Talking Transitions

A Better Start
Sian Ansell

For children, the transition from pre-school to primary school is an important process. Children are more likely to feel secure and settle in a healthier way when the transition process is appropriately prepared for and effectively understood by all involved. Evidence tells us that there is a strong link to children’s emotional wellbeing when change occurs in their lives, and while transition can be hard for any child, research shows that children with less developed socio-emotional skills and lower self-esteem may be particularly vulnerable during the home-to-school transition

Lynsey Weston

It is without doubt that the transitional period has an effect on the family as a whole, too. The process of transition should be as smooth as possible, with all services a family is accessing at the time coming together to continue that support as the child makes that transition. The transition is a journey the whole family should embark on alongside the child in order to avoid disruption.

Within Southend, parents of children attending settings within our wards have reported that their transition experiences can vary widely. Early years settings and schools commented that activities implemented during the summer term could sometimes be too little too late.

In response, A Better Start Southend has developed a project entitled ‘Talking Transitions,’ which aims to bring schools and their ‘feeder settings’ together to create individual satellites. Focusing on communication and language as a catalyst for change, the aim is to develop and encourage each satellite to collaboratively develop, devise and deliver bespoke mini-transition projects around their children’s speech, language and communication needs. The project also helps to raise awareness of the importance of communication and language through developing and implementing parental engagement activities and community work.

We have created three strands in order to help carry out the work:

  • Learning Together: all practitioners come together for the 10 week Elklan 3-5’s accredited speech, language and communication (SLC) course.
  • Working Together: practitioners share ideas and reflect on best SLC practice in order to support those children transitioning from one setting to another.
  • Being Together: settings jointly develop community based events for children and their families, raising awareness of the importance of communication and language.

In addition to this, the project will look to ensure all settings are encouraging parents to sign up to receive online ‘Weekend Talk Tips,’ which offer exciting and innovative new ways to boost a child’s speech and language skills. There will also be network opportunities bringing all the ‘Satellites’ together to share experiences and best practice.

The project has been universally offered across the A Better Start Southend wards, and if the pilot model proves successful, then there is scope for further satellites to be involved in the project, in the future.

Since its launch in October 2019 with participating early years settings, we have gained some valuable learning. Time plays an effective role in ensuring every setting is engaged in the project, and an adequate amount of time must be allocated to visit them, establish trust, build relationships and develop the project together. This allows everyone to take ownership of the project, and what it means to them. Funding is also paramount to the project’s success, and without it, the appetite from all settings would not be as healthy as it is.

The Talking Transitions project will continue to support settings in providing a smooth transitional period for their children over the next 13 months. For more information about the project, visit

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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