From education to employment

Personalised plans and trusting relationships the key to successful careers guidance in specialist settings

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Ofsted has today published an independent review of careers guidance in special schools, independent specialist colleges (ISCs) and pupil referral units (PRUs). 

The report outlines the challenges these settings face in providing careers guidance to children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), and highlights examples of good practice.

The report finds that a young person’s own voice is central to good careers guidance in specialist settings. Where staff develop a close and trusting relationship with learners and their families, career plans are practical and ambitious. All of the providers visited by inspectors had a highly personalised approach to careers guidance, with the curriculum tailored to meet learners’ individual needs.

In the settings visited by Ofsted, leaders prioritised work experience and many were building relationships with employers. But the results were mixed, with some employers lacking the knowledge or confidence to offer learners with SEND high-quality work experience.

Parents and carers of children who attend specialist settings are often anxious about their future. Good providers make efforts to reduce that anxiety through well-established communication tools, such as newsletters, phone calls and events that link parent evenings with career events.

The report also found that smooth and effective transitions into further education, training or employment are important in helping children and young people with SEND succeed in their careers.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver said:

“Good careers guidance can help address social inequality by teaching children and young people with SEND about the full range of options available and how they can make the most of them. These children deserve the kind of high-quality advice that opens the doors to ambitious and interesting experiences that help them choose their next steps.

“It’s great to hear that many specialist settings are working with children and their families to make sure these transitions are as aspirational and positive as possible.

  1. In 2022, the Department for Education (DfE) asked Ofsted to review careers provision in specialist settings, focusing on guidance for 11 to 19 year-olds, and young people up to age 25 with a current education, health and care (EHC) plan.
  2. To carry out the research, Ofsted inspectors visited 5 special schools, 3 PRUs and 4 ISCs in the summer term of 2023. Evidence was also gathered from interviews with inspectors and local authority officers, focus groups with key stakeholders and employers, and through a sample of inspection evidence.

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