What if provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) was drawn from the services offered by both a specialist and a general FE college, rather than just one of these provider types?
Imagine an approach to CPD where, rather than each buying in external training, specialist and general FE colleges exchanged expertise, including that of experts by experience (yes, their students).
What if a general and a specialist FE college each opened up their contrasting sites to one another’s students to maximise their learning opportunities?
How might progression and retention be improved if students made a staged move from a specialist to a general FE college, with a period of time with a foot in both camps?
These are the kind of big questions that 13 general and specialist FE college partnerships have been exploring over the last eight months – with a view to doing some things very differently from September 2022. Recruited to a year-long project jointly managed by Natspec and the Association of Colleges (AoC), with additional funding from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), 26 colleges have challenged themselves to think outside of the box – or the current SEND in FE system – and investigate how working in partnership could allow them to implement creative solutions.
Our interim report on the ETF website captures the progress of the partnerships to date and some of the key learning from the project. There is clear evidence that partnership-working can make a positive difference for FE students with SEND through
- extending or enriching learning opportunities for young people
- enabling students to progress further or more fully reach their potential
- upskilling the current and future workforce to better meet student need
- supporting greater inclusion.
Over the next couple of months, the partnerships will be focusing on how to turn their pilot activity into business as usual so that these exciting new ways of working are fully sustainable. They will also be identifying where systemic changes, for example to funding or commissioning, will be needed to facilitate these new approaches.
Natspec and AoC will be capturing all of this learning in a summary report, including recommendations for government and other stakeholders, to be published at the end of the summer. We will also be feeding key points into our SEND Green Paper responses to help ensure reforms to the SEND system support the creative ways of working being demonstrated in this project.
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