These materials have been developed for transition staff who are working with young people with SEND, transitioning in or out of FE colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic. They should help practitioners focus on the quality and effectiveness of remote transition practices and processes.
The materials include:
- guidance for staff on planning, delivery and monitoring of high-quality transition processes for students at home
- effective practice examples
- resources developed by staff working in Natspec colleges.
Please be aware that any policy or procedural documents shared by colleges should be treated with caution. Colleges are frequently updating internal policies as government guidelines change; the materials presented were up-to-date when collected in early May 2020, but may no longer be so. Given the variety of colleges in the sector and the highly individualised needs of our students, all college-based resources may need considerable adaptation for your setting.
The pack has been developed by Natspec, working with a group of staff from a range of member colleges. Contributors include:
- Caroline Andrews, Head of Admissions at Coleg Elidyr
- Martin Gilchrist Burnard, Transition Coordinator at Orpheus College
- Ewa Diezek, Head of Personal Development at Birtenshaw College
- Clare Foster, Head of College at Birtenshaw College
- Janice Gormley, Deputy Principal at Queen Alexandra College
- Alice James, Transitions Data Administrator at Coleg Elidyr
- Helen Mills, Education Transitions & Reviewing Officer at Sense College
- Ruth Nixon, Student Programme Manager at Camphill Wakefield
- Jacob Prytherch, Education & Learning Coordinator at Glasshouse College
- Stacey Oakley, Assistant Headteacher at Newfriars College
- Helen Sawyer-Grund, Transition & Work Experience Co-ordinator at Newfriars College
- Kirby Shepherd, Head of Deployment & Support Standards at National Star College
- Morven Simpson, Admissions & Marketing at Camphill Wakefield
- Amanda Sinclair, Lead IAG Officer at National Star College.
We are very grateful to all the contributors for sharing their expertise.
Transition In to Colleges
Assessing potential students
You can use this checklist to help plan transition activities where prospective students have yet to be assessed for their placement. Wherever possible, try to follow your normal transition-planning processes, adapting each stage where remote activity must replace face-to-face contact.
Accessing information from previous placements and engaging relevant people
- Confirm lead person at the current provider and at the potential new provider and ensure their details are shared with all relevant parties.
Examples of ways in which communication between providers can be tracked and monitored.
- Collect and safely store up-to-date contact details and preferred method of contact for prospective student and other contacts (e.g key personnel in schools, social worker, careers advisor)
- Share pre-assessment and / or initial assessment questionnaires, using most appropriate methods and follow up to make sure these are completed.
- Remember that all existing protocols around sharing information (e.g. relating to GDPR or to accessibility of information) still apply.
- Arrange virtual meetings with family (plus additional individuals they wish to involve), social workers, other professionals as appropriate, using preferred method of contact and taking into account accessibility requirements
- Request reports from contributors to the Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan, and follow up to gain further information where necessary, including through phone, video or email contact.
- Decide who should be involved in remote assessment to ensure as full and detailed assessment as possible. A multi-disciplinary approach is likely to be needed. Professionals might include social services, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, behaviour support staff, sensory support staff, and assistive technologists. Keep a record of their contact details.
- Consider how best to capture evidence for assessment purposes. Video evidence can be useful in relation to, for example, eating and drinking, physiotherapy programmes, mobility, occupational therapy, and communication preferences and abilities. You may need to offer parents and / or professionals a platform to upload video evidence to support an application. You will certainly need to develop policies to cover permissions, GDPR, privacy and dignity, and retention and deletion of information schedules.
- Ensure student involvement. Just as you would make the student the centre of any face-to-face assessment, you should be thoroughly involving them in remote assessment. You could do this by, for example:
- sending activities for students to complete at home with their families
- including visual / simple written instructions for any tasks set
- holding virtual meetings with the student and key people they want to support them.
- Prioritise those aspects of assessment that will help identify how to enable students to start safely at college, bearing in mind that recent experiences during the pandemic may result in extra (although possibly temporary) support needs.
- Consider how time away from school or having a reduced learning programme during the pandemic may have impacted on the young person; try to establish how different levels or approaches to support in the home may affect your assessment outcomes.
Agreeing a plan before applying for funding
- If your assessment leads to an offer of a place, set out a clear transition plan including details of support and equipment needs. It may be more difficult than normal to coordinate the work of a multi-disciplinary team in bringing the plan together, but this remains vital.
- Share the draft plan electronically with the young person, family and other professionals and be ready to respond to queries and requests, bringing relevant people together virtually to resolve any issues.
Caveats around remote assessment findings
- Share with families and with funding authorities any uncertainties that result from having to undertake a remote rather than face-to-face assessment
- Explain that remote assessment may not have allowed the college to identify the young person’s support needs as fully as normal processes would have done. This might result in:
- a longer transition or initial assessment period once the student starts at college
- support levels being adjusted
- a move to a slighlty different programme or pathway
- a need for funding levels to be revised (up or down)
- amendments to the agreed plan to better meet the needs of the young person.
Securing agreement to fund
- Continue to work closely with local authorities, flagging up potential issues and keeping them aware of potential hold ups, particularly those caused by the current situation
- Agree any changes to deadlines, balancing the urgency needed to finalise arrangements for students and families with a sensitivity around the context in which everyone is working at the moment
- Make sure the college sticks to deadlines, sending all relevant documentation to LAs as early as possible and courteously chase other parties who are not meeting agreed deadlines
Planning transition for learners whose places are agreed
Once places are agreed, colleges will need to work out new ways to help young people and their families prepare to move to a new setting. While onsite visits and face-to-face meetings are currently not possible, colleges will need to be creative about how they support their incoming students to prepare for what should be an exciting new stage in their lives. Existing transition plans may need adapting while new ones will need to be put together taking into account the current limitations.
Introducing learners to college life
Learners might normally have made one or more visits to college during the summer term. These might now not be possible. However, you can still give young people a feel of college through:
- Welcome packs – tailored to the cognitive/sensory/physical needs of each student
- FAQ booklets
- Student and parent handbooks
- Virtual tours (consider auditory, video, signed and/or tactile tours to suit needs of student); existing students still in college to take the lead on showing social or residential areas
- Photo albums sharing images of key places and key staff
- Social stories
- Virtual meetings with existing students
- Virtual meetings with key staff
- Private social media groups in which new students and their families can get to know one another
- Student blogs.
As government guidance changes, and where staff availability allows, you may be able to offer site visits, including overnight stays where appropriate, during the summer holidays.
Understanding the requirements of their new programme
In the absence of taster days or sessions, where appropriate, you can help prepare learners for their new programme by
- sending home bite-sized activities relevant to their chosen curriculum pathway.
- providing links to online transition exercises
- offering a virtual meeting with a course tutor or key worker or providing a video explanation of the course
- setting up a virtual teaching session for an individual or small group of learners.
Planning for the early days in college
You may need to re-think the way in which you manage September starts. You will need to take into account the fact that some young people will have been at home rather than school or had a very different experience of school from normal over the past few months. Depending on the individual learner’s needs, you might consider
- an extended transition period in the autumn term with a greater focus on settling in, recovering skills and establishing routines
- additional assessments, particularly where pre-entry assessments were done virtually
- a phased start to college, gradually building up the number of days.
Depending on what is required by government guidelines with regard to safe practice, you may need to prepare students for a very different learning environment than normal. For example, you may need to explain the use of PPE, social distancing rules, or hygiene requirements in your setting. There are a number of other resources available on the Natspec website to support you to do this. For some learners, more person-centred approaches such as individualised social stories may be needed.
Ensuring new students will be safe from the day they start at college
Colleges will need to have robust virtual risk assessments that allow every student to be safe from their first day in college. These may need to be reviewed more quickly than usual. Depending on government guidelines, they may also need to take into account risks specifically associated with COVID-19. It may help to discuss with their school the risk assessments that have been undertaken and reviewed throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Transition Out of Colleges: Preparing for Adulthood
Colleges need to continue working with young people at home, their families, local authorities and other partners to support transition out of college.
Revisiting the transition plan
In consultation with students and their supporters at home, you will need to consider whether the transition plan remains valid. It may be that new thinking is needed about a young person’s next steps, for example in terms of where they will live or what support they will need. Colleges should remain aspirational for their students and encourage families to do the same. A pre-transition questionnaire can be used effectively to help review the plan and to identify any extra support needed, including therapeutic, logistical and advisory.
Where the original plans remain valid, it is highly likely that the delivery of the plan will need to change. In particular, visits to post-college settings may not be possible. Telephone and/or video link contact with new supporters and social stories introducing learners to new environments and routines may help. Colleges may need to be proactive about requesting this kind of interaction, information or support from a new care or education provider.
All amendments to the transition plan should be agreed and carefully documented.
For a few students whose successful transition is seriously compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be possible to apply for additional funding/extended provision on an exceptional basis.
Revisiting transition processes and paperwork
Transition out of college normally involves a series of face-to-face meetings between different key stakeholders, following procedures and paperwork which are well-understood by the professionals involved. These meetings give everyone – but especially young people and their families – an opportunity to discuss options, raise issues and ask questions. You may need to adjust some of your processes and paperwork to take account of the fact such meetings are no longer possible. You could start by reviewing your transition out paperwork to see what still works, which elements need tweaking and whether any completely new documents are now required.
National Star College has also developed a transition tracker, using a RAG rating, transferring information from an existing on-line system onto a document that can be more easily shared. Remote working has amplified the need to have a single document to record and monitor the transition progress, particularly where there are a number of different people involved. They use this tracker to ascertain, alongside other measures, whether students may need to extend their time at college beyond their current leaving date, as a result of the pandemic.
Achieving closure for students
Like many school and college leavers, this generation of students with SEND will miss out on some of the rites of passage associated with moving on from education. For our students, these rituals can play an important part in helping them recognise that one period of their lives is finishing and another is beginning. Colleges should consider how they can adapt as many of these ‘closure’ activities as possible. Examples include:
- creating a year book from existing photos and by commissioning additional photos from students at home
- putting on a virtual graduation ceremony
- having a virtual prom, planning with families how to bringing learners together to celebrate as a full year group or, where more practicable, in smaller teaching groups or as groups of housemates
- planning a physical meet-up for students at a point in the future when social gatherings are possible again.
It will be more important than ever to review the effectiveness of your transition support for this year’s leavers, who won’t always have experienced the carefully stepped process that your college has developed over many years of. This may mean that colleges need to
- carry out early welfare checks on ex-students, either by phone or in person
- be prepared for more contact than usual with other agencies now working with your ex-students, e.g. staff in a new setting, social workers or health workers
- offer (more) outreach support for ex-students
- make themselves (more) available to parents / carers of ex-students to help resolve issues relating to transition and settling into new settings.