Transition Image

Reception to Year 1 – How Smooth is Transition?

By now, most early years teachers and practitioners will have arrangements to ensure children’s smooth transition from reception into year 1. For teachers and practitioners who haven’t yet considered the process, here is a list of possible considerations.

Ideally school-ready children:

  • have strong social skills
  • can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents
  • are relatively independent in their personal care
  • have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn
  • have a firm grounding in the key skills of communication, language, literacy and mathematics.

Emotional State

We must be quite careful when preparing children for school. Each child will leave their reception year with a different level of maturity, experience and preparedness whether they have reached a good level of development or not. The first thing that must be considered is the emotional state of children the emotional environment they currently experience and what the emotional climate looks like when they move to year 1. Children in early years pick up on the slightest sigh, eye roll, groan and negative comment in reception. They are very perceptive and know whether adults are being genuine or not. Research suggests that children know when a smile is fake and can tell when adult love is not genuine. Getting children’s emotional transition right is essential. Think carefully about children’s anxiety; they worry and fret about things that we may not consider. For example, where do they line up, where do they put their lunch box, will their teacher like them?

Physical Environment

The physical environment usually changes over time in reception to meet the needs of the children. By the end of a reception year, you may find some children like to sit when they write, who wish to sit in groups and complete tasks together and who want to be able to practise the skills you are teaching them. This means you must respond to the signals children show you as the year progresses. You may find that the transition arrangements of the physical environment are different from cohort to cohort, and communication with the next teacher is essential.


Timetables can differ from early years to year 1, and it is a good idea to start thinking about how to ease this transition. Do children experience separate PE? Do they attend assemblies? Do they have play times? Teaching might also be different in year 1, depending on the expectations in the school. In some schools, whole class delivery starts on day 1 in year 1. Is there a better way of easing this transition? You may also find that the vocabulary used in year 1 changes slightly when referring to learning. For example, literacy can become English and behaviour management systems can become very different. Teachers must decide whether this is an important consideration.


Whether or not to provide continuous provision in year 1 is also dependent on the needs of the cohort as they move into year 1. Some children may need the option of being able to access continuous provision. Occasionally, in year 1, continuous provision loses its value and is used as an extension activity for when children finish their work. It is important that the teachers in year 1 fully understand that continuous provision is used as part of the ‘teach, practise, apply’ model and is used to support children in practising and applying the skills that have been

Parental Partnerships

When considering this, the development of effective parental partnerships must also be maintained. In early years, staff recognise their responsibility to secure the confidence of parents. Not just in the teacher and the teaching in reception, but in the school and the choice the parent made for their child. This relationship is fragile at the point of transition and adults in school can ease parents' anxiety by sharing information every step of the way.

Working Together

As well as all the above considerations, the definition of ‘school readiness’ needs to be interpreted and adopted by the school. This definition will include more aspects than the ‘good level of development’ measure. Staff must work together to define a series of non-negotiables that will enable the teachers and practitioners to prepare children for year 1 and the national curriculum.

Easy Transition

Above all, transition should be easy as children don’t become radically different when they turn 5. Think carefully about easing the transition gently and starting to consider the needs of the cohort as they enter reception. You have a baseline, you identify barriers to learning, and you know where they need to be when they move on. Learning should happen on a smooth continuum.

Continue the Conversation

For more information on Early Years, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, find me on twitter @FocusEducation1 or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.  

Back to blog