A Smooth & Effective Transition – EYFS to Year 1

Young children thrive when their needs are met across all domains including emotional, social, language and physical as well as throughout their own personal learning journeys.  Effective pedagogy must meet the needs of each child, whilst meeting the requirements of the different statutory requirements, in this case, in relation to outcomes at the end of Year 1. A successful transition into Year 1 requires all involved to have a clear and structured plan that spans across the whole Reception year. Effective communication between the Reception and Year one teacher is paramount and should occur at regular points throughout each term. SLT and parents should also be on board at pivotal points.  Support for well-being and emotional resilience is central to our team approach across all curriculum areas, especially this year due to the pandemic.

What does a smooth and effective Year 1 transition look and feel like at our School?

It is good to start with a series of connected queries that stem from this initial, generic question. What does Autumn Term one look and feel like to a child? Should aspects of their Reception Year be evident to all in September? Should they hit the ground running due to a well-planned Summer Term introduction that has already set them up to succeed? Should they already possess some Year one attitudes that the staff (and parents) have embedded throughout the Reception year and at home? Should you walk into an Autumn term Year one classroom and see them moving around and discovering as they were previously used to? We believe that the answer is yes to all of the above.

It is true that we have a destination and goal for these children to achieve the expectations of a Year one curriculum by the end of the year yet how we do this is so important.  We do believe that year one does need to be a little more formal than the Reception year and right from the start too so that standards and expectations are apparent very early on.  Children will then know what is expected from them and expectations will be clear.  Get it wrong and some children and staff will struggle. It is all about the balance. High expectations plus a well-planned progressive learning journey that addresses individual needs.  Teacher led lengthy carpet sessions and formal table-based provision may be detrimental to some children. Others may be ready for this.  Tell a child to write when they find it hard / are not sure what to write will cause distress on both parts. We cannot run before we can walk. It just won’t work. That is why transition to year one must start in Reception. Where this happens best is when highly effective reception teachers work in alliance with the Year one teachers all year round.  They pop in, they talk to the children, they know their strengths and they know their unique characters.  They know where they are and where they need to go.

Social behaviours and attitudes are also so important to nurture, encourage and teach to children of this age.  The understanding of child development, characteristics of effective learning and prime areas are prioritised at the heart of practice for YR and into Y1. The children love to share their strengths. They are egocentric. They are influential. They are like sponges. We cannot undo all the wonderful experiences that the EYFS curriculum has given to them.  Therefore, September should not cause them anxiety nor their parents. They should be excited and eager to tackle the Year one expectations because they are ready for that change. Of course, some will be more ready than others and that is perfectly ok. As educators, we are the experts in understanding best how to guide them on the next stage of their educational journey. Their geographical change may only be a matter of metres away but to subject them to an abundance of regimental formal changes within the first few days of term may be detrimental.   The link between exactly how children learn with the shift in what they are learning needs to be an integral part of a school’s effective transition plan. 

So how can it be achieved? Time and Talk! Effective transition will occur when all involved are communicating effectively.  Meetings, drop ins, phone calls, class swaps discussions, workshops all take time and effort and then there are also limitations involved due to the current restrictions whereby bubbles may not mix and meetings are all virtual. However, they can still occur with careful planning.  Include Reception in whole school events.  Allow the year one children to be part of the transition process for their successors.  Create workshop films for parents that can are easily accessible.  Transition is a whole school issue!  Bold Beginnings stated, ‘Most Year 1 teachers spoken to said that the EYFSP provided only shallow and unnecessary information about a child’s achievements.’ Therefore, the EYFS and Year one staff teams need to work together at every opportunity. They need to be in and out of each other’s classrooms, having weekly meetings to discuss the children and analysing data/progress wherever possible.  

We want our children to feel excited as they move up into Year 1. We want them to be inspired and to look forward to the challenge that Year 1 has to offer.  Getting this transition right is so important for all parties involved. Successful transition between Reception and Year one is essential for the wellbeing of the children. Get it right and they flourish and become passionate learners right in front of your eyes.

Tackle Transition FACE on!

  • Familiarity and Parallels – September should not be a shock for a new to Year 1 child. Make it seamless and banish any fears. Start class swaps and visits in June. Put their work or photographs around the room. Allow them to get to know Year 1 staff in the Summer terms. They should already know their surroundings including the layout of the room. Provide discovery approaches which support their learning that the children are used to.   Ensure that whole class carpet sessions are not lengthy! Support a gradual change in teaching styles from more informal to more adult-led teaching. Make it fun, focussed and familiar!
  • Attitudes and Dispositions – Children need to feel prepared with a positive outlook towards starting Year 1.  They need to want to progress by working hard and by having a ‘can-do’ attitude which highly motivates them to succeed in all that they do – not just academically. They need to feel positive and raring to go with a sense of maturity and readiness. Praise positive attitudes at every opportunity and relate to the real world! Reach for the Stars!  Talk about HOW the children learn and encourage resilience, determination and commitment to learning at all times.
  • Communication and Involvement – Communication between Reception and Year one staff to occur all year around. Have progress meetings together and discuss next steps.  Get to know all about the children while they are still in Reception. June / July class swap sessions, story times together, class assemblies for each other, parent meetings and newsletters to provide key information. Engaging parents in the process so that they know what to expect and can support their children by talking to them about the changes as the end of the year approaches. Invite parents into school to visit a Year 1 classroom to share work examples and meet the staff. SLT to have involvement throughout the year.  Effective and purposeful communication is key.
  • Excitement and Experiences – Build it up! Excite them and make them want to learn and progress! Children learn best when they are highly motivated. Work on timetable and structure, moving them gently towards the National Curriculum so each child can develop into a more formal learning at their own unique pace. Have many Year one visit days, get them to design a display and have their work on show in September. Entice them in KS1 and let them love learning!

Children and adults should enjoy the transition process –

Alleviate anxiety – Create consistency & collaboration