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 (opens PDF) and also photos of entrance, classrooms, lunch hall and key staff/’who to go to when…’

Related information

Managing and reducing anxiety

Social distancing and PPE

Preparing for adulthood

Examples of Transition Support (for and by schools)


Transition tips (changing schools, key stages)

Download ‘Transition tips’ factsheet

Watch ‘Preparing for transition to Primary school’ video