There are several options available from mainstream further education colleges to Independent specialist colleges and it is important it is the right decision for you!
What type of college
The support that you can get at college varies and so it's really important that you visit before you apply. Even if you are not sure that you definitely want to go to a particular college, it's a good idea to arrange a visit because it may help you make up your mind. It's also important to visit when other students are around so you can find out if the college feels right for you.
If you feel that your local mainstream college may not be able to meet your needs or would prefer to go to a specialist college you will need to show that the mainstream college cannot meet your needs. There is an appeals system if you don't think the decision is fair. If you want a specialist college place, make sure you apply in plenty of time.
Deciding if a college is right for you
Here is a list of things to help you consider whether a college meets your requirements:
- Check out their website - every college has one.
- Talk to other students who have been there and ask how they got on.
- Talk to your subject teachers and support staff at school and ask if they think the college is right for you.
- Visit the colleges you are considering as soon as possible. You'll be able to meet the support staff there and ask questions. Also, make sure you check out what assistive technology they've got - ask about how many computers have screen magnification software and what software they use. All of this will be important to you in making your decision.
- Talk to the lecturers who will be teaching you at college.
- Talk to your college about mobility and orientation training prior to starting you course
Expertise in all your needs
It is important that the staff at the college understand your needs and can support you:
- Does the college have staff skills and facilities to support you appropriately?
- Are there already students at the college with similar needs to you?
Size and atmosphere
When you visit ask yourself:
- Does the college feel welcoming?
- Do students sound interested when they talk about what they do?
- Do you feel that people have got time for you?
Location of the college
The location and facilities available will affect the potential you have to develop skills within the community:
- Can you access the community outside the college?
- Is there a town near the college with shops and other community activities?
- If you are considering a specialist college, can you link to a mainstream college if you want to?
Your choice of subjects
You may be looking for academic subjects but remember you also need to learn to be an independent adult:
- Can the college provide the subjects you want at the correct level for you?
- Will you be able to learn skills to help you become more independent?
Planning for the future
In the future you may wish to go into paid or voluntary work or further or higher education:
- Does the college have good links with employers? Are there good work placement opportunities?
- Do people progress into paid or voluntary work?
- Do people progress into mainstream further or higher education?
- Does the college prepare you for independent living or supported housing?
Don't just rely on what a college quotes on its website, look up the reports on the Ofsted website. There will be a report for education and there may also be a report for residential care. As well as full inspection reports, Ofsted also carry out annual monitoring visits which report on progress.
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