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Change is both stressful and an opportunity for growth. School transitions should be viewed as a process of change which requires careful managing, rather than a one-off event. Transitions during primary school years can cover a range of experiences, all of which involve some degree of challenge and readjustment.

Poor transitions, particularly to secondary school, are a significant risk factor affecting children’s mental health.

Children at risk

Overall, children at greater risk of struggling with transitions include pupils who:

  • Are less ready than their peers for starting school.
  • Struggle to develop good relationships with school staff.
  • Don’t feel a sense of belonging to their school.
  • Have multiple experiences of loss and transient living (e.g. children in care).
  • Have been bullied.
  • Have mental health difficulties.
  • Particularly struggle with changes to routine or with noise such as those on the autistic spectrum.
  • Describe severe and overwhelming stress at the point of transition (particularly to secondary school).

Types of transitions

School transitions include:


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