Children with identified mental health needs or SEND
Particular attention is needed to make sure that good quality plans are in place to support pupils with mental health needs and/or special educational needs to negotiate the change from primary to secondary school or moving into alternative education and then transitioning back.
What may differ for students with additional or complex needs that arise from disability is the need for transitions to be clearly planned over a longer time, and for schools to recognise the impact that such changes may have on pupils, as well as on their parents/carers, siblings, and teachers.
Developing strategies to support children with SEND
Best practice strategies to support children with SEND and other risks and vulnerabilities (e.g. mental health needs) are ones that:
- Begin well in advance of the point of transition.
- Are child-centred and tailored to the individual needs of pupils.
- Are collaborative and involve the pupil and parent/carers as vital partners.
- Provide the pupil and parent/carers with information to make an informed choice about future educational settings/options.
- Are sufficiently resourced.
SEND code of practice
The SEND code of practice has a strong focus on better transitions between life stages and settings, including from early years to primary education, from primary to secondary, and from school to special school (and vice versa).
Protective factors: what schools can do
Where a child has an education, health and care plan (ECHP), annual reviews should enable support to be planned well in advance to help pupils transition to a new school and address any potential barriers to learning or thriving. This should involve:
- Sharing information, to create ‘bridging’ support, in good time and with the agreement of parents/carers. This could involve formal liaison, review and handover meetings and in some instances transitional joint working between primary and secondary SEND staff; or school counsellors organising a formal handover to the new school, involving the child and their family.
- Putting in place a plan to address barriers before the transition starts (e.g. equipment, resources, training exchanges and support).
- Identifying a keyworker in the secondary school/new school who will monitor the effectiveness of strategies and work closely with children and parents to gauge how well they are settling in.
- Familiarisation visits.
See, for example, this case study about how a learning support assistant worked with a child with SEND for a short period at secondary school to help them settle in and support staff with effective strategies.