14 SES 04 B, School-Related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective II
Across the European Union, one in six young people is unemployed. In 2013, the European Council of Employment and Social Ministers agreed a Youth Guarantee which called on Member States to ensure that all under-25 year olds received a quality offer of employment, continued education or apprenticeship/traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed (Laslo, 2013). This also called for 'strong partnership-based approaches [...] between employment services, education and training institutions, career guidance services and other specialised youth services to help smooth young people’s transition from inactivity or education to work'.
The topic of this paper is an evaluation of an intervention designed to address the issue that, in the United Kingdom, only about one in four young people with autism continue their education, training or employment beyond school (Ambitious about Autism, 2011). The project,' Finished at School', was commissioned by the Department for Education and was led by Ambitious about Autism, with its partners nasen and the Association of Colleges. It ran from April 2013 to March 2015 in four areas of England (Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, West London and Kent). It involved four general further education colleges each acting as lead organisation for a local hub made up of the college plus three secondary schools. Each hub also drew in other local partners relevant to improving transition to post-school of young people with autism. The plan was to work together, supported by four days of training on person-centred approaches to transition, to provide enhanced support for about 110 young people with complex autism to make a successful transition to education beyond school. The young people in the intervention project were due to make the transition to post-school in September 2014 (Cohort 1), September 2015 (Cohort 2) or September 2016 (Cohort 3). 'Complex' autism was not defined but was understood to mean a focus on young people with autism who would not otherwise have been likely to make a successful transition to post-school education, work or training.
The objective of the intervention was to develop good practice to share with other further education colleges as they took on new responsibilities for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities under new legislation (the Children and Families Act, 2014) and a new Code of Practice for special educational needs (Department of Education, 2015) .
The evaluation aimed to explore to what extent the intervention project succeeded in improving the transition of these 110 young people with complex autism. It focused on the project's progress and impact and sought to capture key learning to inform a related Good Practice Guide for the further education sector. Data were gathered at three stages: initial perspectives (from the lead trainer, from 53 training participants, from 4 college leads, from 6 of the 12 school leads); perspectives on embedding processes ( visits to three schools and four colleges, interviews with 5 local authority transition officiers, follow-up questionnaire to 27 training participants); and perspectives on achieved impact (interviews with 4 college leads, plus 1-4 other college staff per site, 12 school leads, 18 young people - 15 in colleges, 3 in schools, five parents, questionnaire to all parents of young people in the project). The transition to post-school was viewed within a life course perspective (Ecclestone, Biesta, Hughes, 2009). Plans for adult life after college were included as an area of discussion, as was support from school, college and others to help young people and their parents adopt this long-term view encompassing not only education, but also work, housing, relationships, leisure and community connections.
Ambitious about Autism, 2011. Finished at School. Where next for young people with autism? The Pears National Centre for Autism Education, London. Department for Education and Department of Health, 2015. Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25. DFE-00205-2013. Department for Education: London. Andor, Laszlo, 2013. Speech: Public employment services role in implementing the Youth Guarantee. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release Ecclestone, K, Biesta, G. Hughes, M. (Eds), 2009. Transitions and Learning through the Lifecourse. Routledge: London. .
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