Go to main content

Supporting Children Through Transitions in Early Childhood Education in England: Perspectives of Educational Psychologists and School Staff

27 November 2019

Author: Elizabeth Sims - Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy), Cardiff University, 2019


This study explored the perspectives of school staff and educational psychologists (EPs) regarding two normative, vertical transitions that take place within the early years of children’s education in England: the transition from nursery to Reception (YR); and the transition from YR to Year One (Y1).

A wealth of international literature (e.g. Shields, 2009; Boyle et al., 2018) has explored the important issue of children’s transition to compulsory schooling (YR in England), the success of which can have long-term implications for children’s development (e.g. Hugo et al., 2018; Margetts, 2009).

Furthermore, in England research has shown that the subsequent transition to more formal learning in Y1 can be challenging (e.g. Sanders et al., 2005; White & Sharp, 2007).

Three focus groups were conducted with sixteen members of school staff in one school and semi-structured interviews were carried out with six educational psychologists (EPs) to provide a timely update to existing research and to address gaps in the literature.

Participants' views towards both of these transitions were sought, with a particular focus on: emotional factors; neighbourhood and community influences; how to support children with additional needs; and the past, present and future role of EPs. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Five main themes were identified for staff:

  • supporting social and emotional wellbeing
  • the jump up to Year One
  • caring about partnerships with parents
  • our hands are tied
  • targeted support for additional needs

Five main themes were constructed for EPs:

  • starting school is key
  • Year One: a highly significant transition
  • anxiety
  • collaborative approaches to support
  • an evolving role for EPs over time

The findings are discussed and a range of implications for EPs working in early years settings and schools are described.


Top of page