6 approaches to transitions project

6 approaches to transitions project

Six approaches to transitions

The following six examples were taken from STEP’s research into transition approaches in other countries (STEP, 2015).

Transition resources


Chicago’s Staying Put’ project aimed to address some of the challenges in elementary schools experiencing high mobility and poor levels of achievement.  The main challenges were disruption to young people’s class routines and interruptions to their learning. Some highly mobile students were almost a year behind in academic progress. The project dealt with frequent transitions by using resources to prompt reflection.  “My Best Year” folders were distributed to students and parctitioners documented all achievements and learning content to help with school transfers. A checklist titled, “Don’t Leave School Without It” emphasises the importance of parents’ roles  during transitions. It describes paying extra attention to the child’s schoolwork, or helping to adjust to new subjects, textbooks, and timetables.


Parents and teachers are more aware of the issues arising from transitions and have accessible resources and information to help support children during the process.


Parental involvement


This transition programme based in rural New South Wales responded to an extremely high proportion of Aboriginal/Indigenous school enrolments, high rates of mobility, and limited access to preschool settings.  The focus of the programme was to support transitions through family learning.   Key strategies included: using culturally-appropriate tools for assessment at entry into Kindergarten, home visits, and employing Aboriginal Education Workers who were trained in topics such as transitions and cross-cultural awareness.  Parents were advised on literacy, learning, numeracy and health issues. Parents and the wider community were all encouraged to participate in the planning, delivery and evaluation of the program.


All participating children entered preschool the following year. There was an improvement in parents’ ability to support children’s literacy and (pre)school ‘readiness’ in literacy and numeracy. Following one term of school, the children’s  talking, listening, reading and writing matched that of non-Indigenous children (i.e. targeting gap in learning). The Aboriginal community also became more involved in school activities.


Innovative communication with parents


This piece of research from the USA reviewed effective transition programmes for pupils entering into middle school and High school. Strategies involved providing different modes of communicating information to families. Examples included presenting an “Introduction to Middle School” program using video, chat groups, and a visual handbook.  Many aspects of school routines were explained in practical ways instead of giving written instructions. Young people received their school locker access combination prior to starting school and were invited to practice using it during an informal visit.


Information was accessible to those with poor literacy or unfamiliarity with the national language. There was a decrease in dropout rates. There was recognition that effective transitions required adaptable planning from teachers and school management.  Support needs to be informational and tangible, and be provided by parents, peers and teachers.


Continuity through technology


This programme implemented by Penyrheol Comprehensive School in Wales targeted Occupational Traveller families and used digital technology to support continuity of learning during periods of travel. Pupils were provided with laptops with Wifi access for periods of mobility. A staff member maintained email contact and ensured that completed work in all subjects was forwarded electronically, to agreed deadlines.  


The programme allowed the students to maintain continuity in learning and contact with friends. This was invaluable in ensuring a smooth return after long periods of absence. On the whole, the strategy was considered a success. On account of the successful impact of the pilot on pupils’ achievement and social skills, the school planned to make similar provisions for all other pupils from Occupational Traveller families in the future.


Create a 'Transitions Council'


Swansea Comprehensive School in Wales implemented innovative strategies to improve transitions for Occupational Traveller pupils.  The main challenge for families and the school was that pupils were out of the area during summer causing problems with transition between Year 6 and Year 7.  A  ‘Transitions Council’ comprising of representatives from all feeder Primary schools was created. Meeting every six weeks, they addressed a range of issues that the representatives voiced on behalf of their peers.


The Transitions Council had a positive impact on Year 6 attitudes to transition. The school has also included its Year 10 Occupational Traveller pupils on the Transition Council.


Improving familiarity with school practices


This Canadian ‘EvenStart’ programme aimed to familiarise parents and children with school. It took the form of a half-day summer session for children starting school who had no experience of nursery or out-of-school care. The activities improved ‘readiness’ by exposing children to various aspects of school life and by developing literacy and social competencies.  Activities familiarised children with school structures and routines such as how to follow teachers’ instructions, socialise with other children, learn to take turns, be around unfamiliar adults, and how to express feelings.


The children benefited from familiarisation with school rules, and learned essential skills for navigating school culture.   Families from the programme were more likely to transition smoothly to school and sustain attendance.


Project insight: teachers on transitions

Project insight: teachers on transitions

Transitions: Scottish teachers' insights



A group of 10 teachers who work with travelling communities throughout Scotland


Discussions about managing transition processes for mobile young people.


This information is taken from research carried out by STEP in 2015 Transitions and Scottish Travelling Communities project.  The research consulted with teachers from 10 local authorities across Scotland. Based on their own experiences, the teachers discussed the barriers and successful strategies they had used to improve transitions for mobile families.  The following provides a summary of their insights.



Absence of transition strategies

Teachers explained that some local authorities have no specific transition strategies for Gypsy/Traveller communities. As a result, many families do not receive the necessary support and guidance.  One teacher stated that families from travelling communities require more support, and for a longer period of time, including post-transition support. When schools do not have the time or resources to support the process it will likely result in poor engagement in education or a failed transition.


On account of the travelling communities’ mobility pattern, families may miss the transition and induction processes. One teacher noted that unless the families felt confident sharing their plans, it was very difficult to reach them or maintain contact. Educational continuity was also an issue with transitions between schools. Despite schools’ best efforts in contacting previous schools it was challenging to gather the necessary records and information. This was particularly challenging when families moved from England and Ireland.

Home Education

Teachers stated that although families may want their child to be educated at home, they do not have the necessary level of literacy or resources.  Some families also find it difficult to accept that in order to gain certification and qualifications, the child must still enrol in a school or centre.


Families may have negative feelings toward formal education.  They may fear that their children will be bullied, will experience increased risk taking or that mixing with people outwit the community will threaten cultural values. Deep rooted traditions with clearly defined gender roles mean that young people may be given age- and gender-specific responsibilities from a young age.  This could include girls caring for younger members of the family and boys working with their fathers.

Culture and curriculum content

Teachers felt that there was inconsistency between schools in relation to how Travelling communities’ culture, traditions and values were reflected.


Supporting families

All teachers suggested adopting a personal and individualised approach. School staff should identify specific needs and work together with children and parents to address them.  Strategies which have been useful in supporting transitions include:

  • creating flexible timetables and sites for learning
  • arranging transport
  • staff visiting Gypsy/Traveller sites, or arranging to meet in neutral locations, well in advance of transitions
  • ensuring families are provided with all the necessary information in formats they understand, such as start dates, expectations on pupils,  and an overview of curriculum subjects
  • providing parents with assistance with form filling
  • offering a single point of contact who will support links between that family and the school, such as a Principle Teacher or  the TENET teacher, who may be a part of the local authority ASL team.

Supporting schools

Specific training on Gypsy/Traveller culture and heritage, CPD relating to managing interrupted and distance learning, and good practice examples were viewed as important in order to support staff and schools.  Many staff members in school were known to want to foster a sympathetic understanding of Traveller culture but lacked both information and confidence. Developing partnerships with other agencies was thought to be necessary. These included: STEP, TENET, community link workers, bilingual and Traveller support services, and health services.  These partnerships enabled targeted support, knowledge exchange and implementation of educational outreach provisions.

Case study


The case involved a 7-year-old child from a Scottish Gypsy/Traveller family who had never been to school. The family were keen for their child to start at a local primary.  Initially, the school suggested the child join via the normal enrolment system with full attendance from the outset. However, in discussion it became clear that the family was nervous and it was important that the child did not have to begin school full-time as there was no experience of previous schooling in their extended family. Several members of the family also had consistent health issues which presented the parents with practical challenges in getting the child to school continuously.


Working closely in partnership with the Gypsy/Traveller teacher and family, the school realised they had to adopt a more individualised approach to support this child’s transition to formal schooling.  The school was flexible and offered a part-time placement in the first instance.  Before enrolment the school also offered several introductory visits.  The visits were important as they enabled the child and the parents to grow accustomed to the setting, the procedures for entering, leaving and moving around the school.  They were reassured of the child’s happiness and safety during playtime and lunch breaks. They also gained insight into the curriculum and how many aspects were relevant to Traveller lives.

The Gypsy/Traveller teacher (a member of TENET) engaged in one-to-one conversations with the child throughout the process to ensure the child was coping with the transition between the worlds of home and school. Following enrolment she made regular visits to the school with the family and was seen as a trusted figure whom the family could approach with any issues.


Through the individualised, flexible and sensitive approach, the family was supported, and the pupil continues to attend school.

How communities take ownership

How communities take ownership

Project insight: How communities take ownership


Roma families, Cuthbertson Primary School, Govanhill, Glasgow


Establishing groups to lead their own learning beyond the duration of a project.


The Mobile Family Literacy Project investigated the potential for literacy programmes to meet the needs of mobile communities in Scotland.   It sought to identify factors which influence family participation by co-producing pilot programmes with mobile families in their local areas.  Each programme ran for up to 16 weeks across three different locations.  An important measure of success was the extent to which groups assumed ownership of the programme and sustained interest in attending.


The following features of programme content, structure and practice were required to ensure participation and engagement were sustained:

  • Empower participants by embedding leadership roles at early stages.
  • Focus on culturally relevant and transferable skills that will be useful in the home learning environment.
  • Produce tangible resources that can be shared and are useful in other places and during periods of mobility.
  • Ensure transparency so that families can see the benefits  of participation for themselves and other family members.
  • Broker relationships and form networks within the wider community to extend skills and offer new learning pathways.


What did participants do?

Participants created things that they could share with their families at home such as a recipe book, craft objects and e-stories for sharing with children. Participants’ confidence grew throughout the project as new practical skills were developed.  They were clear that they wanted to develop more activities.

Participants developed their communication and literacy skills in practical ways and by taking ownership of activities. They organised trips to historical and cultural sights in Glasgow and took responsibility for finding new learning opportunities within the school and local community.

Participants worked together to find out what support was available in the local community, including adult literacy programmes, library resources, local charities and staff from statutory and non-statutory education providers.  They visited in small groups and familiarised themselves with staff and procedures.

What happened next? A parent-run craft club

All those involved in the initial pilot expressed the need for the family group to continue. School staff and parents have worked together to create a regular family group named ‘The Craft Club‘ by the parents.  The Club is held in the primary school and is run by the families with ongoing support from staff and the EAL practitioner.   The positive relationships built between the staff and families have improved communication and home-school links, empowered parents to voice interest and concerns, and encouraged active involvement in the school and their children’s learning.  The parents have growing ambition of what can be achieved. Next term they will be working with an artist for a few sessions – we’re looking forward to seeing what happens next!