14 and over
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 or into training.
If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), their annual review in Year 9 should begin to explicitly focus on preparing them for adulthood. This is often called transition planning and must look at what the young person needs to prepare them for further or higher education, employment, independent living, being a healthy adult and participating in society. Download our fact sheet about Starting to prepare for adulthood [pdf 610kb]
Transition planning must be built into a young person’s EHCP from Year 9 onwards and every annual review from then on should build on this further. The Year 10 review will include a closer look at options for post-16 education, as well as checking that the planned outcomes in the EHCP still reflect the young person’s aspirations for adult life.
If your son/daughter remains in education, their EHCP can cover them until they are 19, and after this, possibly up to 25 years. They don’t automatically have the right to education up to 25; the EHCP is reviewed each year, and the local authority then decides whether the EHCP is still needed. The local authority remains responsible for making sure that they get the support set out in their EHCP, wherever they are studying.
EHCPs can also support young people who go on to do Supported Internship courses, some apprenticeships and training. See more about these options on our Looking forward to next steps in education, employment or training page. Read more about EHCPs.
Young people over 16 can continue their education in a school or college, with a training provider or in a job with training; part-time study alongside a job, self-employment or whilst volunteering will also count.
Most colleges offer a range of courses suitable for young people with special educational 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 residential colleges of further education, although these are limited. These are often run by independent voluntary organisations.
For more information about further education options in your area visit:
- Do your own research: Although you will discuss options at annual reviews if your son or daughter an EHCP, it’s certainly worth you also doing some research yourself too. For example, you may want to contact Brighton Met or East Sussex 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. Disability RightsUK 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 college courses only offer courses for 2-3 days a week. You’ll need to think about what your teenager is going to do on non-college days. For young people with EHCPs, the SEND Code of Practice says that local authorities must consider whether they will need a 5-day package of activities. This may not all be in college doing traditional learning; it could involve other activities such as for example, volunteering. If you have concerns about the non-college days, it’s worth raising this with the local authority at your year 10 and 11 annual reviews.
- 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.
As they get older your son or daughter should be increasingly involved in decision making about their future. From 16, the right to make decisions about education issues switches to them, although of course they will continue to rely on you to support them or act on their behalf. This also depends on whether they have the mental capacity to make those decisions – ask Amaze if you want to know more about this. But the key point for parents is that we need to have been preparing them for this over the years by encouraging them to start to form their own views and practise making choices.
We have lots more tips in our fact sheet about Involving young people in decision making [pdf 690kb]
Brighton & Hove parent carers can find out more in our ‘Planning for adulthood’ section
East Sussex parent carers can find out more about Preparing for Adulthood on the East Sussex Local Offer.