Education transitions

Children in school uniforms at computers

The term ‘education transition’ can be used to describe any changes for your child with special education needs and disability as they are moving into, within, between and out of educational settings.

The key educational transition stages are:

  • starting early years

The move from:

  • early years to primary school
  • key stages within primary school (Early Years to Key stage 1; KS1 to KS2 and possibly moving between year groups)
  • primary to secondary school
  • secondary school to further education or work and preparing for adulthood

This page includes some useful things to think about at each stage of transition.

General Information about Transitions

Before every transition stage, the current education setting will organise a planning meeting with the receiving school and this meeting may involve parents. This should happen regardless of whether a child with special educational needs and disabilities has an Education, Health and Care plan or not. The planning meeting will help everyone to discuss the needs of the child and decide on what support is required.

It can help your child to transition well between settings if they have:

  • regular visits to their new school or college
  • the opportunity to meet key staff
  • visits to their current school or college from staff that will be working with them in the future
  • their new timetable so they can talk about any concerns before they start
  • a visual timetable if necessary
  • the opportunity to try out lunchtime arrangements at their new school or college
  • their transport planned, including any travel training they may need

It is also good to ask if you can take photos of your child in the setting as well as photos of the different areas within the school or college, including key staff. Older children could take photos themselves when they make transition visits. Schools will be able to provide photos too.  If you feel it would be useful you can make a photo book to look at with your child. This will give them reassurance and familiarity in the lead up to moving to their new school or setting. 

Preparation for school

When your child is very young the future can feel like a long way away. However, planning can support a smooth transition to the next stage of their education. Most children start school full-time in the September after their fourth birthday. This means they’ll turn 5 during their first school year. Some parents of children born in the summer term may choose to request delaying or deferring you’re their child’s start to school.  

As a parent it is your decision as to the best next steps for your child. You may choose for them to attend primary school, or if your child has an EHCP and complex needs, you may consider if a special school is the right place for them. Some parents may choose to electively home educate their child 

Find out more on our Preparing for the Future page.

Useful Transition Guide Year 6 primary to secondary

When your child starts a new school, it is important that current school staff are well informed about your child’s needs. This would mean talking to you and your child and the primary school. If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) this discussion may be done as part of their annual review.

The SENCO from the primary school and secondary school will meet to discuss your child’s needs during the summer term. This will include transfer of school information such as assessment results. Secondary SENCOs will often attend the year 6 annual review if a child has an EHCP.

Arrange for your child to visit their new school as often as they need before they start.

Useful Transition Guide Year 9 (aged 13/14 years)

Year 9 is often the transition year where post-16 discussions and available post-16 options  begin. Post-16 options could include further study, training or work.

It is also a good time to start talking to your child  about  preparing for adulthood and what this looks like.

In the SEN Code of Practice Preparing for Adulthood Section is in  8.9, 8.11, 9.150, 8.18 and 8.8 specify. It  is essential that the year 9 review meeting is person-centred.

Year 9 Annual Review Guide.pdf (

Here are some helpful person-centred tools: Introduction to Person-centred Planning Tools - NDTi


  1. Start thinking about Post-16 options: sixth form, F.E college, routes into work
  2. Think about aspirations linked to Key Stage 4 options and/or GCSE choices
  3. Start thinking about travel training. This might be available at school or The Lift programme.  You can find out more on the Travel and Transport page.
  4. If you are a Child in Care (CIC) you may start to have links with adult services
  5. If your son or daughter has a learning disability, check that they are included on the GP register of learning disability. This means they should be called for an annual health check from the age of 14
  6. You will start hearing professionals talk about Preparing for Adulthood and linking these in with your aspirations and EHC Plan outcomes.

Useful Transition Guide Year 10 (age 14/15 years)

Holding the review before deciding on Post 16 options allows for the EHC Plan to be updated and reflect the young person's current views, wishes and interests and identify the support that will be needed.


  1. Carry on with Independent travel You can find out more on the Travel and Transport page.
  2. Attend moving on events and open evenings at schools and colleges
  3. Schools and colleges may complete Vocational Profiles to match work experience/employment opportunities: Vocational Profile - NDTi 
  4. Think about experiences of work/post-16 options linked to vocational profiles
  5. If you are a Child in Care (CIC), an annual statutory review will take place and a PEP (Personal Education Plan) will be updated
Useful Transition Guide Year 11 (aged 15/16 years)

Students  may have  career education sessions or other offers of advice from the school from a Careers Adviser/Career Lead about options. These discussion will look at post-16 options .

  • Post-16 settings: Some schools and colleges have different start dates. This can help young people settle into their new setting in smaller groups
  • Sixth forms have individual deadlines for their application forms (often 11th Dec/January 19th, each year). Mainstream F.E colleges have deadlines for popular courses (often Jan/Feb each year or, they close applications when the course is full. They can accept late applications if there are spaces remaining, but there is no guarantee of placement at this stage
  • Remember, there is an Admissions Team and EHCP team at F.E college. Many colleges will ask that children and young people still complete college application forms. The college application forms are often completed by February half term, Easter at the latest


  1. Young person will be supported by school to complete an application form to college or training. Applications are usually completed by February half term, Easter at the latest
  2. Attend Open Evenings at Further Education and sixth form colleges
  3. All Year 11 annual reviews  should be held and returned to Statutory Assessment Team by February half term.  In Yr 11 – SAT Admin send a letter after October half-term to all Year 11 pupils with an EHCP, Year 13 pupils in 6th Form, Year 14 pupils in Special School.  The Letter will  ask for an indication of preference of setting or, intention of education
  4. In readiness for post-16, the council may consult with a range of providers for responses, including local colleges and other local post-16 providers. This is often called the Phased Transfer process
  5. College/sixth forms will provide interview dates and confirmations of placement. If a  young person has assisted education transport, then a Post-16 application form will need to be completed for post-16: Post-16 transport for pupils with special educational needs (SEND) - Cambridgeshire County Council
  6. A child in Care (CIC) will have a needs assessment for a Pathway Plan before they reach their 16th birthday
Useful Transition Guide Post 16

A young person with SEND can find it useful to talk to a careers or adviser. A career adviser can often help with:

  • Thinking about their interests and the skills and strengths
  • Talk about what jobs will be available in their local area and jobs which may match their interests and strengths
  • Discuss options linked to education training or employment . Work experience is a good way to learn about a job that you might like to do. It is also a good way to get a reference if you have not worked before.

Work experience may last a few hours a week or for a few weeks. Schools and colleges will help students explore the world of work and potentially work experience opportunities. Colleges will also offer Study programmes in Supported internships and Apprenticeships and traineeships and offer vocational courses, including the new T-Levels.

These opportunities help prepare young people for the world of work and supports with developing skills in a vocational area. For example Catering, Business, Childcare, Digital Media.

There is some great information for parents and carers on the Preparing for Adult Life - parent or carer information page. 

There is also a useful parent checklist and parent's guide to help you support your young person with different aspects of preparing for and moving on to adult life. 


Related Pages

  1. Expectations of Schools and Academies
  2. Expectations of colleges and post 16 provision
  3. Travel and transport
  4. Preparing for Adult Life - Parent or Carer Information


Skip back to top of page