By Louise Keevil
Please note: This article was originally published on 16th September on an external blogging site.
Here we are at the end of the second week of term and welcoming our new students.
We never underestimate the anxiety that families are experiencing as their children take this massive step from adolescence to adulthood.
We have known these families now for at least 12 months, we feel their determination, their exhaustion and their jitters as they navigate the complex system for procuring their post 16 SEND placement of choice. The uncertainty of ‘am I leaving home or not’ challenges the emotional wellbeing of the whole family. We celebrate with the family when the Education and Health Care (EHC) plan is finalised and then the jitters really set in – this is it, leaving home, following dreams to live a more independent adult life.
From the moment we become the college of choice our admissions staff walk a very fine line as they provide the best possible advice, guidance and support for families yet they must balance this delicately with the right words to make sure they don’t give false hope. We know that local authorities are not in a position to simply agree to funding college placements – nothing is certain until that EHC plan is finalised!
A Rock and a Hard Place
Local authority staff work tirelessly all across the country to secure provision that they believe meets the needs of young people in their area. They try so hard to be able to meet need close to home, however, there are times when looking further afield is the right and best option. This of course is not straight forward as what the local authority believe meets needs often differs from the choice and expectation of young people and their families. What do we do in this situation? Of course we think Tom will have the best possible opportunities to fulfil his potential if he comes to our college, of course we know that the local authority will want Tom to stay in the local area, of course we must have professional and transparent relationships with local authorities and of course we will stand by the side of families as they make the tiring and emotional journey – our staff find themselves stuck between rock and a hard place.
Richard, a key member of our Admissions team thinks the ‘times they are a changing’: “I have been doing this job for many years and I have never felt more like a negotiator of fees and provision. I didn’t see this change to my job role coming but I know it is vital so that I can ensure young people remain at the core”.
All of that said, here we are – we first met Tom in 2012 and today, September 2016, he has started the next phase of his adult life. He will be learning the skills to live a more independent life, one that is full of choices and decisions. Well done all – lets continue to stick together to make sure Tom’s and all other students’ opportunities and aspirations are realised.
For more information on Educational Health Care Plans visit:
Louise Keevil is Director of Charity & Corporate Services at Derwen College.
Follow Louise on Twitter: www.twitter.com/louisekeevil