How to Apply and Embed Positive and Sustainable Transitions-care in your School Community

1. Get your leadership on board

Creating a positive and sustainable transitions-care programme in school communities starts with the Senior Leadership Team. They need to have a solid understanding of the importance of positive transitions-care and how it can benefit all the individuals in a school community, as well as learning outcomes. Creating a Transitions Team will require time, funding, and resources, as well as a team of dedicated individuals who are committed to implementing or improving positive transitions-care in the school community.

2. Create and educate a Transitions Team

Creating and embedding positive and sustainable transitions-care in school communities requires an investment in the transition journeys of our students, parents and staff.

The work of well-managed transitions cannot be done in isolation and is best done in a team. Rami Madani, Head of School at the International School of Kuala Lumpur (a SPAN School Member), says teams should be built around a purpose, not job titles. In Doug Ota’s book Safe Passage: how mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it, he outlines how an entire team, one that includes all of the stakeholders at a school, is necessary to build a K-12 Transitions Team. It should include and address the Arrivers, Leavers, and Stayers across the entire school community.

At many schools, transitions-care is often driven by one or a few members of staff who care deeply, whether they have experienced a lack or an abundance of transitions-care support, or something in between. School communities often report that the best efforts of one or a few enthusiasts to implement a programme wither away after these individuals become the Leavers.

By offering professional development for staff that provides them with knowledge and tools to address the trials and triumphs of transition within and beyond the school community, schools can ensure that transitions-care becomes embedded in the school culture rather than nurtured by just a few.

By using a research-based methodology, a school community can benefit from good practices that provide opportunities to collaborate as a team in the development and implementation of robust transitions-care policies, plans and strategies. Equally, it is mutually beneficial for schools to collaborate with other schools across the globe.

Today, we have the ability to team up not only within but also between schools. Sharing our variety of experiences and perspectives, can lead to enhanced understanding, enriched practical strategies and create a safe passage for students, parents and staff navigating transitions between schools.

3. Educate your school community

By offering workshops around positive transition-care to the entire school community, and by embedding it throughout the curriculum, a school can offer its students, parents and staff tools grounded in the latest psychological research. Involving all stakeholders and addressing all the members of the community affected by transitions (Arrivers, Leavers, and Stayers) affords them the opportunity to connect and feel supported alongside the means to acquire and implement tested strategies for effectively navigating transitions.

4. Ideas for each of the stakeholders to apply and embed positive and sustainable transitions-care

Please note that each stakeholder can provide numerous ways to support Arrivers, Stayers and Leavers. This table reflects one actionable idea for each stakeholder and is not comprehensive. For more detailed ideas for each stakeholder, please visit:

5. Sustain your Transitions Team

In order for a programme to be sustainable, it’s important for a school to critically evaluate the strengths and areas of growth in its transitions-care programme. Once all the stakeholders in your school community can contribute to a school’s transitions-care policies and practices, it is important to carefully map which activities are designed and implemented by which members of the school community to create positive change in individuals, your school and/or between schools.

We cannot expect to embed positive transitions-care and good goodbyes into a school community when we expect our teachers, counsellors and admissions teams to ‘simply add it on’. This work cannot rest on the shoulders of one person, and a sustainable, positive transitions-care team is one that also will be able to offer its own team the necessary support. Together we are capable of doing so much more. Often positive transitions-care programmes are also propelled forward by a few enthusiastic individuals, but schools should be extending their resources, monetary and human, to fostering sustainable programmes that can endure even when a school experiences high turnover.

An effective, sustainable and positive transitions-care programme "helps all members of an international school community maintain their attachment systems so they can feel the feelings, think the thoughts and perform the actions that lead to the loosening and establishing of attachment bonds at all of the appropriate times in the transitions cycle.” (9)

6. Individualise your Transitions Team

While offering any transitions-care support to your students, parents and staff, recognise that your community needs comfort before encouragement. By simply acknowledging the challenges (and benefits) of a globally mobile lifestyle, you will provide them with the time and space needed to develop connection and belonging.

What this looks like in terms of offering resources on how to manage positive transitions-care, will undoubtedly be unique to your school community and school culture. Setting up your students, parents and staff for success in their transitions is key to a successful learning journey, meaningful relationships and will put them at an advantage wherever they will go in life. Together with your team, create a plan to direct resources, human and monetary, to set up sustainable transitions-care within your school (and possibly) between schools so that well-managed mobility positively impacts learning and life in your school community.

(9) Ota, D.W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.

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