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Further and higher education

School, college and university

For many young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), staying at school or college is a great way to make the move from teen to adult.

Other young people with SEND choose to leave school at 16, and there is help nearby if you want to find work.

But when you are 16, you must choose one of these 3 options until you turn 18:

  1. Stay in education and study at school or college
  2. Start an apprenticeship, traineeship or supported internship
  3. Do volunteer work while in part-time education or training
Post-16 education and training

Start education planning early

When you are 13 or 14 (school year 9), you should start thinking about what you want to do when you turn 16. This is so that you have time to think about your options and make a plan.

If you have an education, health and care (EHC) plan, your EHC yearly or annual reviews are a good place to discuss ideas with your teachers. You can read about what will happen at your EHC annual review meeting from year 9 onwards, and how they will help you get ready for sixth form, college or work.

Education options after you turn 16

If you need help when thinking about what you want to do after you turn 16, you can speak to your school's:

  • careers leader, who can help you think about what job you want to do and any qualifications you may need
  • special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), who looks after pupils with SEND and can help you make plans for the future

Your school's careers leader and SENCO can also help you to apply for college courses or training schemes.

If you want to stay in full-time education after the age of 16, your have the 4 options below.

Find a post-16 college or sixth form
Girl with wavy brown hair talking to an adult in a pink jacket with glasses using a computer

1. School sixth form

You may be able to stay at your school after the age of 16 by going to sixth form, if your school has one. Staying on in sixth form depends on:

  • what courses you want to do and if your school offers them
  • the qualifications you have or want to get in the future

Search our directory to find sixth forms near you:

Show me local schools with sixth forms

Stay at a special school

If you go to a special school, you may want to stay there after the age of 16 if it has a sixth form.

Staying at a special school may be the right option for young people who have an EHC plan. It could allow you to stay in education until you are 25.

You can search our directory for special schools near you with education after the age of 16:

Show me special schools with education after 16

3. College

All further education colleges support young people with SEND. They can also give you extra help if you went to a special school or have:

  • high needs
  • an EHC plan

Search our directory to find local colleges:

Show me local colleges
Teacher in a white shirt and navy trousers teaching a group of young people

4. University

University or higher education is the next step up from college.

Going to university may mean leaving home and finding new ways to get the help you need to live and travel while you’re studying. But lots of young people with SEND go to university.

UCAS has advice for young people with SEND who are thinking about going to university.

Paying for further and higher education