by Sue McMillan, Reaching Families
For parent carers of a child with special educational needs or a disability (SEND), picturing your child as an adult can be difficult, especially if you do not know how their condition will progress, or how their needs will change. However, early planning for your child’s future will ensure that they get the support they need as they reach adulthood and move from children’s to adult services. It will also help to ensure that this goes as smoothly as possible. This is known as ‘transition planning’ and it is a process that evolves over your child’s teenage years, as new options present themselves and their interests change.
When should Transition Planning begin?
From Year 9 every annual review should include a focus on preparing for adulthood. As well as education, the transition process should also cover your child’s health, leisure activities and where he or she may live as an adult. You and your child will be asked to think about their future and, with the input of the professionals involved with your child, a plan of action will be put together. If your child has an EHC Plan, transition planning will be added to it and should be updated at each review, clearly stating the responsibilities of everyone involved, actions that must be taken and timescales for them to be completed.
You may have heard people talk about ‘person-centred planning’, this means that the views and aspirations of your young person should be at the centre of the process. It encourages participation from the child, parents and everyone attending the transition planning meeting. It also means that information should be brought to the meeting in a way your child can understand, so this may include photographs, symbols or pictures, for example.
Raising the Participation Age (RPA)
Raising the Participation Age (RPA) means that young people must stay in education or training until they are 18 and it is no longer an option to leave school at 16 and get a job, unless there is some sort of training attached. So, looking at how your child will continue their post-16 education is key to transition planning.
For some of us, although we want our children to continue learning, it feels unrealistic to talk about career choices. Our focus is more on the need to arrange support for our child in the future, such as short breaks or supported living. If this is the case, make sure someone from social care has been invited to the year 9 annual review.
At the end of Year 11 your young person’s chosen path should be clearly mapped out in their EHC Plan. Options open to your young person include:
- Staying on at school, if it has a sixth form.
- Going to a sixth form college, which may offer specialist programmes
- Going to a further education (FE) college, which also offer vocational options, as well as specific courses for young people with special needs, such as supported internships.
- Going to a special school sixth form if they have complex needs.
- Going to an independent special school or college, which could be residential.
- Doing work-based training such as an apprenticeship or traineeship.
- Combining part-time accredited education and training with work or volunteering that lasts for more than 20 hours per week.
16 to 19 Study Programmes are programmes of learning for 16 to 19 year olds (sometimes up to 25 years with an EHC Plan) based on a young person’s prior attainment and are designed to help students meet their educational and career goals. Because providers have flexibility in the design, delivery and content of a study programme, it means that they can create highly personalised programmes for young people with a learning difficulty and/or disability where progression may be a broadening, generalising or consolidation of skills.
Entry level awards and certificates from the Open College Network and the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN) focus on independence skills for students who want to build their knowledge but may not feel ready to study at GCSE level. Courses are divided into three levels so students can progress from level 1 through to level 3 if they wish. Entry 3 can help prepare students to access further courses such as GCSEs, NVQs and BTECs.
Most young people are expected to have English and Maths GCSEs at grade C or above by the time they are 16 years old. If not, your young person may need to continue to study English and Maths after the age of 16 alongside other course(s).
Other students may prefer to take a different route and study for an apprenticeship or gain other vocational (work-based) qualifications such as a BTec, HNDs or NVQs. Apprenticeships lead to work-based qualifications. They’re open to 16 to 24 year olds who are not in full-time education. Young people doing apprenticeships have a contract of employment, usually for at least 30 hours a week and work towards a vocational qualification.
Academically able young people may study GSCEs or A levels.
What happens after 18/19?
As your child approaches their last year of formal education, decisions about your child’s future learning or working life need to be made. Young people don’t have an automatic right to stay on in education after they turn 19, but there are options and, in some cases, they may be able to stay in education until they’re 25. Ask your child’s school or college for advice on this.
For some young people this may be the point at which to consider a specialist further education college. Young people who have done A levels or equivalent qualifications may want to move onto higher education.
Additional support in higher education (HE)
Going to university or a college that offers higher education (including FE colleges and specialist institutions like art colleges) gives young people over the age of 18 the chance to acquire more academic qualifications.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s unlawful for universities and colleges to discriminate against disabled students. They have a legal requirement to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that disabled students are not put at a substantial disadvantage. All higher education institutions should have a Disability Equality Scheme that sets out how they intend to improve disability equality across their organisation.
Most universities and colleges have disability coordinators or advisers with whom you can discuss access and support arrangements so these can be put in place before the course starts.
National information resources:
- disabilityrightsuk.org: has a series of fact sheets about education
- natspec.org.uk – NATSPEC Directory of Independent FE Colleges
Sue McMillan is Editor for Reaching Families.