Disability and Skills Manager, Disability Rights UK
Good career guidance ensures that all young people, whatever their needs, background or ambitions, know the options open to them and can make the informed choices needed to fulfil their potential. This is particularly important for the more than one million young people in England recognised as having SEND. Far too often, these young people can be held back by negative stereotypes and assumptions about their limitations.
The Gatsby Benchmarks define what world-class career guidance looks like. During Gatsby’s pilot of the Benchmarks, experienced Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) practitioners and national advocates were brought together to form a SEND working group. Drawing on their expertise of developing careers programmes in different settings, covering special and mainstream schools and colleges, they gave the clear message that it would not be appropriate to define a separate set of Benchmarks for students with SEND.
These Gatsby Benchmarks provide a robust and high-quality framework for career guidance. They help to deliver a system of high aspirations for all students in all types of settings. At Wargrave House we recognise that we have embarked on a journey to excellence in career guidance and whilst all the Benchmarks are important we place particular value on gaining experiences in the workplace and employer encounters, which have historically presented additional barriers to students with ASD.
Benchmark 1 states that schools need to provide information about their careers offer in a manner accessible to staff, students, parents, carers and employers. You will find information relating to the careers offers for main school, college here.
A considerable amount of research and cross referencing is now taking place with external providers, quality awards and the Career Development Institute (CDI). This will ensure that we create a framework for careers guidance which is both robust and comprehensive.
Benchmark 2 says that every student, and their parents/carers, should have access to good-quality information about future study options and labour market opportunities. We now have the support of an informed adviser at Career Connect to make best use of available information. In order to fulfil this recommendation we also employ a SENCO and family liaison officer who both liaise with parents/carers to provide the most appropriate information for our students.
We are currently developing our database of people who can be brought in by staff to provide Labour Market Information for the curriculum. The database will provide details of school alumni, parents and carers, contacts and individuals from local/national employers who have worked with Wargrave House. The database will soon provide easy access to lesson resources from real people who are currently in that area of employment.
Building relationships with employers is key and we are confident that our staff understand about the skills that local employers are looking for when recruiting staff. Through our range of tailor made student work placements we have built closer relationships between our educational establishment and industry.
All of our students (particularly after year 8) have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This is through a range of enrichment activities including visiting speakers, mentoring, enterprise schemes and work placements.
We take a holistic approach to planning and delivering education and support with personal development being the key to successful outcomes. Our students have clearly identified learning priorities and follow our curriculum offer until the time comes for them to leave. For residential students, they advance their daily living skills in the home setting, live alongside others and extend their social interests, and often prepare for progress to supported living settings.
Where applicable our students are given the opportunities to understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.
We listen to student views and have a dedicated team of therapists who work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to support students in using their ‘voice’ through individual tutorials using their individual communication system as required (e.g. iPad with Proloquo2Go software, talk mats). This ensures that decisions are made in their best interest.
A high level of transition planning is necessary for all our students. We are improving our liaison with local employers, with our students, their families and their home social services to align plans for living, community support and work.