Young People with Special Educational Needs/learning Difficulties and Disabilities: Research into planning for adult life and services

Caroline Sharp, Kerry Martin, Richard White, Ruth Hart

12 September 2011

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Executive summary | Further information and related reports

The process of transition to adulthood for young people with special educational needs (SEN) and learners with learning difficulties and disabilities (LLDD), can be difficult and is not always entirely successful. The 2011 DfE Green Paper on special educational needs and disability makes wide ranging proposals to improve services and outcomes. This research aims to shed light on how young people with SEN or LLDD have been prepared for adult life and adult services, and how planning for this transition might be improved. The research looks at policy and practice in six local authorities, through interviews with 49 professionals, parents and young people.

Key Findings

  • Professionals, parents and young people all identified weaknesses in existing transition arrangements for young people with SEN or LDD, resulting in relatively few young people being systematically prepared for adult life.
  • Entry-level courses and foundation learning programmes at further education colleges appeared to be the default destination after compulsory education for young people with low to moderate needs, but these were not always well suited to young people's needs and may not provide an appropriate level of challenge.
  • Whilst most young people with SEN/LLDD want to work, adult interviewees identified a number of barriers to them doing so. These include: low expectations, a lack of opportunities and support to develop essential skills, and employer discrimination. There are also concerns that young people’s wider needs, such as independent living and social relationships, are not adequately recognised and supported.
  • Services and practices are developing and clearly provide an important source of support for young people with SEN/LLDD and their families. Interviewees felt that several of the Green Paper's proposals would be helpful in supporting transition to adult life.