you have as much information about the needs of the child and how to meet these needs in the classroom.
  • Do you need to consider training to support any medical needs? 
  • Create a transition plan together with parents and professionals of how the first few days/weeks/ half term may look. 
  • Is there an opportunity for extended stay and play sessions with parents.

Ask parents and carers to consider

In addition to the above section

  • Sharing visuals with their child such as video and photo books and talk about their new school and their new teacher.
  • Helping to prepare their child by regularly talking about the changes and sharing visuals on a regular basis. 
  • Sharing information about their child’s trigger points, what they find challenging and how best to support and manage this. 
  • Sharing information about any food or sensory issues. 
  • Practising the route to school regularly and taking photos to look at and talk about.



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