For Families and Carers : Further Education

Young woman using computer at college

Photo copyright Richard Bailey

Education – Further Education

This is a brief introduction – please see Further information below for more detailed resources

You may also like to look at our page on Planning for Adulthood.

Leaving school


In year 9 all pupils with a statement or EHCP must have a review specifically looking at preparing for adulthood. This is often known as transition planning. For more information see our sections on Teenagers and young adults and on SEN and the law. At this point you and your son or daughter should be looking amongst other things at the options for post 16 education. Even if the current school caters for pupils up to age 19, it is still important to plan early. All schools have a duty to provide independent careers advice for pupils age 13 upwards.

Some of the options may be

  • 16+ course in a special school – this is likely to have a focus on practical lifeskills
  • Mainstream school sixth form – some but not all school sixth forms provide vocational courses and foundation learning.
  • Course in a sixth form college or general FE college. This may be a separate course for people with learning difficulties focussing on practical skills for life and work. You could also look at additional support on a mainstream vocational course.
  • Specialist college (also known as Independent Specialist Provider or ISP) – many but not all of these colleges are residential
  • A supported internship or other work-related learning

Our Celebrating Success booklet has some case studies of young people in different types of further education settings

Extra help in college


Colleges have now been brought within the remit of legislation relating to special educational needs and disabilities. Colleges must have regard to the new Code of Practice on SEND. They must do their best to ensure that students’ needs are met and must plan and deliver appropriate support.

Whereas previously a statement of SEN lapsed when a young person left school, the new Education Health and Care Plans can continue into college. It is also possible to ask for an EHC assessment for a young person already in college.  For more information see our pages on SEN and the law.

As with younger children, you should make sure that everyone teaching your son or daughter is informed about the specific learning profile of young people with Down’s syndrome. It may be helpful to help the young person draw up a one page profile with the most important information about them

Curriculum and assessment


The curriculum for all 16-19 year olds and for 19-24 year olds with special educational needs or disabilities must follow the government guidelines on Study Programmes. A study programme should include

  • Opportunity to progress
  • Decent sized qualification
  • Maths and English (this can be practical literacy and numeracy)
  • Non qualification activity and work experience

However study programmes can be very flexible for students with SEND. For example not all students will be able to undertake a major qualification. Preparing for Adulthood has a factsheet on study programmes. See under Further information below

Some young people with Down’s syndrome will be able to attain vocational qualifications such as BTEC. However all young people should have access to some form of accreditation such as pre entry and entry level certificates or the ASDAN programmes for students with learning difficulties. It’s important to check with the college what kind of qualification will be on offer to your son or daughter.

Further help and information


From the DSA

The information team at the DSA is happy to answer your education related queries. Please call the helpline on 0333 1212 300. Our Education Officer is available to take education calls on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 10am – 1pm.

Celebrating Success – Further Education and Employment  – some examples of good practice in inclusion

Early Support – Down syndrome – The DSA has co-written this comprehensive guide from the Early Support project – now covers up to age 25

DSA training The DSA Access Project provides a range of training options for families and schools

DSA Workfit – Connecting employers and employees with Down’s syndrome

From other organisations

Information, Advice and Support Services Network (IASS) – this has links to your local information, advice and support service for special educational needs and disability. This was previously called Parent Partnership.

One page profiles – information from Helen Sanderson Associates

NATSPEC – Association of National Specialist Colleges

Preparing for adulthood – Programme funded by the Department for Education to support the SEND reforms. Lots of useful resources on this site.