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Transition is the process of moving between phases of education. For students with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) a smooth and successful transition is essential to help them to settle in.

Moving between stages of education

When a child or young person moves from one stage of education to another, this is called a phase transfer.

Moving from early years to infant or primary school

It is good practice for Early Years providers to arrange a meeting to discuss the transition once they have received information about a child’s additional needs. This should take place in the term before the child is due to start, so that there is enough time for support to be put into place. Parents and any professionals working with the child should be invited. The provider should plan for any necessary training, resources or adaptations that are required before a child starts.

Transitioning to nursery or reception after Covid

Lockdown has led to many children under 5 being unable to access nursery, reception or other Early Years settings.  The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and families has produced a useful podcast to support families of children transitioning to nursery or reception

Moving from reception to year 1

The move from reception to year 1 is an important transition in a child’s education. It is when they move from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to Key Stage 1. This is the start of more formal schooling. This also needs careful planning and preparation. Reception and Year 1 staff should work together to ensure a smooth transition.

You can find lots of useful information and support for parents and providers on the Early Years Alliance website.

Transitioning to secondary school

Moving from primary to secondary school can be an exciting time. It can also cause anxiety, especially for a child with SEND. 

Staff from both the current and new school should work together to plan for a positive transition. It is important that parents are involved to help make transition successful.

The Young Minds website provides information, webinars and other support on transitions (and many other things) to parents, young people and professionals.

Support when leaving school to go to college or work

Leaving school to go to college or work is a really big step. It needs lots of planning, which normally starts when the young person is around 13 years old. The most important person to be involved in planning ahead is the young person. They should be supported to make choices and be in control of preparing for adult life.

Find out more about traineeships, apprenticeships and supported internships.

Young people with SEND can find advice from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) on applying to mainstream colleges and universities.

Phase transfers without an EHC plan

The standard admissions process applies if a child or young person with SEND:

Phase transfers with an EHC plan

If a child or young person has an EHC plan, they do not need to apply for a place at an education provider through the standard admissions process. The phase transfer process for children with an EHC plan begins when they are in:

  • their last year at their early years setting (such as a nursery or preschool)
  • year 2 if they are transferring to junior school
  • year 5 if they are transferring to secondary school
  • year 10 when thinking about post-16 options

Timing of phase transfers

A child or young person’s education provider will hold a phase transfer review. It takes place during:

  • the summer term of their second to last year, or
  • the autumn term of their last year

The aim of the transfer review is to:

  • review the EHC plan
  • talk about moving between education providers
  • consider the next phase of independence

Parents, carers and young people should discuss which education provider they want to go to next. We will talk to the education provider named in the EHC plan, and other providers that may be able to meet a child or young person’s needs.

Deciding which education provider is right for you

To decide which education provider is best for a child or young person, we will consider:

  • the views of parents, carers and the young person themselves, and their school preference
  • the child or young person’s SEN and the support required to meet those needs
  • the child or young person’s current educational attainment and progress
  • responses from education providers we consult with

By law we must name the education provider preferred by parents, carers and the young person themselves, unless:

  • the education provider is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person
  • the attendance of the child or young person would be incompatible with the efficient education of others – and there are no reasonable steps the council can take to avoid this – or the efficient use of council resources (paragraph 9.79, SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years)

The complexity of a child or young person’s needs or disabilities, and the suitability of an education provider, is not a reason in law to refuse a mainstream education. This applies to both attending a mainstream education provider, and taking mainstream courses.

Naming an education provider in your EHC plan

We will tell you which education provider will be named in your EHC plan.

We will issue an amended final plan by 15 February, before a child or young person changes education provider in September.

If a young person is moving to post-16 education, we will issue an amended final plan by 31 March, before the phase transfer in September.

If you disagree with our decision

Find out more about what to do if you disagree with the education provider named in an EHC plan.

Further resources