It can be an anxious time for children either moving up to primary, secondary school or college, or returning to a setting after a period of absence.

Schools and colleges have experience of planning transition and have tried and tested ways to prepare children and young people for the move.

Some settings have a member of staff solely for planning transition and you can ask to speak with them directly. If your child has specialists working with them, they could also be part of the transition planning.


The most important thing is to think about what your child will find most difficult (e.g. changes to routine, environment, or staff) and discuss ways they can be supported with this.  

  • Try to find out what your child is worried about and talk to them about what might make things better.
  • Explain to your child what will be different. You may find this activity useful: ‘Transition – ‘what changes, what stays the same’ (opens PDF)
  • Seeing photos or a virtual tour of the class/school layout may benefit your child
  • Think about what has worked well in the past when you’ve helped your child prepare for a new experience.
  • Your child will be reassured by your calming responses and a reminder that you and school or college can support them in managing the changes. 

Starting a new school

  • You can contact the SENCO/SEN lead at the new school or college before your child starts, to discuss their needs and to explore and agree a plan of support. There may be opportunities for a joint (virtual) meeting involving the current and new SENCO.
  • Find out names and roles of key staff you can contact at the new setting.
  • Let the new school or college know about any signs to look out for that your child is anxious, and the best way to communicate with them
  • It may be helpful to ask if you can arrange a visit on a PD day, or at another quiet time so they can familiarise themselves with the school surroundings.
  • Enquire about any opportunities to meet with their teacher/tutor in advance (this can work just as well virtually)
  • A ‘scrapbook’ or ‘photo journal’ around changing schools can be very reassuring. This can include leaflets, maps, times of the school day, timetable if available, a checklist and also photos of entrance, classrooms, lunch hall and key staff/’who to go to when…’

Useful resources and links

Psychology and therapeutic service ‘top tips’

Inclusion facilitators free resources

How I feel about…‘ (opens PDF) from the Inclusion Facilitators to help children and young people deal with worries

‘Passport for a new class/school’ (opens Word document)

Transition: Circles of help‘ (opens PDF) from  Partnership for Children

‘My New Secondary School’ – Social story template from Twinkl (via the Local Offer) (Opens PDF)

The Suffolk Preparing for Adulthood Guide  (PDF) for information about young people moving beyond year 11

The National Autistic Society strategies and information about transition

Planning my future life‘ – Person-centred planning booklet from Preparing for Adulthood

Helen Sanderson website (advice & tools for person-centred practice)

Videos to support your child with any worries:

BBC videos about friendships and school life:

For parents and carers:

Young Minds videos about friendships:

Related information

Managing and reducing anxiety

Preparing for adulthood

Examples of Transition Support (for and by schools)

watch ‘preparing for transition to secondary school for children

Read accessible script of recording (opens PDF)

Watch ‘Preparing for transition to Primary school’ video

Read accessible script of recording (opens PDF)


Transition tips (changing schools, key stages)Title

Download ‘Transition tips’ factsheet