14 SES 05 A, Schooling of Ordinary and Vulnerable Youth. Transitions between Levels of Schooling and Transitions to Adulthood (Part 1)
This paper draws on the results of a recently completed project on the transition from compulsory education into Further and Higher Education (FE/HE) of young people with special educational needs (SEN) in Ireland. The project, funded by the National Council for Special Education, employed a mixed method approach to collect data by consulting young people, their parents, teachers and the professionals involved in the process of transition. The examination of the students’ accounts shows that the process of transition is not just one about different education systems, but one in which their individual being goes through a process of change and development. This inevitably involves engagement in the urban environments where large, post compulsory institutions are set. Central to this process, is the notion of ‘new start’, a way in which young people can become more independent and, for some, leave the shackles of disability behind them, or reconfigure the relationship between their disability and ability.
Since the publication of the Education for People with Special Education Needs Act (EPSEN, 2004), Ireland has developed provision to ensure children and young people with SEN’s entitlement to mainstream education. Of particular concern is that the participation rates in post-compulsory education and training for this group of students continue to be low despite efforts at an institutional and legislative level to improve access and provision (AHEAD, 2008; HEA, 2009).
If transition, in general, can be a chaotic and complex affair (Dee, 2006; Wagner et al, 2006), for young people with SEN it can be a time of upheaval, uncertainty and loss. In many cases, young people have to move into a difference environment which can involve new experiences such as using urban transport systems to travel across cities, coping in large and potentially impersonal institutions and establishing new social contacts who no longer share the same community provided by schools where the majority of young people share geographical and community roots. While this can be a challenging time, it can also open new possibilities and opportunities.
Data collected during the pre-transition phase show that this process can be a demanding stage in relation to making choices about placement and courses. This links to young people’s desires and expectations; options in relation to forecast final grades; and adults’ and young people’s beliefs about disability and ability. During this process young people are guided, counselled and supported in different ways and to different extents. Pre-transition interviews show that, despite taking into account young people’s aspirations, they are still much in the passive role of being the recepient of provision. However, initial data from post-transition interviews is beginning reveal that while the process of transition was a moment of upheaval, students’ views are now more positive. In particular, students talk about college as a ‘new start’ which affords them to redefine who they are and what they can be and become. The new start involves redefining one’s disability, self-determination, ability to make new friends, and cope with practical activities without the constant support of another adult.
AHEAD (2008) Seeing ahead: A Study of Factors Affecting Blind & Vision Impaired Students going on to Higher Education. Dublin, AHEAD. CRESWELL, J. W. (1998) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions, Thousand Oaks, Sage. DEE, L. (2006) Improving transition planning for young people with special educational needs, Maidenhead, Open University Press. GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND (2004) Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act. Dublin: The Stationery Office HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY (HEA) (2009) Higher Education: Key facts and Figures 2007/08. Dublin, Higher Education Authority. WAGNER, M., NEWMAN, L., CAMETO, R., LEVINE, P. & GARZA, N. (2006) An Overview of Findings From Wave 2 of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). (NCSER 2006-3004). SRI International., Menlo Park, CA:, SRI International.
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