Moving from a school setting into further education is a difficult decision for any young person. However, for people with Cerebral Palsy that choice can be an even harder one. Being aware of the available options ahead of that time approaching is important.
Having a choice
Education for those identified as having additional learning needs is available until the age of 25. Parents should always have a choice of the school or college that their child might attend, and young people should be consulted, and their views listened to. When considering the choices for your child’s further education it is important to compare and consider both education and social settings, thinking about the future and what the ultimate goal for your child is.
Consider whether going to college will make a difference or is it just more reassuring? Think about what progress your child might achieve in college, that they have not already achieved in school. It is also important to think fully about residential options as well as day services.
Schools and colleges also face a number of challenges, as well as the families making those decisions. Firstly, there are a number of discussions and meetings to looking at the various options, consulting with the young person, and assessments and paperwork.
For those who have very complex needs proving value for money in an educational setting can be very difficult. The Local Authority will want to see that progress can be achieved and ideally that some form of accreditation will follow upon completion.
There may be different views about continuing education in contrast with the option of social care. The 1996 Education Act states:
- Full time and part time training
- Vocational, social, physical and recreational training
- Apprenticeship training
Specialist colleges can provide meaningful courses where accreditation is at the right level, progress is clearly evidenced to the funders, and learning can be work-based to provide real experiences gearing the young person up for the next step into adulthood.
If the student will not make academic progress, the measurability of the final outcome is more difficult. It is important to consider whether work experience and employability are always valuable.
Weighing up the options
Continuing in education has obvious foreseeable advantages. We understand the college setting; we understand that education is generally a good thing; it is a secure option. On the other hand, how much will the young person really benefit? Will they enjoy getting to know a new staff team for only a short period, especially if they have been used to one educational setting for a long period previously? Will the young person miss out on a property as a result of making a decision to stay in education?
The second option is the social care option. This option may seem daunting but ought to be considered. A house chosen long term can provide certainty, stability, and a level of attainment for the family of the young person. If the social care option is chosen it is important to consider staffing needs. A timetabled plan for what a meaningful week would look like is vital and will ensure that there are still opportunities for learning and maintaining social contact with other young people. It is important to consider how much support the young person will need to live independently in their new home and what form of support that will take. This will vary depending on the complexity of that person’s needs.
You may feel that your young person would benefit from a combination of both part time college, supported by a social care package for a limited number of days per week. You might consider that a year in college would help to make the transition from school to adulthood. There is no reason that option could not be considered. The important part of preparing the application is to demonstrate cost to benefit. The more evidence you can provide in support of your choice, the more likely the Local Authority are to be persuaded that this is the correct option.
Once a decision has been made, the proposals will be considered by the Local Authority. The Local Authority will be required to make a decision based upon what is a fair outcome, bearing in mind the cost of continued education against the cost of social care. Being prepared to quote cost options in advance of any meeting with the Local Authority will be helpful. Meeting other families to consider what worked for them can also be helpful. Ultimately starting your preparations early, will help you make informed choices when the time comes.