Families and Carers Q and A

There are many questions that parents and carers want answered before they make a decision about which specialist college is the best for their son or daughter. We have tried to answer some of the most commonly asked questions in this section. Don’t forget that in the new system the views of your son or daughter are equally important and every effort must be made to find out what they want.

Q. Is a specialist college similar to school?

Students are participating in a range of work experiences.

Students are participating in a range of work experiences.

A. Not really. Specialist colleges prepare young people to move into the adult world. They offer a broader range of courses, employment skills and work experience, with the chance to take part in community activities and voluntary work. Students learn to live safely on their own or in supported living. They can cook their own meals, budget for food and household items, travel safely on public transport and make new friends.

Young people have greater independence in a more adult setting. Students’ views are important, from what they want to learn and how they want to be supported, to joining the student council and influencing developments at their college.

Q. How do I decide which specialist college is best for my son or daughter?

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A. All schools must offer careers advice, which should include information about all the options available to them, including specialist colleges. The Local offer must also include this information. You can look through the Natspec directory and use the college finder to decide which colleges may be the best choice for them.

Q. How do I apply and get funding for a place at a specialist college?
A.Young people moving from school to college will have a transition review at school, where the best post-16 place will be discussed. The local authority will develop an Education, Health and Care plan which will outline your son or daughter’s needs, how to meet them and what they want to achieve at college. If the college has the S41 symbol, you can name that college in the plan. Natspec’s website has information about applying for funding.

Q. How long does the college course last?

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A. Each course is different and it depends on what the student needs to learn. However, most courses run for two years, with a review after the first year to check on progress. Occasionally courses last just one year or sometimes three years. You can find out more information about the term dates at each college in the Natspec Specialist College Directory.

Q. Are all courses residential?
A. No, many colleges offer both residential and day courses, and a few colleges are day only. What is best for your son or daughter will depend on what they want to learn and how much the residential setting will help them achieve their goals. For many young people the move away from home really helps them to gain independence and confidence, and to experience looking after themselves in a real setting.

Q. Can we visit the college before we decide whether we like it?
A. Yes, it is a good idea to visit a number of colleges; most . To arrange a visit, contact the college admissions team. You can find phone numbers in the Natspec Specialist College Directory.

Q. How do colleges keep in touch with parents?

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A. Colleges will have their own method of keeping in touch, such as phone, letter or email. You will also be invited to reviews, college events and open days.