Supporting children’s transition and facilitating inclusive education

Developing holistic approaches to supporting the transition of children with special needs into mainstream schools.


Research hubs

Social Justice and Inclusion

Children and Young People

Advanced Quantitative Research in Education

Research experts

Professor John Ravenscroft

Professor John Davis

What was the problem? 

Children with additional support needs (ASN) may experience inequality in different European education systems, which can impact on their ability to live independently and actively contribute to and benefit mainstream society.

Working collaboratively with European partner institutions, the researchers identified problems with inclusion, participation, transition, and integration in the movement of children with additional support needs from early years to primary school, from primary to secondary school, and from special to mainstream school.

There was a clear need to develop a participatory and multi-disciplinary approach for professionals in education, health, and social services for children and parents to facilitate the transition of children with ASN during these periods.

What did we do?

The FIESTA project received EU Comenius Network funding from The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and undertook a comprehensive literature review, which formed the basis of the research process.

The researchers distributed an online questionnaire to educational and related professionals in the eight partner countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and the UK.

From the 578 professional responses and 224 parents and 176 children in qualitative interviews and focus groups, the researchers developed a Best Practice report (in eight languages), which identified improvements needed to support the transition of children with ASN into mainstream educational settings.

The FIESTA network challenges various assumptions that reinforce barriers to inclusion, such as the professional “knows best”, seeing disabled children as broken, and treating exclusion as the only source of action until disabled children are fixed. Instead, the network promotes a holistic approach that recognises educational, psychological, social, and cultural contexts, and places the child at the centre of the transition process. This holistic approach leads to smooth transition in schools and integration with the community.

The research led to the development of an Advocacy Tool Kit, three Online Training Modules (developed out of the 2012 FIESTA conference in Katerini, Greece), and a Managing Transition Resource Pack for use by professionals and a Self-Assessment Tool for children with ASN to empower them to lead their transition. 

What happened next? 

In challenging the view that transition is a linear process, the FIESTA network developed evidence-based Best Practice models of inclusion and transition for educators, allied support staff, policy makers, and families. These prioritise the independence, competence, and life choices of pupils and their families.

Within the UK, the research influenced a policy paper for the Reid Foundation, “Social Justice, the Common Weal and Children and Young People in Scotland” (2014). John Davis was invited to speak about children and young people’s concepts of social justice on Referendum TV (14 August 2014). The research also informed the Scottish Government’s report, “Developing an Outcomes Model for Disabled Children and Young People in Scotland” (2013) and has been quoted by the former Welsh Children’s Commissioner, Keith Towler.

Internationally, the researchers wrote a case study for the UNICEF Better Care Network’s policy and guidance paper, distributed to 5,000 care providers.

FIESTA’s concepts are now included in the MSc programme in Inclusive Education at the University of Edinburgh and the MEd in Special Education at the University of Nicosia. 

The Fiesta Project has enabled identification, through quantitative and qualitative methods, of examples of best practice transition which Nurseries and Schools within Scotland are implementing.

Parent of a child, aged 8

Related study programmes

Inclusive Education (MSc, PgDip, PgCert)

Education (MSc)