Transition from Preschool to School

The issue


Transition from the home or preschool environment into formal education is a crucial time in the educational journeys of all children and is regarded as a major milestone in the life of the family. To ensure that appropriate preparation for school entry is undertaken, it is important that parents and professionals are aware of the factors that facilitate successful transition. Consideration needs to be given to elements that are important for all children entering school for the first time and, in particular, elements that are specific to a young child who is deaf.

What we know

There is limited research in the area of transition into school for children who are deaf. Current studies suggest that many of them, particularly those who receive cochlear implants early, now enter school with spoken language levels that are at, or close to, age appropriate. These children, therefore, are better equipped linguistically to access the social and academic aspects of their early school experience. However, significant numbers of deaf children with and without implants still enter school with delayed language relative to hearing peers, thus placing them at a potential disadvantage.

Research shows that it can be more difficult for a child who is deaf, compared to one who is hearing, to establish peer-group relationships and social integration within a mainstream educational setting. Issues of loneliness and peer-group acceptance have been identified in this group, and these can be linked to lower levels of emotional understanding and linguistic competency amongst young deaf children.
The preschool experience of children who are deaf is highly important in relation to their preparedness for school entry. Levels of family involvement and access to high-quality early educational intervention in the preschool period are both predictors of the rate of individual progress. This will, in turn, impact how well-equipped children are to begin school.

Whilst the available research is limited, models of good practice regarding processes for facilitating transition exist at both local and national levels and are worthy of consideration. Within these models, common themes include:

  • The need for a pro-active strategic approach with advanced planning to prepare the family, the receiving school, and the child for school entry.
  • The need to build capacity within the school through the provision of training for staff (who may lack knowledge, experience, and confidence in working with young children who are deaf).
  • The close involvement of the family throughout the process of transition, and recognition of the central role that the family plays in decision-making on behalf of the child.
  • The evaluation of the acoustic environment within the school in order to facilitate improvements to listening conditions prior to a child’s school entry.
  • The timely recruitment and deployment of appropriately-trained staff to support the child in school.
  • The assessment of any possible barriers to learning and the evaluation of ways to overcome these obstacles.
  • The recognition of the need for one individual to undertake the role of key worker/lead professional, to co-ordinate arrangements and act as a point of contact. This role is likely to be undertaken by a teacher of the deaf.
  • The opportunity for the child to develop familiarity with the setting; this may involve a flexible or staged transition into school, which is determined on an individual basis.

What we don’t know

Whilst available research indicates factors that are likely to enable children to be better equipped to enter mainstream settings, there is little current research concerning how effective transition into school can be achieved.  Research needs to evaluate whether the processes commonly in place and considered to be good practice do, indeed, facilitate transition successfully; to date, many conceptions of good practice are based on common sense assumptions rather than research evidence.


The evidence suggests that the group of children who have received implants early and/or had access to consistent early intervention will be better equipped for school entry than has previously been the case. However, there remain many potential barriers to both accessing the curriculum and social inclusion within the early stages of education. Professionals must be aware of these barriers and continue to make maximal effort to help remove them.

It is important that further research is undertaken to look at what practitioners are doing to facilitate transition and how effective these processes are. This should be coupled with an evaluation of parental perceptions of how effectively the needs of their children are met on entry into school.

Posted on July 1, 2014 by
Helen Nelson
Pathway Leader M.A. Educational Studies (Hearing Impairment)
Mary Hare School
h.nelson {at}

Further reading

Geers, A.E., Moog, J.S., Biedenstein, J., Brenner, C, & Hayes, H. (2009). Spoken language scores of children using cochlear implants compared to hearing age-mates at school entry. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 14, 371-385. view details

Martin, D., Bat-Chava, Y., Lalwani, A., & Waltzman, S.B. (2011). Peer relationships of deaf children with cochlear implants: Predictors of peer entry and peer interaction success. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16, 108-120. view details

Yoshinaga-Itano.C. (2014) Principles and guidelines for early intervention after confirmation that a child is deaf or hard of hearing. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 19, 143-175. view details