Tag Archives: Connexions

Assessment Day at Residential College

Last week we took Harry to our (and his) first choice of residential college. I’ll call it College 1.

It was our second visit. In November 2011 we did the rounds of Natspec colleges (see Blogroll) and College 1 was on our shortlist. Those on the shortlist all had certain things in common: we wanted a college that wasn’t too big (and wasn’t too small), there had to be plenty going on with a good choice of courses and, when we visited, it had to ‘feel’ right to us and to Harry.

We had already visited two other colleges that week. College 1 was the only one that wanted to assess Harry. So, on that occasion he had two hours of assessments whilst we pottered around the campus. There’s a lot to see: we shopped in the farm shop, had coffee in the cafe, lunch in the restaurant and bought Christmas presents in the craft shop and garden centre. It also gave us an opportunity to get a feel for the place and we were genuinely impressed with what we saw and experienced.

As we were leaving we asked Harry which college he liked best (I always mix up the list when doing this so that he doesn’t automatically choose the thing I say last) and he picked College 1. I had done this when we had two colleges to compare and he had chosen the same college as us. Good taste obviously runs in the family!

After that initial visit in 2011 the college had sent a brief (1/2 page) report to us which was also copied in to our Connexions advisor. This stated that we would need to take Harry back to the college for a further full day of assessments and we later found out that this would start at 10.30am and finish at 4pm.

We waited until the weather had improved before undertaking this trip. It is a 3hr journey each way and means we have to make special arrangements for our daughter and our pets to be taken care of! The college’s distance from home is something we have talked about at length since, if Harry does gets a place here, we will have to make this round-trip journey six times a year. (And looking a long way into the future, what if Harry establishes relationships or finds work in the area and decides he wants to put down permanent roots? Yet another aspect of residential college for parents to bear in mind).

On ‘Assessment Day’ Harry had to get up an hour earlier than usual. Fortunately he’s quite good at being an early riser. Our trip was relatively easy and after a brief stop we found we had made good time and arrived a few minutes early. A member of the college staff met us in reception and explained to Harry how the day would be split up. Before lunch he would be doing classroom-type assessments and after lunch they would be assessing his practical skills. Harry was not overly impressed at the idea of having to work. I think he thought he was there for a day out! And that was it. He was whisked away and we were left to our own devices.

We can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we have been out together as a couple recently. What to do? It was with a lightness of spirit that we felt relaxed enough to be able to look around tourist attractions, enter tea shops and have lunch without worrying about Harry wandering off or touching things he shouldn’t be, or picking up rubbish off the floor.

Back at the college, Harry arrived back in reception at 4pm and we were free to go home. No feedback, no idea of what the assessments consisted of. That was it. Because Harry is so reticent to talk about himself all we could get out of him was that he had been washing cars. One of the modules on offer is car maintenance so we can only assume he was being assessed on his skills relevant to that aspect of the course… My husband tracked down a member of staff who simply said that we would received a written report in due course.

And so we wait. Every time the letterbox clangs my heart leaps in anticipation. And dread. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a positive result.

Assessments Over!


Red Tape & Bureaucracy Wastes Parents’ Time

Our preference is for Harry to attend a residential college. We have gone through all the processes listed in my previous post: read the NATSPEC directory from cover-to-cover, decided which colleges to visit, attended Open Days, made visits & taken Harry for assessments.

We picked out three colleges and visited them all within a space of ten days in Autumn 2011. In so doing we were easily able to make comparisons between the colleges because all the visits were fresh in our minds. All three of us came to the same conclusion: we dismissed one college and had picked the same two remaining colleges as our first and second preferences.

The process is far from over, but as far as application deadlines are concerned we are ahead of the game.

However, in order to comply with advice given by our Connexions advisor we also have to approach our nearest college of further education. I bit the bullet this week and decided to contact them.

I had Harry’s most recent Statement of SEN to hand and phoned the Learning Support Unit to ask them about the only course they run which is suitable for Harry. The upshot was that Harry was nowhere near the required entry level in the National Curriculum. Whereas he is at M4 & M5 (Milestone levels) for literacy & numeracy; the minimum entry level for the course is Entry Level 3.

So, my question is, why do we need to continue with the farce of making an application? Harry’s most recent Statement should be sufficient to prove to any funding body that our ‘nearest local college’ cannot meet his needs.

I asked for this to be put in writing (a requirement in order for us to pursue residential college applications) and was told that it was not a priority for them, i.e. because Harry is not due to start college until September 2013.

A basic e-mail would suffice. Is that so much to ask for?