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The power of transition: supporting children to predict and cope with change


Tuesday 21 March 2017

“To be responsible for your children at the start of a journey is a daunting prospect. To be in a position to influence the route they take and how they view themselves as they travel is even more of a responsibility.” Drummond (1999, cited in Abbott, 2000)

Children in Ireland experience a broad range of educational transitions from the process of moving from home to an ECCE setting, moving within or between ECCE settings, and the very important transition to primary school. The demands placed on children during these early educational transitions can present both challenges and opportunities, and the degree of success experienced can impact on children in many ways. Numerous studies have found that a positive experience in the transition to school is a predictor of future success in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes. Indeed, this transition can be characterised as a time of opportunity, aspiration, expectation and entitlement (ETC Research Group, 2010).  I will be presenting a Masterclass at the forthcoming Early Childhood Ireland Annual Conference on the Transition to School with a focus on the role of the Educator in ensuring that children have experiences and supports to enable them to successfully manage this transition.Girl walking to school - The power of transition


Both Aistear and Síolta highlight the importance of supportive and smooth transitions in early childhood. The Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (NCCA, 2015) could prove to be a unifying mechanism supporting continuity across the two sectors. Indeed, both frameworks remind us of the key role played by practitioners in supporting children to predict and cope with change by providing reliable and stable relationships, continuity of care and a secure base. Some degree of discontinuity is inevitable at times of transition, indeed this disequilibrium results in cognitive conflict and may be a basis for learning.  However, support must be provided to enable children to negotiate these changes. They are more likely to succeed if connections and some level of continuity and alignment exist between the settings.  The Transitions pillar of the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide contains resources that can support this process.

The central role of relationships in supporting positive educational transitions for young children will be examined at this Masterclass with a view to considering how we can ensure greater coherence in practice. This will better support children in taking full advantage of both the transition to school and future educational opportunities.  How can we open the doors for our children to pass through as they start on this educational journey?

And remember Transitions impact younger children too. For some ideas have a look at the Scéalta post from August 2016 called Just give me 5 minutes.


Dr Mary O'Kane is a Lecturer in Early Childhood Education with Maynooth University, and an Associate Lecturer in Psychology with the Open University. Her PhD Research centred on the transition from preschool to primary school, and the area of educational transitions continues to be one of her primary research interests. Mary has worked as the parenting and childcare expert on the Anton Savage show on Today FM, and now works with the Alison Curtis show answering parenting queries from listeners. She is also a regular contributor to Ireland AM on both parenting and early childhood education issues. She can be contacted via Facebook at Dr Mary O’Kane Early Years.

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