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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

Preparing young people for the road ahead

We all expect our young people to have smooth transitions to adulthood, with support from school and the wider community. Why should those with SEND be any different?

Last week our school was fortunate enough to be visited by Chris Rossiter and Nance Gedge from the Driver Youth Trust, a national charity dedicated to make systemic improvements to the support children and young people - particularly those with literacy difficulties or who may have SEND (e.g. dyslexia) - receive in education.

Their work focuses on areas where a sustainable difference can be made, including a ‘whole-school’ approach to SEND (part of the purpose of their visit). 

We often welcome visitors to school, but with the limited resources we have it makes sense to merge and streamline visits wherever possible. Last week was no exception, and it took several months to find a date that would reduce the impact of the visit on learning. 

We often welcome visitors to school, but with the limited resources we have it makes sense to merge and streamline visits wherever possible

By talking to key staff, students, parents and carers, visitors can get a feel for the reality of school life. This should always be a priority: as I say, ‘don’t take my word for it!’

For example, one moment in last week’s visit that struck me was a lunchtime discussion with three parents and carers, two of whom had children who had recently left the school and were now 19 and 18 years-old respectively. Their first-hand testimony indicated that, even before September 2014, our co-produced outcomes were seen by parents as key milestones on the road to adulthood. 

Never underestimate the power of co-production.

Looking forward

The rights and protections for young people enshrined in the Children and Families Act (2014) are as important now as they’ve ever been, but so are the elements of good practice that predate the act.

Promoting high expectations and nurturing aspiration for young people with SEND; helping them to secure paid employment, live independently and participate in society: surely these should be aspirations for us all?

You would be hard-pressed to find a parent who doesn’t want their child to have:

  • paid employment (including self-employment)
  • good health
  • the means to live independently (choice and control over their life and good housing options)
  • a place in the community (friends, relationships and community).

Why should a young person with SEND be any different, or have any different aspirations?

Important then, important now

When talking to parents and carers, it was amazing to hear them explain their journeys through diagnosis, support and into post-16 pathways.

For the last few years, our NEETs figures have been at zero, or very close to zero:  in 2014 and 2015, 100% of Year 11 students went on to full-time education, work-based learning or employment with training (99.2% in 2016). This is because preparation for adulthood is integral to the work we undertake with students, beginning in earnest at Year 9.

One of the most important things we offer young people to support their transition to adulthood is our bespoke travel training programme. Our package has developed from the local authority’s Travel Training, which supports young people through very clearly structured, methodological programmes led by key members of staff who’ve trained as travel trainers. Students take part in discussions of theory, practical workshops and one-to-one interactions – all to assist them in the journeys they take to school and in the future to college.

In the Greater Manchester area, young people with EHCPs are entitled to apply for a concessionary travel pass. Free travel has allowed our students with EHCPs to develop a confidence in using public transport independently.

In conjunction with the training, this has given a wealth of opportunities to our young people who are looking to start post-16 courses and placements.

Good careers advice is indispensable. We ensure our LA officer makes individual appointments with young people to discuss their post-16 pathways, and we offer plenty of taster sessions and visits to facilitate planning for transition.

We ensure our LA officer makes individual appointments with young people to discuss their post-16 pathways, and we offer plenty of taster sessions and visits to facilitate planning for transition

As I’ve said before, a school’s NEETs figure is a useful barometer for the inclusiveness of provision for SEND.

How strong is your school's careers education? Download our self-evaluation checklist to ensure you're inspiring, not just advising.

What makes good post-16 planning?

I have absolutely no doubt that successful post-16 provision relies on a dedication to a fully personalised approach: meeting individual students and working closely with parents, carers and providers. Open and honest discussions from the outset will ensure young people are not NEET or lose contact with local authorities.

While many interesting discussions took place during the DYT’s visit, most important of all was the opportunity to talk post-school pathways with parents and carers.

As ever, there’s room to do much more: I am concerned about limiting post-16 options for learners who would benefit from a broad experience and the fact that funding isn’t available for some of our learners to undertake appropriate courses.

As we hope to have a 100% NEETs figure again, achieved through hard work with families and post-16 providers, the message is that it can be done! 

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