Tag Archives: tertiary college

Harry Gets An Offer of a Residential Placement

I now know the meaning of a ‘red letter day’. On Monday we got an offer for Harry of a residential placement at our (and his) first choice college. I was unable to open the letter straightaway; instead I had to make myself a coffee in preparation. When I read the words, “I am pleased to be able to offer Harry a residential placement…” I felt tears spring to my eyes. This was what we had been waiting four weeks to hear.

Attached to the letter were a further four pages: one was a summary of their pre-assessment report. Another was a more detailed assessment of Harry’s numeracy and literacy both of which indicate that he is working at a Pre-Entry Level. The remaining pages give an outline of the programme of learning on offer and a provisional weekly timetable, both of which fill me with hope and delight that they will provide Harry with a fulfilling and meaningful time at college.

I realise that I am jumping the gun somewhat in setting so much store by this offer. And that I probably shouldn’t even be blogging about it. But I intended this blog to be ‘warts and all’. So, if, ultimately, Harry doesn’t get this place those who have read the blog will have a sense of what he has missed out on.

The offer letter makes it clear that funding approval is yet to be granted (and is something we will not receive confirmation of until May 2013) and mentions a fee banding of F. I managed to find out that that indicated annual fees of £42,000 which is an extraordinary amount of money. However, I have to remain optimistic that the Local Authority will approve funding, especially since there is no provision for Harry locally.

So, forgive me if I wax on about the offer but I find it interesting in that it is so specific. They have obviously spent the last four weeks working out an individual programme for Harry which is:

  • The development of Functional and Key skills, which will be integrated throughout his curriculum (his curriculum!)
  • A general programme of vocational education with access to external accreditation
  • An Independent Living Skills programme to enable him to achieve the maximum independence possible for post-college life (be still my beating heart…)
  • A Personal Development programme to encourage him to acquire the skills for citizenship and support in forming relationships with his peers (something which Harry desperately needs)
  • Teaching matched to his identified preferred learning style (verbal instruction in a practical setting)
  • Leisure activities which will include out of college trips, supported use of public transport to access local facilities and a wide range of sporting options and clubs, plus a full programme of College entertainment during evenings and weekends (sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?)

This last element is not perceived by LAs to be of importance. When applying for college places we have been advised not to mention extra-curricular activities as a reason for applying. But it is absolutely vital that our children can have access to a social life, especially during this formative years of late teens going into early twenties. When a neurotypical child goes to university one of the key reasons for going (whether parents like it or not) is to experience the social life of a student. Why shouldn’t our autistic children have the same opportunities?

The offer letter goes on to detail Harry’s support requirements as follows:

  • Specialist teaching and enabler for 28hrs/week (1:4)
  • Structured programme of residential learning – 3hrs of 1:1 equivalent
  • Social, creative and leisure activities – 1hr of 1:1 equivalent
  • Support with personal care and activities of daily living at approximately 1:7 making 7.85hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
  • Medical Centre support 0.4hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
  • Immediate access to counselling support 0.2hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
  • Immediate intervention for emotional support 0.2hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week
  • Speech & language therapy 0.25hrs of 1:1 equivalent per week (this is the only area I have a slight quibble with, it doesn’t seem very much)
  • At the end of the first term the College Assessment Tutor will prepare and forward a Baseline Assessment Report
  • Guidance by the College Assessment Tutor to develop his Individual Learning Goals
  • A first year review meeting to discuss his Individual Learning Programme and progress
  • A three-weekly 1:1 Personal Tutorial to review his progress and support needs
  • A Transition Review meeting in the first or second term of his third year to plan his post-college opportunities

In summary the college will provide 13.5hrs of 1:1 teaching equivalent and 8.9hrs of 1:1 care and therapy equivalent.

Finally, the college attached what it refers to as a ‘pro-forma timetable’ showing that if he went, Harry would be doing, e.g. Breakfast Life Skills on a Friday morning from 8.15am till 10am, a Vocational Course leading towards Skills for Working Life with Speech and Language Therapy integrates on Monday afternoons and Community Access 1:3 on Friday afternoons.

I can’t tell you how happy that single page makes me. His days will be filled from 9am till 5pm with meaningful learning, extra-curricular activities he loves and opportunities for integration. At this very moment my cup is much more than half-full; it is overflowing. And I’m going to savour it for some time to come.

The End of Statements

Last week I attended a Pathfinder workshop on the government’s green paper into the future of the assessment process for children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND).

It was entitled “A new way to help young adults to plan what they [sic] want for their future: a single assessment process and one ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ bringing together support for children and young people from birth to 25, and focusing on better life outcomes beyond school or college.”

You will notice that this title mentions ‘young adults’ and it became clear that the primary focus was on school leavers in the area aged 16 plus. It may be that other workshops focus their attention on other age groups and I would urge parents to find out if there is a workshop in their area and attend in order to make their views known.

The government tender to run these workshops was won by Preparing for Adulthood and the one I went to was attended by about 30 people, mostly from the education, health & social care organisations in the area. They included deputy head teachers of Special Schools, staff from Further Education Colleges, representatives of council departments and careers advisers but noticeably few parents. Although some parents attended under the auspices of the local Parents & Carers Forum (PACF) I counted only two independent parents/carers, of whom I was one.

It was made clear from the outset that what goes into the new bill to reform SEN assessments will be informed by what comes out of these pathfinder workshops. There is a sense of urgency to reform and so this new Single Plan is going to come into being quite quickly. However, quickly in legislative terms (2014) turns out to be not so quick for those children/young adults and their families who are desperate to get some sort of plan in place now!

This new document will replace the Statement of Special Educational Needs. The intention is that it will be formulated by the young person and their family and then relevant bodies will have to work out how best to meet that person’s needs. If anyone has ever been involved in Person Centred Reviews or Person Centred Planning then the new document will follow that sort of format.

The government is looking to learn from previous programmes which you may (or in my case, may not) have heard of, including: Transition Support Programme, Getting a Life and Valuing Employment Now. It will also build in elements of existing documents including the Statement of SEN, the Learning for Living and Work Framework and the various needs assessments questionnaires.

During the course of the day we worked through topics such as:

  • What is your vision for SEND young adults in the area?
  • What is working and not working now?
  • The Single Plan: do person-centred planning questions help?
  • What should the next steps be after today?

Of course, as is the tendency with most of these type of events, those in attendance have their own particular agendas. They all want to keep their jobs, their departments and, most importantly, their budgets. However, what will change in future is that there will be joint commissioning, hence references to the ‘Single Assessment’, ‘Single Plan’ and the ‘Education, Health & Care Plan’ in which all services currently engaged in supporting a young person will have to work together.

I have to say that, although we were few in number, parents’ voices were heard (loudly and with some emotion) and our opinions noted.  We were all of the mind that we wanted our children to have the opportunity to attend residential colleges. Whereas local day colleges give students the chance to role-play life skills; only colleges with a residential aspect give students the chance to put those life skills into daily practice in a meaningful way.

If for no other reason, such events are useful opportunities to meet those people whose decisions directly affect your child. For example, I talked to teachers from Harry’s past and present special schools, managed to bend the ear of his Connexions advisor and made contact with members of the adult disability services team. I would advise any parent to do the same. Get your face and name known, along with that of your child.

I hope it was enough…

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?

The Road to Tertiary College

We have reached a key stage in Harry’s continuing education. When the current academic year ends in nine weeks’ time he will have only one more year left at his current school.

Harry is 18. When he left his special school at 16 he was lucky enough to secure a sixth-form place at another school very close by. The sixth-form course lasts 3 years and so he is 2/3 of the way through the course.

However, applications to tertiary colleges need to be made well in advance of enrolment. For example, to start in September 2013 applications for places have to be made by the preceding December 2012. And in order to submit an application you need to have trawled through suitable colleges, attended Open Days, made visits and – in some cases – taken your child for assessments.

All of this takes time.

Some colleges hold their Open Days in the autumn which is very close to the application deadline. For this reason you may find yourself attending an Open Day almost 2 years before your child is due to leave school. This is what we found ourselves doing in November 2011.

As part of the decision-making process, parents are required to make an approach to their nearest college of further education, regardless of whether they think that college can meet their child’s needs.

This seems to me to be completely pointless and a waste of everyone’s time.

However, approaches to residential colleges will not even be considered until and unless the nearest local college has been contacted.

And so, we jump through the hoop!