Post-16 Transitions: a Longitudinal Study of Young People with Special Educational Needs
Aston J, Dewson S, Loukas G, Dyson A
Research Report RR655, Department for Education and Skills, July 2005
a study commissioned by the DfES
This summary is published in the Department for Education and Skills Research Report RR655. A complete list of DfES Research Reports is available at DfES.
This is the third wave of longitudinal research with young people with special educational needs (SEN) to record and track their progress as they move from compulsory schooling to early adulthood. The first wave of research with young people with SEN, and their parents and carers, was undertaken in 2000-01 when they were in curriculum year 11. the second wave of research went back to these people in the 2002-03 academic year. This third wave caught up with the young people again in 2003-04 when they were aged 19 or 20, and has sought to update the earlier studies and to map their activities and achievements over time.
- Four sets of factors seem important in determining the outcomes of the transition process: young people’s capacities and characteristics; the purposefulness of familial support; the nature and effectiveness of local support systems; the range of local opportunities available to young people, such as college courses, employment and training options. Not surprisingly, outcomes are diverse and unpredictable given the multiple interactions that may occur between these factors.
- There is some indication that the various agencies and support systems involved with young people operate on very different models of transition. One is a developmental model which works with the individual over time to plan and facilitate progression whilst offering support and guidance throughout the process. The second model operates more as a ‘booster’ and relies more heavily on the young person navigating their own way through the complexities of the education system and the labour market. In so doing, this model is more reactive, providing advice and guidance when requested or when obvious difficulties arise.
- Many young people with difficulties and disabilities are potentially supported by a multiplicity of systems, eg FE colleges, Jobcentre Plus offices and the Connexions Service, and individually, each of these systems may be effective. However, there is some variation in the presence and strength of the support these services provide. More dependent young people are likely to fall within the purview of one or other system and will be well supported, particularly if they have involved, well-informed and assertive parents. However, for a number of young people taking part in the research, particularly those who are more capable of making their own way, the systems in place to support their transitions have not operated as well as they could.
- Many young people have made little or no progress, whilst others lacked adequate support or have received uncoordinated support. Many young people have had to battle to get the support they need. It appears that the help and support that is available to young people often operates along the lines of the booster model with clear evidence of unmet need for this type of support. Moreover, there is no clear or systematic evidence of any individual, organisation or agency having overall responsibility for assisting young people to identify and source appropriate options, not to co-ordinate service delivery. There are many opportunities for young people to fall down the cracks between services and there is a very real risk that some young people will wander beyond the reach of support.
Interviews were carried out with 1,020 young people at Wave Three, three years after they had completed compulsory schooling. Most young people interviewed as part of Wave Three were White (91 per cent) and approximately two-thirds of the sample were young men. The majority of young people responding to the survey had difficulties relating mainly to cognition and learning (55 per cent). Around one-fifth of young people had communication and interaction difficulties, and a similar proportion presented behavioural, emotional or social development needs. Just over one in 20 young people in the survey had sensory and/or physical disabilities. Whilst 47 per cent of the sample, overall, had a statement of SEN at school, young people with sensory and/or physical disabilities were most likely to have a statement, whereas young people with behavioural, emotional or social development needs were the least likely to do so. Seventy-six per cent of the sample had attended a mainstream school. Forty per cent of young people responding to the Wave Three survey described themselves as having a disability. This proportion was much higher for young people with sensory and/or physical disabilities (70 per cent of whom said they were disabled) than for young people with behavioural, emotional or social development needs. Just 31 per cent of these young people reported any sort of disability.
Wave Three activity
- Half of all the young people taking part in Wave Three were in employment when they were surveyed. Young men were more likely to be in work at Wave Three than young women.
- Young people who presented behavioural, emotional or social development needs at school were most likely to be in employment or training at Wave Three.
- Most young people who were in employment at Wave Three were in jobs without training (69 per cent).
- Just under a quarter (24 per cent) of all young people were in education at the time of the Wave Three survey. Young women were more likely to be in education than young men.
- Young people who had statements of SEN whilst in school were more likely to have continued in education to Wave Three, as were young people with sensory and/or physical disabilities.
- There is some evidence of progression for young people in education since Wave Two. One-fifth of all young people who were in education at Wave Three were studying at university. Just over half of all young people who were in education at both survey points were now studying at a higher level.
- Over a quarter (27 per cent) of those taking part in Wave Three were not in education, employment or training (NEET) when they were surveyed. Young men and women were more or less equally likely to be NEET at Wave Three.
- Young people with cognition and learning difficulties were most likely to be NEET at Wave Three.
- There is some evidence of churning amongst young people in education, employment and amongst those who are NEET.
- Most young people have had some sort of contact with professional services since Wave Two, the majority of which have been medical.
- Almost a quarter of all young people had come into contact with a Jobcentre Plus adviser since they were last surveyed.
- Only one-fifth of all young people taking part in Wave Three could recall seeing a Connexions Personal Adviser or a careers service adviser since they were last surveyed.
- Almost a quarter of all young people taking part in Wave Three said that they had not had any contact with any professional support services over the previous 18 months, ie since the time of the Wave Two survey.
- Where they could recall receiving support, most young people were satisfied with the service they had received.
- However, more than one in ten young people reported that the professional support they had received since leaving school was worse or much worse than the support they had received at school (14 per cent).
- Most young people thought that everyone who had helped and supported them since leaving school, including professional support services, agencies, and family and friends had worked well together (73 per cent).
- Parents continue to act as major sources of support for the young people taking part in the Wave Three survey and the case studies.
- Most young people reported that they did not require any additional help or support (64 per cent).
Leisure activities and social life
- Many young people taking part in Wave Three appear to have varied leisure activities. Most young people reported that they watched television, listened to music and spent time with friends. Many reported that they played with video and computer games, and went clubbing and dancing.
- Most young people spent time with friends at weekends and in the evenings. Young people who had attended a special school, and those who had presented communication and interaction difficulties at school were the least likely to do this.
- Evidence from the case studies illustrates that for some young people (and particularly those with more severe needs), their leisure activities and social life are often facilitated by adults, and provided by statutory and voluntary agencies. Whilst this provides a relatively rich social life, it tends to be restricted to other people with difficulties and disabilities, and to some extent, to be dominated by adults.
Autonomy and independence
- Just over half of all young people reported that wages from their employment formed the main source of their income.
- One-fifth of all young people said that Jobseekers Allowance or Incapacity Benefit was their main source of income.
- Sixteen per cent of all young people taking part at Wave Three received Disability Living Allowance.
- Most young people (86 per cent) received their income directly, ie it was paid straight to them, and most reported that they managed their own money on a day-to-day basis. Parents and carers were the most likely recipients and holders of income for those young people who did not receive their income directly.
- The majority of young people surveyed at Wave Three continued to live with their parents or carers (82 per cent).
- More young people are now living independently than at the time of the Wave Two survey. At Wave Three, one in ten young people reported that they now lived with a partner, with friends or alone.
- Most young people stated that they were happy with their current living arrangements although many hoped and expected to be living independently in two years time.
- The case studies presented a mixed picture of independent living. Some young people had already achieved, or were on the brink of achieving, a high level of independent living. For a couple of young people, independent living was out of the question because of the high level of support they required and would continue to require. The main issue for these young people was when and how far this support could be provided independently of their families. The third group of young people was those who had a reasonable prospect of independent living but who would require further support and intervention to help them to do so. These young people were, however, the exact people who tended not to trigger high levels of support and whose needs remained largely invisible.
Past and future
- On reflection, most young people reported that the course, jobs or training that they had undertaken since Year 11 had generally worked out for them. Young people who had behavioural, emotional and social development difficulties whilst at school were the least likely to agree that this was the case.
- Most young people were hopeful about the future (89 per cent). However, young people who considered themselves to be disabled were less likely to be optimistic about the future than young people who were not disabled.
- Less than one in three young people thought they had all the qualifications they needed for the job or course they wanted to do and three-quarters of all young people taking part in the Wave Three survey wanted to do more education or training in the future.
- Just over one in ten young people said that they did not know how to find out about future work, education or training opportunities.
Post-16 Transitions: a Longitudinal Study of Young People with Special Educational Needs: (Wave Three), Aston J, Dewson S, Loukas G, Dyson A. Research Report RR655, Department for Education and Skills, 2005.
ISBN: 978-1-84478-519-3. Bound copy: £4.95