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DFN - Securing Good Transitions: Part 1


“The purpose of education is to prepare students for life, it’s that simple!” – Ken Robinson 

Everyone deserves the right to aspire to the very best future – yet nationally, only 5.9 percent of people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) go on to secure full-time paid employment (Employment rates for people for with disabilities, British Association for Supported Employment [BASE]; 2018/19). This figure has fallen since 2010 and still is, despite the fact that over 65 percent of people with learning disabilities want to work (Mencap). There is now a pressing need for change and intervention to ultimately improve the life outcomes of this cohort of young people. 

What can be achieved? 

With the right training and support, best practice Transition to Employment programmes across the country have seen 70% of learners with SEND gain full time, competitive, integrated paid employment (DFN Project SEARCH; 2020). The latest data shows that higher levels of learners with Education Health and Care plans secure paid employment at the age of 18, 19 and 20 than those in the 21+ bracket. What this then tells us is that we need to provide employment-focused curricular earlier on in learners’ school careers to enable them to access these opportunities at the time that is right for them. We also need to ensure that learners receive aspirational careers advice and guidance and are signposted to the right pathway for them. Research tells us that high aspirations aligned with high expectations improves achievement and is an important predictor of success in adulthood  


Although education leaders are aware of Transition to Employment programmes, still too few learners are accessing high-aiming aspirational programmes of study that lead to full-time, integrated employment. Dr. Stephen Beyer from the National Centre for Mental Health, Cardiff University, highlights best international practice in terms of transition from education to employment: 

  • Good, employment-focused, person centred planning and transition planning 

  • Hands-on, supported work experience while still at school 

  • Paid work while still in school 

  • Supported Internship programmes 

  • Closely integrated work between schools and adult Supported Employment so that employment is an experience while in school AND a goal for graduation 

  • High parental expectations lead to more jobs and better outcomes- attitudes are in turn influenced by school-based work experiences. 

With this in mind, we have designed a set of resources: Securing Good Transitions: A Resource Pack to support the Next Steps of Key Stage 4 Pupils with SEND. Through these we hope to equip staff working with transition students with the materials, presentations, and advice and guidance to help build aspiration and guide learners to an outcome of employment.  

Resources include:  

  • Capturing Key Information ahead of Transition 

  • Social Stories – How to Create and Use Them to Support Learners to Understand and Prepare for their Next Steps 

  • Student-Centred Planning: A User Guide for Transition Meetings 

  • Access and Communication: Top Tips during Transition Meetings 

  • Applying the SEND Code of Practice 

  • Navigating Your LA Local Offer 

  • Vocational Profiling Tools: How these can be used to support Meaningful Progression 

  • Vocational Profiling Tools: How these can be used to support Meaningful Progression 

  • Examples of Supported Internships: The Impact 

  • DWP Access to Work: How it can be used to fund Job Coaching and Reasonable Adjustments 

  • Examples of Schools-based Coaching Programme: How this can lead to Employment 

  • Examples of Innovative Practice: Resources for Young People 

These resources are a celebration of some of the aspirational work going on across the country to support those furthest from the labour market. Key contributors include: DFN Project SEARCH and DFN MoveForward, EmployAbility Let’s Work Together, Woodlands School - Coleshill, Shaftsbury Hight School - Harrow, Kaleidoscope Sabre, HFT and Mencap. These resources bring together best practice from education and supported employment to drive and facilitate high-aiming, aspirational transition planning.  

One last consideration… 

Although the primary focus has been education, there are also compelling economic, social, and moral arguments to consider when planning for transition. For those able to work, ‘work is the best form of welfare’ (Mead 1997; Deacon 1997; King & Wickam-Jones 1999) and is the most effective way to improve the wellbeing of these individuals, their families and their communities. There is also growing awareness that (long-term) worklessness is harmful to physical and mental health, so it could be assumed the corollary must be true – that work is beneficial for health. When viewed like this, we cannot sit back and deny 94 percent of learners with SEND the lasting and positive health and wellbeing effects that employment brings.  

Written by Claire Cookson - CEO, DFN Foundation 

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