TRAINS is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and is being conducted by a team of researchers, practitioners and educators from several institutions across Europe. Leeds Beckett University (United Kingdom) are leading this project in collaboration with NARHU – National Association of Professionals Working with Disabled People (Bulgaria), the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Families (Germany), and the Institute of Child Education and Psychology, Europe (Ireland). This innovative partnership brings together a range of experts with extensive experience of working with schools and educators to provide training and psychological services for Early Years, SEND and vulnerable populations including refugee and marginalised groups across Europe.

The TRAINS project will endeavour to facilitate more successful transitions into primary school for all students within the European Union by marrying the foremost research in the field of successful school transitions with best practice in education across Europe. In order to achieve this, the partners will collaborate closely with educators and teachers working across the participating countries in order to inform the development and subsequent evaluation of tailored learning and professional development materials for teaching professionals.

TRAINS was launched in September 2019 and will be conducted over a 36-month period.

The Rationale for TRAINS

School starting ages and experiences vary across Europe. The transition to full time compulsory schooling is a significant event for young children and their families and has been shown to be linked to later school outcomes. Thankfully, in many cases, the experience of transition to school can be very supportive for children and their families, thus setting them up for future academic and social success.


However, the process of change and adaptation can prove to be extremely difficult for other children, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND), those who have already experienced multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences, or those from hard to reach communities such as migrant, refugee, Roma, and Sinta groups. Preschool children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) often experience a more challenging transition to school than other children (Janus et al., 2008), with success depending on the child’s adaptation to the new environment and on the parents, teachers and school facilitating the child’s learning. Parents play a key role in providing information about their children whilst teacher attitudes and expectations of children with SEN and communication with parents and other members of the transition team are highly important in determining the quality of the transition (Salend, 2008).


For vulnerable children who have experienced trauma or who may come from a minority group, the process of transitioning to primary school may pose different challenges, as they are less likely to attend early years care settings (Gilley et al., 2015) and their family may also lack experience of schooling or have negative expectations that the home culture and language may not be valued. Schools may make ‘assumptions about levels of cultural familiarity and contextual knowledge’ (Vickers, 2007).


Numerous research studies argue that early transition experiences are related to social, emotional and educational outcomes (Tizard et al., 1988; Ramey & Campbell, 1991; Sayers, West, Lorains, Laidlaw, Moore and Robinson, 2012). Thus, it is imperative that the staff at the centre of the transition process possess the requisite capacities to tackle some of the challenges which may impede smooth transitions into the primary school setting.


Therefore, the overall aim of the project is to improve the experience of transition to compulsory schooling by:

          Reaching an understanding of good practice across partner countries in supporting transition to school for children and their families;

          Sharing best practice strategies and policy ideas across Europe;

–      Supporting children and families in the transition to compulsory schooling to promote inclusion and positive outcomes.


  • Identify and document best practice to support successful transitions for all

The TRAINS project will help to establish a common understanding in relation to the educational systems and transitions policies and practices in each of the partner countries. This understanding will be cemented through the production of a literature review documenting best practice across Europe, and harnessed to facilitate the production of a selection of policy guidelines and recommendations designed to improve the experience of transitioning into primary school for all children throughout Europe.

  • Develop training materials to build the competencies of those facilitating the transitions

The TRAINS consortium will utilise the knowledge gathered from educators across the partner countries to identify essential training needs for educators working in the fields of early years and primary education. Having identified these areas of need, a suite of innovative training and professional development materials will be created to build the confidence and key competencies of early years practitioners and primary school teachers, in order to enhance their capacity to successfully facilitate positive school transition experiences for all learners under their tutelage.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission under the Erasmus+ Programme. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.