CfESEND: Transition Season

Blog by Ros Osbourne, SEND Consultant/Strategic Manager at Weston Collegefor the Centres for  Excellence in SEND programme.

Transition does not have a season, it is a continual process for existing learners leaving the college, progressing to successful outcomes and for those who are preparing to join us.  With summer in sight, Covid-19 restrictions slowly reducing, our transition activities for new learners are gaining momentumproviding an invaluable insight into the individual needs of the new cohort of learners who have experienced large gaps in their education during the last two academic yearsdue to the pandemic, and are even more nervous about navigating the next steps in their education and subsequent employment.   

 At Weston College, the specialist teams are working with parentscarers, and young people to develop a range of activities, to provide crucial and meaningful participation, maintaining our focus on people. Summer programmes are being launched, providing positive activities enabling learners to familiarise themselves with the buildings, make friends, get to know staff, and become an active part of their new college community. We recognise that people have not had the opportunity to interact and engage with one another and these programmes allow reconnection, one of the five ways to wellbeingAdditionally, they equip learners with the continued structure and routine of education which is so integral to many young people with complex needs during the long summer holiday. Our central focus is to reduce anxiety and develop and encourage positive wellbeing strategies over the summer and we have included creative and engaging activities. 

To rebuild confidence and prepare new learners for the start of their programmes, the activities provide a varied calendar of familiarisation exercises, external trips and visits which all form the initial assessment process and allow staff a glimpse into how each learner might learn. This allows staff to assess and observe learners outside of the traditional classroom environment, whereby it is more difficult for young people to mask some of their barriers. This is even more essential this year due to many of the course interviews being held virtually.

Our activities commence in June each year and run throughout the summer, until the start of term in September and provide a range of choices including sport and physical activity, mindfulness, study skills, healthy lifestyle options, travel training, plus visits to the different community venues and the local area – many learners are not familiar with Weston-super-Mare outside of visiting the famous pier during their childhood! The activities provided all focus on our learners as people and ensure we provide the best possible opportunities for them to flourish on their Weston journey.  

Our 2nd and 3rd year learners assist with transition programmes and offer peer support throughout this process, building new learners’ confidence and leading several of the activities.  This compliments the need for these existing learners to participate in activities throughout the summer months, continuing with good routines and focus during their time off. 

3D interactive tours form part of all transition programmes and are used to build the new learners confidence virtually, prior to accessing onsite sessions.   

Case Study: An effective and seamless transition  

Noah joined the college after attending a Pupil Referral UnitNoah previously had a negative experience of education. He experienced emotional and social barriers and struggled to engage in the traditional classroom environment.  During his last term at school, he was allocated a mentor who worked closely with the specialist staff to slowly introduce him to key staff within the college.   

Initially, Noah presented as angry and refused to accept any support or constructive feedback.  His tutor spent time establishing a trusted relationship, within a safe environmentwhere Noah was able to outline his worries, difficulties, and concerns.  Beginning with one-hour walksoutside of the college environment, this gradually increased once his confidence developed.  Noah then progressed to a taught session with one other learner, both of whom had a shared interest. His motivation levels, and the desire to succeed increased and he co-created his personalised timetable for the next academic year This transition programme continued throughout the summer period, ensuring at the start of the academic year he was fully engaged and excited to begin the next chapter. 

Within the first term of Noah’s first year at college, he was accessing a full-time programme, for the first time since year 8. He was able to try out a range of vocational options before making an informed choice to pursue a career in motor vehicle.  After one yeardespite the restrictions of the pandemic, Noah has achieved a place on the level 1 Motor Vehicle course and secured a part-time job.  So now we start the next cycle of transitioning Noah onto a different college site and new peer group.  Staff are working closely with the vocational teachers to ensure they understand how Noah learns effectively and what strategies ensure he remains engaged in education and fulfil his aspirations of becoming a mechanic.   

Upcoming Webinars 

4pm – 5pm on Wednesday 23rd June, Reconnection and engagement programmes for learners with autism and anxiety

4pm – 5pm on Tuesday 6th July,  Developing effective CPD programmes for SEND staff

Key Contact Information 

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about the work of our CfE in SEND (People).  We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to work collaboratively with the CfE, so please do contact us with your suggestions and ideas: CfESEND@weston.ac.uk 

Bookings for all courses and events are via the ETF Course booking system which can be found at ETF Course bookings.

For further details of the ETF Centres for Excellence in SEND, webinar recordings, resources and toolkits can be found on the SEND Excellence Gateway

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