Planning for Transitions to a New Grade or School


As we come to the end of the school year it is important to think about the transition to the next grade in September. Many children are excited about the start of the summer holidays and the idea of a new grade and teacher in the new school year. However, some children and youth struggle to adapt to change and it is important that plans are made to ease the transition. This is especially true if the student is moving to a new school, or from elementary to secondary school.

Students with special education needs usually have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and this is where the transition plan should be documented. Since September 2014, and the implementation of Policy/Program Memorandum 156, the IEP must include a transition plan. The transition plan can look at long term goals, such as leaving high school, and it can detail more immediate transitions, such as grade to grade. The level of detail, and actions required, will depend on the individual student needs.

Activities that might be included in a transition plan include:

  • Individual visits to the new classroom or school
  • Planning for accessibility and support needs at the new school
  • School team meetings that include teachers from the new school
  • Group tours of new schools with class peers
  • Orientation activities at the new school held before the end of this school year
  • Teaching of skills that will increase independence, such as using a locker, ordering and paying for food in a cafeteria, or learning to read and use a weekly class schedule
  • Developing self advocacy skills that enable the student to ask for help, or describe their support needs to a new teacher
  • Communication with the bus company about support needs
  • Enrollment in summer programs that help prepare for starting school, such as “Schools Cool”, or moving to secondary school, such as “High School Here I Come”
  • Meetings with new teachers before school classes officially starts
  • Attending orientation activities at the start of the new school year
  • Peer support programs where an older student is assigned a new student to mentor or help

You know your child best and you should be part of the school team planning for the move to the new class. Start by reviewing the IEP and looking at the transition plans. Ask the school staff, or check the school website, for transition activities such as tours of the new school, or special activities. Identify additional activities that will help your child with the transition and talk to the classroom teacher.

For more information on preparing for transitions check the blog articles on supporting student transitions:

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