All children have a right to full-time education up to the age of 19, and many children with special educational needs benefit enormously from these last few years, whether they stay on at school or move on to a college of further education.
The changes to the SEN and disability system that took place in September 2014 give stronger recognition to this and to the role of education in preparing young people for adulthood. There’s clearer guidance for Further Education (FE) colleges about supporting young people with SEND and (unlike Statements of SEN) the new EHC Plans or EHCPs continue into further education rather than stopping when your child leaves school.
Youth Employability Service Learning Difficulties and Disabilities advisers, also known as YES LDD advisers, should be involved with planning your child’s future education and their transition through the school, from Year 9 onwards. They can advise both parents and children with special needs, whether at mainstream or special school, or at an agency placement.
Many of you will have heard about Raising Participation Age (RPA). It was brought in by the last government (in the Education & Skills Act 2008) and has increased the minimum age at which young people can leave learning. This does not mean that the school leaving age has gone up but that from 2013 young people are expected to continue in education i.e. at a school or college or training provider or in a job with training to the age of 17. In 2015, this will go up to 18. Part-time study alongside a job, self-employment or whilst volunteering will also count.
The YES LDD Adviser can give guidance on the possible options such as college courses. Read more about LDD advisers on the council’s website.
If your child has an EHC Plan or Statement of SEN
Children with EHCPs or Statements of special educational needs have an important annual review at 14, often called the Transition annual review, where there is a new focus on what needs to happen to ensure the young person is supported well with preparing for adulthood. The reviews from Year 9 onwards should look at how the different services will work together with the young person and their family, to support the young person as they move into adult life.
Most local FE colleges offer a range of courses suitable for some young people with special needs. Some of the courses are aimed at encouraging independence and social skills, some are vocational, and some can lead to a formal qualification. Parts of some courses are integrated into the mainstream work of the college so that your child can study alongside non-disabled students.
If you find that the local schools and colleges really cannot meet your child’s needs, there are some, although limited, residential colleges of further education. These are often run by independent voluntary organisations. If you want to explore the idea of a specialist residential college, your YES LDD Adviser can help you think about this. It will be important to get up to date information and advice about this option.
EHC Plans and Moving On Plans
Until September 2014 young people with Statements who left school and moved to college would get a Moving On Plan or Section 139A assessment. These are no longer needed as EHC plans can continue until a young person is 19 or (in some cases) 25. If your child has already left school with a Moving On Plan, they may be able to ask to be assessed for an EHC Plan. Call Amaze for advice.
Further Education tips
Do your own research: Although you will discuss options at the Yr 9 and Yr10 annual review if your son or daughter has an EHCP or a Statement, it’s certainly worth you also doing some research yourself too. For example, you may want to contact Brighton City College to find out what courses might be suitable. They have open evenings that you and your child could attend to get a feel for the place. The Disability Alliance publish some extremely useful free information sheets about education, employment, training and other issues concerning young people with disabilities or learning disabilities.
Know what’s out there and what it costs: Some of these courses will be for young people at the age of 16, while others will take students at the ‘normal’ school leaving age of 19, or later. Some of the courses for over 19 year-olds may charge and you need to check if there are any costs with the college.
Think about their college-free days too: The Further and Higher Education Act requires colleges to provide courses for people with learning difficulties but these courses may not take place every day. Many colleges only offer courses for two or three days a week, in which case you’ll need to think about what your teenager does on non-college days.If they have an EHC Plan there should be a plan of activities across five days even if not all of this is in college.
Don’t forget transport: the local authority may cover the costs of travelling to and from school or college although it is not automatic, so make sure you ask about transport arrangements.
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