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Preparing for adulthood

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 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 yearly reviews 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 4 options are:

Find a post-16 college or sixth form

1. School sixth form

You may be able to stay at your school after the age of 16 by going to sixth form. But not all schools have sixth forms.

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

2. 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

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

Yearly or annual EHC plan reviews from year 9

If you have an EHC plan, your yearly or annual review will be different once you get to year 9 (age 13 or 14).

Your teachers will start to talk about:

  • what you want to do when you leave school
  • where you want to live as an adult
  • ways you can stay fit and healthy
  • ways you can become more independent

Your parents or carers can come to your EHC plan yearly reviews. You can also invite your favourite teachers and a social worker if you have one.

At your yearly review, you will work with your teachers to make a plan for your next year at school. This will help you get ready for when you leave school or college.

If you don’t want to go to a yearly review, that’s OK. Your school will tell you afterwards what everyone talked about in the meeting.

What happens after your yearly EHC plan review

After the meeting, your teachers will write down a plan for your next year at school.

The plan will include your thoughts and ideas on what you’d like to do after you leave school.

It will also include comments from your school on how they can help you to meet your goals.

Any teachers in your school who need a copy of the plan will get one.

You can also get a copy of the plan if you want one. You can also get copies for your parents or carers, and your social worker if you have one.

A copy of your plan will also be sent to our Integrated SEND Service.

Below you can read about what happens during your yearly reviews from year 9 onwards.

The things listed in each year group may not happen in the same order as they appear on our website. But they will happen at some point during the school year.

Help for young people with SEND who have high needs

If the council and the school sixth form, college or university you want to go to agree that you need special support, we will contact a range of local SEND experts that can give you any extra help you need.

These experts will:

  • provide any support you need to visit the college or university you want to attend in April or May before the course begins
  • carry out an assessment to understand your learning needs, and work with your sixth form, college or university to make sure these needs are met
  • hold a yearly review to make sure you are getting all the help you need and are making good progress

You do not need to worry about arranging this. It will be talked about in your EHC plan reviews.