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Early Years Transition

In January 2021 a team of 15 Family Support Assistants were recruited into private, voluntary or independent early years settings and tasked with developing a passport and package of transition activities to improve school readiness for children moving up to primary school after 18 months of Covid disruption to their early development. 

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage


Community Support, Early Years, Language Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing, School Readiness

Why was the project needed?

After the disruption and lockdowns caused by the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020, early years settings were increasing concerned about the lack of support they were able to offer families in the Spring and Summer term of 2021, when continuing lockdowns and restrictions meant that parents and carers had to drop children at the nursery door. Traditionally drop off and pick up was a time when early years staff would offer support and tips on children’s early development, and never was it more needed than at this challenging time.

Primary school colleagues, parents and nursery staff were concerned that children has missed much needed opportunities to socialise and meet early developmental goals, particularly in language and emotional resilience, and would not be confident and well prepared to make a strong start to their school journey. Covid restrictions made primary schools’ usual programme of planned outreach and preparation more challenging to deliver.


What happened and what was the impact?

A team of “family support assistants” (FSAs) were recruited into 15 nurseries, whose role was to reach out and help parents to confidently support their children’s early development needs. They worked collaboratively to respond to parents’ needs, creating a transition “passport” and a package of activities that would give children opportunities to develop their social skills, emotional resilience, communication and language skills and confidence.

The Ipswich transition passport included characters and icons from learning used in settings for children to recognise, and included activities and tasks to help families prepare for school in September. It also held useful information and links to resources for families and an “I can” page with a “yes” and “not yet” check box for things like :

  • Recognise my name when it is written 
  • Wash and dry my hands 
  • Join in with some nursery rhymes 
  • Use a knife and fork 

Activities in passport include –  

  • Practice putting on uniform 
  • Learning to eat at the times I will on school days  
  • Number rhymes and counting games (Ideas) 
  • Which nursery rhyme  
  • Tracing patterns and colouring in 
  • Threading beads 
  • Putting their shoes on 
  • Tie laces  
  • Taking turns 

 Alongside the passport the FSA team developed the following activities across their settings:

A  lending library – 330 books (30 of which were bi-lingual) to be used across the 14 settings – tied in to activities and the passport and combined with the offer of literacy support for families and practitioners with “story time” sessions to help with reading aloud to children.  Settings used fridges to store the books.

Covid secure parent picnics enabled parents and children to come to a meadow/ field/ play area near or in the setting. Reading/school readiness activities and support for families with English as an Additional Language from Volunteering Matters’ “EAL Community Champions” were offered at the picnics, as well as an adult literacy offer from Ready Easy.  

Puppet Shows were put on for children exploring their anxieties through stories like “the 3 little pigs go to school”

6 weeks of sport activities (2 sessions a week term/out of term depending on setting) –  

  • Week 1 – Soft top archery – introduction to new equipment, fine motor skills losing bow and pulling string. Hand and eye coordination as well as taking turns  
  • Week 2 – Soft top archery – introduction competition with self, scoring system and success, resilience and self-improvement 
  • Week 3 – Agility, balance and coordination – skills on balance, control of body and moving in different spaces 
  • Week 4 – Agility, balance and coordination – use of equipment while moving, extension of body control 
  • Week 5 – Hitting and striking – various games and skills of hitting and striking, i.e. kicking footballs, hitting static tennis ball, golf tee shot 
  • Week 6 – Game play and sharing – introducing low level games with scoring systems, i.e. bean bags into hoops, skittles etc. Resilience and self-esteem building 


What did and didn't work?

Where primary schools received children in September with a passport, many staff noted its usefulness in enabling them to quickly get to know children and their needs. Constructive feedback has led to a revised passport document in use in 2022, which you can download below, as well as the development of a common transfer document to share information between settings.

The puppet shows and sports activities gave much needed opportunities for children to mix and develop their social skills, supporting oracy and emotional literacy.

The parent picnics gave covid-safe opportunities for parents to ask questions about transition – improving parental engagement, and relieved parental anxiety

How did you measure success?

The work of the FSAs was developed in the academic year 2021-22, and underpinned the IOA Strong School Start project – expanding the number of Family Support Assistants, and linking them to Early Years Transition Leads (EYTLs) in primary schools. This group worked together to evaluate the transition project from a covid response project, and develop a more sustainable set of effective transition approaches.

EYTLs were able to give feedback on the progress of children who had benefited from the pilot transition programme, and decide which activities to sustain, and collectively the group have developed the passport, which can be downloaded below.


Ingredients For Success

Collaboration between settings had a transformative impact – practitioners appreciated the time to collaborate, explore ideas and share good practice to support children and families at a really challenging time.

Working together to create a single passport gave a more consistent approach to sharing information with schools

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

All setting managers would like to continue the FSA role, however in April 2022 only 15% felt they could commit to this without further funding. Some settings have since sought further funding from other sources to continue the role. The practitioners are committed to sustaining their network.

How is the Project Sustainable

The resources can be used year after year. The knowledge and relationships built between the school and the EY sector is long standing. All the resources are open source and the passport is available to all to be adapted. 

The transition working group that has grown out of the IOA will continue, led by Maxine Abbott and Abi Joachim at Westbourne Academy, and early years colleagues will continue to develop collaborative transition processes and activities in this forum. Family Support Assistants and Early Years Transition Leads have developed “cascading learning action plans” to ensure that learning from these projects is not lost when colleagues move on.

What are the Long Term Impacts

  • Improved school readiness.
  • Reduced loss of learning in the summer holidays. 
  • More aligned approach to transitions between schools and private, voluntary and independent nurseries
  • Nurseries have transitions resources from the project to use again.  
  • Links with 3rd sector such as Let’s Talk Reading and Volunteering Matters are established
  • Improved health, wellbeing and resilience. 
  • Greater parental engagement.  
  • Targeted early intervention. 

Costs and Resources

Across 15 settings, the project cost £25,000 to set up and implement across the opportunity area.

A range of resources were obtained or created, including: books, sports activities, passport and learn at home packs.

Last year having an FSA meant we were able to give more speech and language support to those who needed it, and extra nurture sessions. We also had school readiness sessions for the children going up to reception. All those children received a school readiness pack to give them resources to use at home to help prepare for school – and they had a fun day with the children they were starting school with.

Area Most Impacted

Early Years Transition

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Family Support - Highfield Nursery

Family Support Practitioners - ABC Nursery

Transition to primary school - Snack and story in the meadow - Early Years @ Highfield

For this project we linked up with our adjoining Nursery school and held school transition meetings with our local schools and teachers.

Shoes for Schools - Highfield Nursery

Next steps to do something similar yourself

These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:

Early Years Transition Passport

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Preparing for Literacy here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Social and Emotional Learning here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Parental Engagement here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Putting Evidence to Work here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Improving Behaviour here

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Improving Maths in the Early Years here

Champions and contacts


Hub Contact Details

Ben Gough
Suffolk County Council
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