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Findings and recommendations

Young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs want to be more effectively involved in planning school-to-college transitions and exit pathways from college.

Many of the young people we met during the ‘What about us?’ project told us that they felt anxious when things changed.

For some young people, even small changes mattered a lot. The most difficult thing was not knowing or not being told about changes. Young people felt they could cope better if they were prepared.

The young people we spoke to told us about their difficult experiences when they moved from one school to another or when they moved from school to college. A lot of them had felt very worried and anxious at this time. They were worried before they moved – and they were worried when they started at the new place.

Some people had been given a chance to visit the new class, or school or college they were moving to. They were able to find out for themselves all about the differences at this new place and this made them feel happier.

The young people found it especially helpful when they were able to hear what things were like from other young people. They wanted to know practical things about what to do, who to ask for help and where to go.

It was helpful for young people to find out about the different names for places or the ways people were addressed in their new placements.

For example, at college, students often call the people who teach them ‘tutors’ and use their first names. In school, pupils usually call their teachers by their formal names. At school, pupils go to the ‘dining hall’ or the ‘canteen’ at lunchtime. At college, students use the ‘refectory’ or ‘cafes’ for meals.

Young people said it was important to know about these things before starting in a new place. During our project, some groups of young people made presentations or information packs to show new students how things worked and who to talk to in the new school or college setting.

We suggest:

  • Schools and colleges should work directly with young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs to plan carefully for transitions between settings and into post-college opportunities
  • Schools and colleges should enable young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs to support one another at times of transition.
  1. University of Cambridge
  2. Big Lottery Fund
  3. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
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