Natspec’s response to the Ofsted Annual Report

Natspec welcomes the focus in Ofsted’s Annual Report on the importance of quality education for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). We share Ofsted’s concern that many local areas are not yet meeting their responsibilities to these children and young people, as set out in the Children and Families Act.  We are pleased to see that Ofsted has specifically raised the issue of access to post-19 provision which we believe has become something of a postcode lottery, with many young people who would benefit from continuing to learn beyond the age of 19 being denied the opportunity to do so.

As Ofsted observes, the SEND reforms have led to a rapid expansion of the specialist post-16 sector, with many local authorities seeking to place students in new specialist post-16 institutions (SPIs) rather than working with established providers to extend supply.  As a result, 28 new SPIs have been funded by ESFA for the first time in 2017/18 or 2018/19.  It has proved difficult for these new providers to achieve a good judgement in their first inspection, which has led to a drop in the percentage of good and outstanding independent specialist colleges, as Ofsted describes SPIs. Natspec is keen to address this by working with DfE and LAs to ensure that new provision is strategically planned to meet demand, has a clear role and is of high quality, with a focus on creating an appropriate, adult learning environment that prepares young people for the next stage in their lives.

Where new SPIs have been established, we support them by offering quality health check visits and ongoing consultancy support through our CPD service, Natspec Transform, and running quality improvement events during which new providers have the opportunity to learn from more established, successful independent specialist colleges.  SPIs who become Natspec members also have access to a range of networks, forums, workshops and peer review and development groups, all designed to support quality improvement across our membership.

We are very proud that 49 of the 51 specialist colleges graded Good or Outstanding are Natspec members. However, our vision is that all young people with SEND should have access to outstanding education and training, and we will, therefore, continue to support both our members and the wider sector to work towards this goal.

Natspec Network: November Highlights

It’s been an incredibly busy November at Natspec. We co-ordinated the Inclusive Skills Competitions alongside World Skills UK Live, which showcased the talents and skills of young people with SEND alongside their peers from mainstream education. In addition to this, many Natspec colleges have run exciting campaigns, formed new partnerships and positively spotlighted talent in their own organisations. Here’s a contents list of the news items:

  1. Natspec Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live
  2. Five Natspec members are shortlisted for TES FE Specialist Provider of the Year Award 2019.
  3. QAC form a partnership with a local employer for supported internship project and receives a visit from Invictus Games medallist Kelly Ganfield
  4. Derwen college awarded Gold standard from Fair Train in recognition of their employment, supported internship and workforce services.
  5. Orpheus Centre launches new social enterprise: Thessaly Theatre which delivers disability awareness workshops.
  6. National Star secures UK Government contract to deliver training in India and also receive local publicity from the BBC on art student winning a national award.
  7. Natspec Annual Conference | Exhibitor and Sponsorship packages


Natspec Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live

On Saturday 17 November, 52 competitors with SEND participated in the final Inclusive Skills Competitions with World Skills UK Live at the NEC. The event showcased competitors demonstrating their talents in 9 different skills and 1 demonstration. The competitors’ skills were recognised during a medal ceremony at the end of the day, where they were awarded medals and certificates for the quality of their work and participation. The Inclusive Skills competitions will be co-ordinated by the World Skills UK Live team next year, succeeding Natspec as the primary organiser.

Read the rest here.


Five Natspec colleges are shortlisted for TES FE Specialist Provider of the Year Award 2019

TES FE awards specialist provider of the year category shortlist stamp

We’re pleased to announce that five Natspec members (Derwen College, Foxes Academy, Queen Alexandra College, Coleg Elidyr and National Star College) have all been shortlisted for the 2019 TES FE Awards for the Specialist Provider of the Year category. This is a phenomenal recognition of the organisations’ excellent learning services and outcomes for young people with SEND.

Tes FE editor Stephen Exley said: “Excellent practice exists right across the further education sector, and those shortlisted for the Tes FE Awards are the cream of the crop. Our judges were extremely impressed with the calibre of entries. We had more entries for this year’s categories than ever before, and the standard was higher than ever. To be shortlisted is an extraordinary achievement.”

The winners will be revealed at a gala awards evening at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on Friday 22 March 2019. It promises to be a spectacular event with more than 800 guests expected to attend, including government ministers and other dignitaries from the education sector.

To see the full list of who is in the running for all the categories please visit


QAC form a partnership with a local employer for supported internship project and receives a visit from Invictus Games medallist Kelly Ganfield

group of learners from QAC standing together for a picture

QAC student George helps local retailer boost online salesIn addition to being shortlisted for the 2019 TES FE awards, QAC has formed a partnership with local employer Thrift House Interiors to offer work experience placement to George, a level 3 IT student who helped the firm with their e-commerce activities. He assisted the business with updating their website with new products and inputting his ideas into the seasonal Christmas decorations. This was a great opportunity for George to boost his confidence, independence and practical IT skills while helping Thrift House Interiors to grow their sales at an integral time of the year.


QAC welcomed The Invictus Games Foundation Team UK athlete Kelly Ganfield to the College to meet with students and staff.

Kelly was joined by QAC Patron Mikail Huggins who works with her as a guide runner and coach.

Kelly is an inspirational young woman who lost her sight whilst working in the army and now works closely with Help for Heroes and Blind Veterans. She and Mikail have recently returned from Sydney, Australia where they competed in this year’s Invictus Games, coming home with a silver medal!

Kelly shared some inspiring and personal stories about her life, the difficult times she has faced, and the role sport has played in it. Mikail also shared insight into his experience of working with people with vision impairment and what he has learned about himself along the way. Students from different programme areas listened, engaged and asked some great questions.

Learn about health and fitness in SEND FE here.


Derwen college awarded Gold standard from Fair Train in recognition of their employment, supported internship and workforce services

3 learners doing work placement at the premier inn derwen placement

Derwen College has also received a top Gold standard award in recognition of its work experience opportunities and vocational programmes for young people. The college received a Gold certificate and trophy from Fair Train – an organisation which champions high-quality work-based learning in the UK.

Derwen College provides vocational learning and work experience for 16-25-year old students with learning difficulties and disabilities. The college offers internal work experience on site in commercial areas which are open to the public including the Orangery Restaurant, Karten Print Shop, Garden Centre and Garden Café. Derwen College has also built strong external links with local and national businesses, offering valuable work experience.

Derwen College’s Work Experience and Transition Team are pleased to have received the nationally respected Work Experience Quality Standard at the highest Gold level for the third consecutive time.

Abi Baker, Work Experience Co-ordinator, said she was delighted that the hard work of staff and students at Derwen College had been recognised for a third time.

“We are really pleased to have received the Fair Train gold quality standard award which shows we are achieving Fair Train’s exacting standards of practice at the highest Gold level.”

Read more about providing supported internships in your FE organisation here.


Orpheus Centre launches new social enterprise: Thessaly Theatre which delivers disability awareness workshops.

Thessaly Theatre is a new social enterprise group made up of Orpheus alumni that delivers disability awareness workshops.

Thessaly Theatre uses interactive theatre and live performance to deliver disability awareness in a new and unique way. It also gives your colleagues, pupils or clients the opportunity to ask questions or have conversations they maybe wouldn’t have in day to day life. This initiative is about celebrating ability, alongside talking about disability. Find out more about Thessaly Theatre and how you can get involved here.

If you’d like to arrange a disability awareness workshop or like to find out more, please contact Rachel (Thessaly Theatre director) at or Jack (corporate partnerships) at


National Star secures UK Government contract to deliver training in India and also receive local publicity from the BBC on student receiving national art award.

National Star has secured a contract with UK Government Department for International Development to deliver disability awareness training for trainers and master trainers in New Delhi and Hyderabad.

National star delivering workshop training in India

The college is delivering training on 26 November to 7 December and then again in March 2019.

As part of the training, Star will also be delivering sessions on assistive technology to Non-Government Organisations in India.

Training in March 2019 will extend the range of training delivered by including health and care training to caregivers.

Roundtable discussion at the national star workshop in india

Supporting Inclusive Practice is four days of disability training for vocational trainers working in retail, administration, IT, hospitality and dressmaking in Hyderabad in India. This is a pilot project funded by the UK Government and DFID with Skill India and the Skills Council of People with Disabilities. Read more about this project here.

In other good news from National Star, art student Michael Baiilon was featured by BBC Gloucestershire for his impressive skillset after winning a national art award. Watch the video on the BBC’s Facebook page for the full story here.

Michael Baiilon
Staff and Student photography, The National Star, Gloucestershire, UK.

Natspec Annual Conference | Exhibitor and Sponsorship packages

In anticipation of the Natspec annual conference, we have a range of sponsorship and headline packages available for organisations to get in front of key stakeholders in specialist and general Further Education.

Contact to get more information and book your package – now limited.

Inclusive Skills Competitions 2018

We’d like to thank all organisations that participated in the Inclusive Skills competitions at World Skills UK Live as a competition organising partner and/or sponsor. We’d like to especially thank learners and their support staff for attending and participating and showcasing the incredible range of talent from competitors with special education needs and disabilities.

Here are the Inclusive Skills finalists and medallists from this year’s inclusive skills competition.


Conner Jones (Gold – Joint)

Thomas Neagle (Gold – Joint)

Bonnie Amato (Silver)

Bronagh Boothman (Bronze)

Adam FfoulkesFenner

Dean Scott

Georgia Tugwell

Jessica Laing

Christopher Burn-McCrossan


Caitlyn McPhee (Gold)

Shane Thomas (Silver)


Thomas Docherty (Gold)

Georgina Scott (Silver)

Nakita Clark (Bronze)

Bethany Lewis

Will Robson

Nahla Saeed

Health and Social Care

Natasha Sheppard (Gold)

Amber Skyes (Silver)

Georgia Harley (Bronze)

Louie Carabine

Shane Miles

Lauren Boyd


Cameron McCrimmon (Gold)

Epiphiny Matchwick (Silver)

Adam Noke (Bronze – Joint)

Einaras Macijaukas (Bronze – Joint)


Amardeep Dadral (Gold)

Harmony Cockram (Silver)

Ryan Laing (Bronze)

Aaron Hannant


Emma Denshem (Gold)

Hayden Brown (Gold)

Lewis Drasdo (Gold)

Sam Sheppard (Silver-Joint)

Cerys Coleman (Silver-Joint)

Jarrard Thomas-Gilbert (Silver-Joint)

Molly Boughey (Silver-Joint)

James Coates (Silver-Joint)

Bily Taylor (Bronze)

Terrance Johnson (Bronze)

Toby Baker (Bronze)

Cameron Eady

James Wheeler

Restaurant Service

Liam Barron (Gold)

Dalton McCoy (Silver)

Anna Roberts (Bronze)

Carter Gough


Shane Ellis (Gold)

Iestyn Vaughan (Silver)

James Deacon (Bronze)

Louise Keevil, Natspec’s Inclusive Skills lead commented, ‘I am so pleased and proud that we have been initiated and led the Inclusive Skills competitions so that they are now ready to be handed over to WorldSkills UK – this is a huge step closer to being truly inclusive.  This year we had 60 students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) showcasing their skills across 10 skill areas at WorldSkills UK Live.  Competitions are a fantastic vehicle for raising aspirations and showing employers the talent that is available to them.  We don’t accept the low (5.8%) paid employment rate for adults with SEND and competing in the same arena as young people without SEND gives us a fighting chance of changing this.  There is still much-untapped opportunity around skills competitions but this is a very positive start.’

All competitors performed fantastically and demonstrated that people with disabilities provide incredible value to potential employers in the light of a widening disability employment gap. Browse the images below to see some of the talent showcased at the Inclusive Skills show on Saturday.

TechAbility Conference 2018: Summary

We’re delighted to have seen such a great turnout to the 2018 TechAbility Conference. Assistive Technologists and experts from throughout the country attended the event to hear the latest on using technology in specialist education provision.

Throughout the day, a phrase we heard repeatedly was:

“Why are there so many good sessions? I can’t choose which to go to!” 

A great piece of feedback to hear and we owe thanks to the speakers and delegates who made the day a success with their expertise and experience.  Topics were varied, but the common thread was the difference technology makes to enable access to education and leisure.  Virtual Reality, Voice Assistants, Exam Access, Tablets, Coding, Microsoft Office were just some of the topics covered.

But technology is no use without the means to deliver it.

In his keynote speech, Alistair McNaught peeled back the ‘Layers of accessible practice’ that are required to be in place to ensure meaningful results from any investment in accessible and inclusive practice.  Alistair highlighted the role of the Assistive Technologist – the key technology link between professionals from multiple disciplines. The Keynote went on to stress that importance of strategy when delivering inclusive practice:

“All of the “dabblers” and “enthusiasts” can only make a small impact until they are combined with strategy – only then does the value of investments rise well above the cost.”

Alistair McNaught

Over lunch, delegates worked to set the wheels in motion; talking to specialist exhibitors about their products and services or huddled in earnest conversation and networking.

The day closed with an Experts Panel who discussed good practice when implementing Assistive Technology. Panel members were drawn from specialist colleges, advisory services and the third sector. Some key points drawn out from the questions were:

  • To improve AT provision, ensure that high quality assessments take place which take into account context and future planning.
  • Consider the human element first and foremost when working with technology
  • Use the range of advice and support from experts in the field
  • Remember that you can’t know everything, so work together with other organisations

The day was a fitting testament to the TechAbility service and the outcomes we aim to achieve. The themes of the day had been identified through working closely with colleges and centres. If you’re interested in what TechAbility does and how you can take advantage, visit our website.


  • conference room full of people at TechAbility 2018
    "The range of talks was impressive and forward thinking."

View our Twitter moment to see all the interactions of the day.



#LoveOurColleges week is here! Here’s how to take part

Natspec is proud to support #LoveOurColleges week this week from 15-19 October. The week is about celebrating the contributions colleges and college staff make to the lives of learners in the country, and how they benefit their local communities.

Colleges are central to the English education system and educate and train 2.2 million people every year. The campaign has been coordinated by the Association of Colleges, so many of the messages relate to mainstream colleges, and our role is to ensure the needs of SEND learners and the voice of the specialist college sector is also heard within the campaign.

aoc funding cut image

Funding cuts and under-resourced staff and facilities have left colleges feeling unsupported and unheard as the costly requirements for addressing the needs of each individual learner rises. This is why we believe that #LoveOurColleges week is an excellent opportunity for Natspec colleges to highlight the best of themselves, whether that’s brilliant tutors, events or services, classes or happy students and outcomes. Spotlight the people who uphold the meaning of ‘love your colleges’ and show the importance of fair funding and consideration for colleges everywhere.

We would love Natspec colleges to get involved. Here are a number of things you could do:

  • Capture your learners’ favourite thing about college life as a video clip or written testimonial along with a fitting picture. Publish this across social media while hashtagging #LoveOurColleges #Natspec in your post, and we will RT selected content.
  • Capture the thoughts of tutors, LSAs, therapists or other professionals on college life or the college’s contribution to the community, and learners’ development as a short video or written testimonial and publish this with a picture on social media while hashtagging #LoveOurColleges #Natspec in your post, and we will RT selected content.
  • Encourage learners and staff to get involved with sharing good news and testimonials about college life, their aspirations and how college life helps them achieve this while tagging the relevant hashtags #LoveOurColleges #Natspec in your post, and we will RT selected content.
  • Share outstanding facts about your colleges on social media, it’s achievements, supporting learners, improving outcomes for education for learners with SEND while hashtagging #LoveOurColleges #Natspec in your post, and we will RT selected content.
  • Write to your MP highlighting the issues and inviting them to visit your college – templates are on the website.  For specific policy asks regarding specialist colleges, use the Natspec policy priorities document


If you have any particular campaigns planned – let us know so we can provide support and assistance where possible.

Please visit for more guidance and information.

You can also find a full list of activities you can do to support the campaign here. 

You can find resources like the official logo, infographics and more to support your campaign here.

Natspec Network: September highlights

Firstly, welcome back to the first month of the new academic year to college staff and learners; old and new. We hope you had a refreshing break and have settled in well to college life. We have plenty of great news from the sector, including student achievements, college news and new training and events to look out for.

In today’s article you’ll find:

  • PossABILITY performance: disabilities and employment
  • Doncaster Deaf Trust opens new classroom with support from local businesses
  • Natspec college students embark on new journeys
  • Key facts in SEND FE
  • Colleges Week 2018 #loveourcolleges
  • Upcoming events for SEND professionals

PossABILITY performance: disabilities and employment

Orpheus centre is running a special screening of a fantastic new documentary by Abigail Clay, about people with Down’s Syndrome in employment.

Abigail’s sister Claire, who presents the film, is a former Orpheus student.

The screening will take place at the Orpheus Centre, in Godstone, on Wednesday 10th October 2018 at 5.30pm

This will provide a fantastic opportunity for local businesses and services to get together to discuss opportunities for people with learning disabilities in the workplace.

The 27-minute film will be followed by a brief panel discussion featuring the director, some of the stars of the film and representatives from Orpheus.

You can watch the trailer for the film here.

A glass of wine and canapés will be provided.

To register for your free ticket please visit our website.

Doncaster Deaf Trust opens new classroom with support from local businesses

Doncaster Deaf Trust has opened a new classroom with the help of businesses from a local retail outlet. Lakeside Village, a shopping outlet with 45 stores in its centre donated tables and chairs, enabling the trust to offer additional lessons and better support students.

Read the full story here.

Natspec college students embark on new journeys

September is an important month for students at specialist colleges; old, existing and new. Former students are moving onto their next chapter, whether that’s transitioning to independent living or moving onto further education. Existing students are coming back to college and setting goals and achieving milestones in their learning and development while new students encounter a new environment altogether. Each of these transitions are incredibly important stages for learners to go through as they meet new people and settle in to new places.

It is positive to see learners express their desire to continue to learn and develop academically. For example, former New College Worcester pupils: Zoe, Elle and Sarah have performed phenomenally in their A-levels and have ventured off to university to continue their formal education.

Zoe, student from NCW
Elle and Sarah from NCW
 Elle and Sarah







However, formal education is only one option of many for moving on to bigger and better things, for many of our learners, transitioning to independent living is a challenging yet fruitful phase – read more about students moving on to a new chapter of their lives.

Key facts in SEND FE

Natspec has collated the latest data on post-16 specialist further education and presented them in this latest blog.

To keep up to date with information about SEND legislation, trends, news, events and more, subscribe to our newsletter.

Colleges Week 2018 #LoveOurColleges

From Monday 15 – Friday 19 October 2018, Natspec will be participating in #LoveOurColleges week. The week is about celebrating the contributions colleges and college staff make to the lives of learners in the country and how they benefit their local communities. Colleges are central in the English education system and educate and train 2.2 million people every year.

Love our colleges logo

As a specialist provider, funding cuts and under-resourced facilities have left colleges feeling unsupported and unheard as the costly requirements for addressing the needs of each and every individual learner rises and becomes complex.

This is why we believe that #LoveOurColleges week is an excellent opportunity for Natspec colleges to highlight the best of themselves, whether that’s brilliant tutors, events or services, classes or happy students and outcomes. Spotlight the people who uphold the meaning of ‘love your colleges’ and show the importance of fair funding and consideration for colleges everywhere.

Please visit for more guidance and information.

You can also find a full list of activities you can do to support the campaign here. 

You can find resources like the official logo, infographics and more to support your campaign here.

Upcoming events

TechAbility conference

Do some of your students with SEND struggle to access the curriculum using traditional technology? Do you want to make learning accessible to everyone, without buying expensive equipment or software?

Assistive Technology isn’t just about a different mouse or keyboard, it involves the use of technology to improve access to all areas of learning.

TechAbility 2018 will show you how to use technology to make sure learners have the access they need. Get your questions answered and discover innovative ways to improve assistive technology in your organisation. You will have an exclusive chance to hear from leaders in the sector about best practice and meeting the expectations Ofsted has in this area.

We have an outstanding range of experts and specialists who will demonstrate the benefits of technologies such as virtual reality, coding for SEND, access to iPads, technology use in exams, voice control and more.

The keynote will be delivered by Alistair McNaught, subject specialist at Jisc. He will be “Peeling back the layers of accessible practice”; discussing what you need to do to ensure all learners have access, not just those identified as needing support. At the end of the day a panel of leaders and experts in the sector will answer your questions on how to improve your approach to AT across your organisation.

16 October | West Midlands

Book your place

Supported internships and South West Network

An interactive workshop delivered through Natspec Transform for organisations who are planning to introduce supported internships or improve or expand their existing provision. This workshop will:

  • introduce you to a range of supported internship models
  • explore planning considerations such as staffing, employer engagement, partnership-working and recruitment of learners
  • provide you with examples of effective practice
  • help you review and improve existing provision
  • give you the opportunity to work together to tackle specific challenges

Book your place | 7th November | Leeds

Book your place | 5th December | London

Meanwhile, there is a further opportunity to discuss Supported Internships at the South West Autumn Network, open to all FE providers, on 29 October. Book your place.

Essential SEND Managers Programme

The Education and Training foundation, in partnership with National Star College and The Leadership Centre are launching an innovative new Essential SEND Managers Programme. This programme will provide bespoke leadership skills and specific SEND knowledge to new or existing SEND managers from general and specialist further education, training and offender learning.  The programme will offer two full days of training in Systems Leadership and two full days of training in SEND knowledge. Delegates will have the option of attending either or both programmes, dependent on individual requirements.

For full details, see the attached flyer.

The Leadership module – BOOK NOW 19 November and 15 January: London, or 23 January and 6 March, Birmingham

SEND Knowledge Module – Maximising Potential – BOOK NOW3 and 4 December, London, or 26 and 27 February, Cheltenham

Coming soon

Learning Support Assistant workshop

This workshop is an interactive session for learning support managers or managers of SEND provision in the FE sector. If you already manage learning support assistants (LSAs) and are ready to review and maximise the effectiveness of this resource in a collaborative and positive way, then this workshop is for you.

Uniquely, managers are asked to bring along an LSA to the training, ensuring that collaborative practice is at the heart of their approach from the start.

This workshop will be available later this term as an external training session or can be delivered in-house for an individual provider and any partners they wish to involve. Register your interest in an external training session in your region or to request in-house training.


Key Facts: High needs provision in FE

Natspec has collated some of the latest data on SEND in further education covering key trends, such as:

  • The number of 16 to 19-year olds with an Education, Health and Care Plan has increased by 13% since 2017, and the number of 20-25 year olds has increased by 84%
  • There are now over 47,000 students aged 16 to 25 funded through the high needs system.  Over 29,000 of these are educated in colleges, specialist colleges and independent learning providers.
  • There are over half a million students in Further Education with a self-declared learning difficulty or disability
  • Since 2017, there have been 28 providers approved as new specialist colleges.
  • Natspec colleges educate over 4,000 students, and over 91% of students are in colleges judged Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.


The postcode lottery of post-19 education provision

Natspec’s Policy Officer Ruth Perry shares her take on the conversation about post-19 education provision for learners with SEND.

There’s always more to learn.

‘We’re always learning,’ a highly experienced college principal said to me the other day. It’s certainly true for me in my job role as the policy officer at Natspec. The external world keeps on changing: there are new initiatives, new funding arrangements, new inspection frameworks for me to get my head around. Colleagues ask questions which require me to do some digging around before I can find the answer. There are new research reports to read.  I’m constantly meeting people with different experiences and perspectives who deepen my understanding of things I thought I already knew.

If I am always learning because of the challenges and the stimulation that come with my job, the same is true for learners in our member colleges, all of whom have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).  Throughout their time at college, they are challenged, encouraged and stimulated to keep learning, even when progress is slow, and the process is fraught with difficulty. What they learn can have a considerable impact on their future lives: it might open the possibility of employment, further or higher education, or the chance to live in their own home; it may mean that they can have an active social life and participate in their communities; it will almost certainly result in them having greater agency in their own lives.

Extending opportunities for learning is something to celebrate – but is it really happening?

So, it’s frustrating when we hear of cases where a local authority has decided that a young person, having reached the age of 19, will derive no further benefit from education.  At Natspec, we were delighted that the SEND reforms embraced children and young people from 0 – 25.  We recognised that it wouldn’t be sensible or desirable for all, or perhaps most, young people with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHC) to stay in education until they were 25.  But young people having the option to keep learning – and be funded to do so – for an additional period beyond the age of 18, as appropriate to the individual, was something to celebrate.

Learning support assistant and Students

In practice, it doesn’t seem to be working that way. There is currently huge inconsistency in decisions made about whether to cease an EHC Plan once a young person turns 19. The law requires local authorities to ‘have regard to whether the educational or training outcomes specified in the plan have been achieved’’, before deciding to cease to maintain a plan. Some local authorities are interpreting ‘educational or training outcomes’ as only those relating to formal qualifications or leading directly to paid employment – unlawfully according to IPSEA, the charity which provides free legal advice on SEND issues.


What do we mean by ‘educational outcomes’?

Girl smiling while holding a paint brush in art class

Young people whose learning programmes are focused on independent living skills, communication and self-advocacy, on improving their ability to maintain good health or to develop relationships, and/or to make an active contribution to their community in a volunteer role are often denied the opportunity to reach their potential. Sometimes the educational outcomes in a young person’s plan lack ambition or aspiration, so that after a year of further education, the outcomes have already been achieved and, despite the young person’s capacity to progress further, the guillotine comes down.  All of this can seem especially unfair when two learners on the same course, each with very similar needs and each making steady progress, are treated differently because of the policies or practices of their home local authorities.

Decisions are being based on cost, rather than young people’s needs.

Learning support assistants helping student in a classroom activity

The shortfall in high needs funding seems to be biting particularly for the post-19 age group. Several local authorities have consulted in recent months on how best to manage the limited budget so that it is spent fairly; reducing funding for post-19 provision has been posed as an option in these consultations. It isn’t surprising that local authorities have identified post-19 provision as a ‘problem area’. Until the SEND reforms came in, local authorities had no responsibility for post-19 learners.  Suddenly they have a whole new cohort of young people who are entitled to additional support – but no significant increase in funding.  In fact, there doesn’t appear to have been any national costing exercise to identify the funding needed to match the increase in young people entitled to support. How are local authorities supposed to cope? Inevitably, they are making cost-driven decisions rather than decisions based on the needs of young people.

Sufficient funds must be made available if the ambitions of the SEND reforms are to become an actuality.

In an ideal world, there would be funding for all of us to engage in lifelong learning, but that’s clearly not practical. The government must make decisions about how public money is spent and where funding priorities lie. In introducing the Children and Families Act, they made a commitment to fund continuing education and training for young people with an EHC plan beyond the age of 18 where they needed additional time to achieve their goals.  We now need to see that happening in practice. That means all parties having a shared understanding that educational and training outcomes can be wide-ranging and inclusive of learning relating to all four of the preparing for adulthood pathways (not just employment) and that those outcomes should always be ambitious. Crucially, it also means the government committing sufficient funds to the high needs pot to ensure that all young people who are entitled to continue education have access to it.