CfESEND blog: Transition to and within further education, a learners and parent’s perspective

Blog by Pete Benyon, Project and Delivery Manager at Derby College Group (DCG), for the Centres for  Excellence in SEND programme.

Change is a constant factor in everybody’s life and a consistent state in meaningful education; learning is the movement from not knowing to knowing and from can’t to can. But change, for many of us, can be traumatic and may have long-term negative impacts if:
a) we are not in control of or have no influence on changes that directly affect us
b) these changes are not managed effectively by those who are accountable.

Transition from school to college, and between levels/courses/departments in a College, is a significant change/challenge for every learner and therefore is one that needs to be carefully planned and managed by local authorities, schools and colleges (who are accountable) if the learners’ engagement with the curriculum and their new environment(s) and context(s) are to be effective and successful. 

TM, a parent of two learners  who learn differently at Derby College states: 

“People don’t understand how hard battling every day for the right education is, how hard it is when you’re not heard when your child is losing every hope of a good education in the system through bad experience and not getting the right level of education – this in itself is damaging.”  

Another parent of a learner who transitioned to college and then to different courses within the college, SW shared: 

“Having a SEN child leave school and take their next, vulnerable steps is scary. After the security of school, the next step felt huge and we knew D was trusting us to ensure it was all OK, while we knew we had to let go to a certain extent and allow him to grow.” 

Hope, an Animal Care student explained: 

“School, I must say, was awful for me. It was not a pleasant time at all socially and academically.”. 

An effective curriculum offer starts with personalised transition, but effective transition does not start with the entering of a building or applying for a course. Transition starts when the learner first becomes aware of their prospective destinations, their curriculum, the universal offer available to all learners and the specific support that is available to those who learn differently.  

A young person’s first experience of college may be via a careers advisor, a visit from a college, a visit to a College, or at an annual review meeting. However, it is often very likely to be through a College’s website and/or a print prospectus. 

The presence of relevant accessible information and of regular and effective communication is essential to parents and their children. Parent, SW explained: 

“The communication between D’s school and college during his transition was vital, as we were feeling very apprehensive about the future.  Excellent communication from the support team made us feel very reassured that we weren’t just allowing him to jump off a cliff without a safety net.”  

TM elaborated:  

“We were always made to feel that we have a voice that is heard and actually listened to with help to sort the issues out. This definitely helps with settling in, the transition stuff being so informative … helping to make sure that they’re on the best course suited to them with lots of information asked and given.”  

 Parent, C stated it succinctly: 

The transition from school to College was smooth as we were all involved. 

 Ahmad, a business studies student said: 

“I had many visits to Derby College to make sure the building and the overall environment suited my needs.  

Learners attend college during the transition period in order to complete support plans … a plan which identifies specific support needs for the learner and how the college is able to cater for their needs.” 

The impact of effective transition on learners and their parents is striking: 

Hope, “To sum it up, I’d say it was the transition I needed. 

Since I’ve come to Broomfield Hall, I’ve gained a lot of confidence and independence and hands-on experience.” 

SW“I’m certain that because he was allowed to make mistakes and find what suited him for himself, and not because others told him, he feels more confident about the decisions he is making now.” 

TM“The college has always done what is right for the students. I just wish the education system fully recognised what the college does every day and fully supported the college.” 

CS is a totally different girl since she left school she was really struggling at school with learning and being understood. College is the best thing that has happened to S. 

What is clear from the quotes, is that the voices of learners and their parents need to be heard and listened to throughout transition, that all relevant information needs to be available accessibly at the earliest opportunity and that professionals need to effectively communicate what is happening, what is necessary and what is expected throughout the process.   

Image detailing good practice for transition from school to college for learners with SEND

If you would like to discuss anything included here or anything else Inclusive Education and Curriculum, join us at our next Monthly Swap and Support Session at 4pm on Thursday July 1 2021 by booking here: ETF CFE DCG July 2021 Swap and Support Session 

If you would like further information about how we can support you and/or your organisation on your inclusion journey please contact us: 


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