Moving from one school to another is a significant event for children, marked by new experiences and challenges. Changing schools can be difficult in terms of the curriculum, language, physical facilities in the school, change of friendships and adjusting to new teachers. On the other hand, selecting a school in many cases is not about a single decision made by parents at the point their child starts pre-school or primary. Instead, an increasing number of parents make multiple, successive choices, even during their children's earliest schooling.
This paper describes children's experiences of school mobility and attempts to fill the gap in the research on changing schools and children's experiences in the Indian context. The paper makes use of three different sets of data from Young Lives: longitudinal data from the household survey and child-level research carried out in 2002, 2006-07 and 2009 (in order to develop school histories of the children); an extensive school survey conducted in 2010 (to study the quality and effectiveness of the education experienced by a sub-sample of Young Lives children, then aged 9 to 10) which uncovered that many children had changed school at least once by the age of 9; and an in-depth sub-study carried out in 2011 that looked into the processes of parental decision-making about schools, the factors that explained school mobility and the children's experiences of moving school. It is argued that that children's experiences and their adjustment to the new school environment often depended on where the child moved to and the factors that caused the change. Strategic and structural moves did not make it too difficult for the children, but reactive moves seemed to be hard for them. In cases of school change, the burden of adjusting to the new school very often fell on the child, with little help or support from the teacher, school or parents. Any intervention aimed at helping children to manage school change should therefore take into consideration not only the school-level factors but also the family and community-level factors that cause the move. Both schools and teachers need to be prepared to receive children into the later grades and facilitate a smooth transition.