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Abstracts

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

Abstract:

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.

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