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“Becoming a college changed our whole perspective and culture. Natspec helped us with the transition”

Become a member

Natspec is the membership association for organisations, including colleges and independent providers, with specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Guidance for new provision


Are you thinking about opening new education provision for 16-25 year olds with learning difficulties and disabilities?

Member organisations offer personalised learning programmes and multi-disciplinary specialist support and expertise to enable students to make a successful transition to adult life. They support learners to be ambitious, to realise their aspirations and to develop the skills to make progress towards their goals.

Full membership

Full membership is open to organisations whose primary purpose is post-16 education and training for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – SEND), offering either day or residential provision, and where the majority of places are commissioned by local authorities and funded through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) high needs funding system in England (or equivalent in Wales, Scotland and NI).

Associate membership

Associate membership is open to organisations or departments of larger organisations that offer provision for students funded through the high needs system either alongside other provision, including non-specialist provision, such as GFE departments or ITPs, or in non-maintained or independent special school sixth forms or FE units.  Organisations in the process of seeking ESFA approval for funding through the market entry process are also eligible for Associate membership.

Newly ESFA approved organisations can join as full members, but must pay an initial joining fee to cover additional support from Natspec to prepare them for inspection and to meet the requirements of the post-16 further education system. Natspec provides a suitably qualified consultant, and the organisation should take up the support within 9 months of joining.  Organisations that fail to use the additional support will not be able to renew membership without payment of a further joining fee.

Opening new provision for 16 to 25-year-olds?

If your organisation is setting up new provision for high needs students aged over 16,  you might be considering applying to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to become eligible for funding as a Special Post 16 Institution (SPI).

Many new providers have been surprised and shocked at how much they have had to change or introduce as a result of becoming a college funded by the ESFA and subject to Ofsted inspections.

Becoming a college changed our whole perspective and culture. Natspec helped us with the transition

Therese Timberlake, Robert Owen Communities, Devon

Natspec can provide advice, guidance and ongoing support on issues and topics that are an essential part of becoming a college.

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