Transition - Getting it Right

This week's guest blog comes from Amba, one of the FLARE members.

Transition in the context of Special Educational Needs and disability (SEND) is the process of moving from high school to college or university. For students with disabilities, it is essential for the student to have a smooth and successful transition to help them to settle in. Some students that go into college, university or other form of higher education with special needs do not have the right support they deserve in order to fulfil their potential. 

We all find the transition from high school to higher education scary, but for students with special educational needs (SEN); it is especially hard as they are exposed to unfamiliar surroundings, which can make them feel very uncomfortable. Therefore it is vital to provide them with the right support during this difficult but exciting period in their lives. Rather than being avoided, students with SEN should feel included and welcomed. Before the students start college or higher education, it is a good idea to put the relevant extra support arrangements in place. This could include visits or early start programmes where future students with SEN go in without many other students around. This is to help the student build up their confidence with the new environment and all the relevant people who are involved.

From year 9, all Education, Health and Care plans (ECHPs) do include a section on planning for transition.

Reforms to the SEND system should mean that children and young people are better prepared for adulthood. The majority of young people with EHC plans complete further education with their peers by age 19, and our expectation is that this will continue. However, we recognize that some young people with SEND need longer to complete and consolidate their education and training. (

In many cases, transition works well if the student is moving on to further education (Level 3 or below). The difficulty arises when a student with an ECHP wants to move onto higher education (Level 4 or above). In this case, the ECHP is discontinued. Students then have to go through the very long and drawn out process of applying for disabled students allowance (DSA), which can be very time consuming and off-putting. There are many forms to fill in and the language used can be quite complicated. The timing of which is very important as support should be in place for the September

Most universities do have learning support/wellbeing departments. However, they all vary with the kind and amount of support that is offered. Despite the fact that early start programmes are very useful for people with SEN, not all universities offer this service.

The University of Derby suggest that their ‘Get Ahead’ programme, which is usually 1-2 days, helps students with the following:

  • A one to one meeting with a practitioner from the Student Wellbeing Service to discuss preparation for, and support needs, at university. 
  • Early enrolment, campus and library tours to help you find your way around
  • A talk from current students who have successfully made the transition to university
  • An opportunity to get to know other students and find out what the Students Union offers, for example clubs and societies
  • A focus on the transition from sixth form/college to university and the importance of taking responsibility 
  • An opportunity to sample inclusive sports
  • Various other workshops and social events

Personally, I suffer from a genetic condition, dyspraxia and learning needs. The problems that I would face daily is getting lost, making friends, accessing lectures, organisation and time-keeping, which automatically increases my anxiety levels. All of these simple tasks are often overlooked by young people who don’t have SEN. The early start programmes are ideal for me because I would need somebody to show me around and to make me feel comfortable without feeling overwhelmed at the amount of students in the same place at the same time. Also supported accommodation, note taker in lectures, access to a computer to summarise everything in the lectures and a printed handout of all the relevant documents beforehand. I could discuss all of my worries at the early start events.

To summarise the 2 key points that I am trying to highlight regarding Transition is the need for continuation of EHC plans into university and the setting up in all universities of early start programmes.

With the right support, we can all succeed.

Thank you.

Amba Ragbir is FLARE member currently going through Transition. Amba would like to thank her family and school for supporting her in writing this blog.