Schools need to prepare young people for life, not just exams – Beverley Walters explores what this can mean for students with SEND
The ambition of the SEND reforms is to ensure that young people move into adulthood with choice and control over their lives, and have better life outcomes (employment, independent living, community inclusion and good health). The SEND Code of Practice calls on education providers to work together with local authorities, young people with SEND and their families to “help children and young people realise their ambitions”, but deciding how best schools, and the curriculum, can do this can be challenging.
“Funding has previously pushed qualifications, but there is now a freedom to develop new provisions”, says Ruth Perry, an independent consultant specialising in the area of learning difficulty and disability. “Developing these provisions can be a daunting task though; people need to understand the basic parameters around which these programmes can be designed and look at the range of different study options. Sitting in a classroom behind a desk is not the best way to prepare people for adulthood. Effective preparation is often about the content in the curriculum and how it is developed, or the experiences that it includes and how it is assessed.”
Linda Jordan from the National Development Team for Inclusion agrees, and believes the key is to examine what young people will need to know about adulthood, along with any additional support needs they will have. “It is important that young people with higher support needs have an education health and care plan that intentionally prepares them for adulthood, including employment, independent living, friends, relationships and community and health. This should be a multi-agency approach between the local authority, schools and social care provisions, so that children with higher support needs have them met all the way into adulthood.”
Employment, in particular, is crucial, and schools’ efforts need to start with a clear understanding of the challenges that young people with SEND face. “Schools are contributing to education, health and care plans (EHC) for children with SEND and therefore need to know more about the adult world and what it is like for young disabled people” says Linda. “We all need to understand what is possible in terms of employment and housing for pupils with higher support needs, as this can inform the curriculum, which will, in turn, teach pupils about independence and give them the skills needed to live independently and successfully as adults.”
We know we still have work ahead of us in this, not least because of the report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in November 2014, that interviewed young people with disabilities to discover their views. It found that young people “thought that schools and colleges did not give them enough support to access employment.”
In terms of employment, many young people with SEND can benefit from experiencing the working environment, says Ruth. “There are supportive internships, which are a bit like an apprenticeship for someone with a learning disability, and vocationally specific programmes available. There is no prescribed model, but it is about enhancing their future prospects and increasing their independence.”
Linda Jordan and Ruth Perry will both be discussing the transition to adulthood and how schools can help young people prepare in their seminars at nasen Live, the free to attend continuing professional development (CPD) event being held on 29 and 30 April at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. For more information, visit www.nasen.org.uk/nasen-live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beverley Walters is project lead and professional development manager at nasen.
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