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College and University

Moving from school to college - advice and support 

  • The earlier you start thinking about the move to college the better
  • Children Young People with SEND will need to have a good transition from secondary school to college
  • This is a very important transition and the earlier this is thought about, the better it will be.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your college (or other education setting) any questions, no matter how silly you think they sound!
  • Do your research and look at the college website. Things like what support they can offer you, their SEN Policy, Equality Objective and their SEN Information Report.
  • Parents and carers, talk to your young person about the move – what are they excited about? What are they worried about? How can family help? Also, talk to the secondary school SENCO/tutor Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and the tutor to be clear about your young persons their needs and outcomes.

Going to college

  • Use our search to find local colleges and how they support young people with SEND.
  • Struggling to pick a course or college? Here are some top tips to making the right choice.
  • What things interests you? List all the things you like and list of courses you would consider based on these interest.
  • Do your research. The internet, your school careers adviser or Connexions are the best sources of information. If you have an Education, Health Care Plan (EHCP) you can talk about this at your Annual Review meeting.
  • Look at the course content. Look at the course outline and different subjects you will be learning. What are the different types of learning, assignments, tasks and exams?
  • Course duration. How long do you want to study for? Do you want to part time or full time? Do you think you would be able to commit and finish the course?
  • What is the college is like? Look at other similar courses, choose your top three and go and visit the colleges.
  • Your needs. Would the college be able to support your disability, learning difficult or mental health needs? Speak to student support services and find out. If you have an EHCP, ask the Brent SEN Assessment Service to consult with the college on your behalf.

Information from the College of North West London

Application information from the College of North West London

Specialist Equipment for young people with SEND can be requested.


University - need support?

  • UCAS is the the organisation which manages all university applications (University and College Admissions Service)
  • Make sure when you apply, you say you have a disability, a learning difficulty or a mental health condition as you might need additional support.
  • Do you have an EHCP? This stops when you start university, but don’t worry your university will assess your needs and put a support plan in place. 
  • If you do not have an EHCP but have a disability or a learning difficulty, your university can arrange a diagnostic assessment to diagnose or discover your difficulties while learning. 
  • Support for students? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions

Support and entitlements are available, see the finance support page for more information.

Young People share their stories;

Samir, a young Brent resident with SEND

When did you first find out about your diagnosis of autism?
I don’t remember the date but I remember knowing about it by the time I completed my first year of high school. After finding out, my mum gave me a book written by someone with autism, about living with autism; I found it very helpful to read a first-hand experience of being autistic. I related to some, not all, of the experiences described in the book. This gave me an idea of the diverse nature of Autistic traits and it was comforting to know that there were other people who were experiencing things similarly. More than the book, it was the supportiveness of my parents and lack of judgement from others that helped me feel more at peace with the diagnosis, even though I still did not fully appreciate what it meant.
What helped you most when you were at school?

Three things stand out the most. The first was the verbal assurances I would get from teachers and teaching assistants. I was told directly that I could go to them when I had issues, they checked in on me sometimes after lessons, and they were patient when I was doing things differently and spoke to me about this. The combined effect was that I felt a little more comfortable around these people and could focus on what I was doing. It did not mean that I was entirely comfortable, and there were difficult times, but this helped.

I consider the next point separately despite it being “support from teachers”. The patience and flexibility from teaching support staff. When I was in crowded rooms or struggling with the conditions around me, there was usually a member of staff who could take me outside or arrange for something to be done. When I was struggling to separate tasks or understand them, a support teacher was sometimes able to go over processes step by step with me even if that took longer. Being easily distracted and often overwhelmed made it difficult to study efficiently and so I often required patience and flexibility from those around me. 
The third thing is that I had a laptop for doing what would have been handwritten exercises. My handwriting was very poor and had not been showing serious improvement by the time I was 10 or 11; my hands would also get extremely tired after a short amount of writing and this affected my mental approach to writing too. Using a laptop took away a serious cause of stress for me and allowed me to think more about what I was writing. I was also slow in my thinking processes so being able to read a screen of legible writing made it easier to write better. It was also very important to have typing lessons simultaneously so that I could type at a quick enough rate.
I also want to add that joining a society at University made a big difference. This doesn’t really apply to school, but it did help me grow and develop at a big institution. I joined the Student’s Scouting and Guiding Society, even though I had no experience of scouting. There was still plenty to do, and I liked the fact that many outdoor events provided something to do, rather than just having a chat. I took a role on committee that I liked, called archivist. I did the role for 2 years, and it involved writing up an informal summary of events held by the society. The role was great because I had freedom to do it in my own time and be as creative as I liked. So, I would recommend joining societies/clubs at any level, as it is an excellent opportunity to meet nice people and do fun things!
Tell us about your choice of university course?

Choosing a university course was an interesting process because it was an independent decision that would have a large and lasting effect on my life. My parents recommended giving the most weight to what interests me, given that I would be studying it for 3+ years. That studying time would be a lot better if I enjoyed what I was doing. This was useful advice but I struggled to understand what University courses would be interesting.
I was inordinately passionate about formula 1 so I considered an engineering degree which could offer an interesting career path. By taking A levels in maths and physics I knew that I had a chance to do engineering (I picked my A levels without knowing anything about University however!). However, I was not doing too well in my maths and physics classes and had strong doubts if my passion for formula 1 extended to solving very technical engineering problems. I then realised I was enjoying my law AS level studies so a degree in law seemed attractive. Upon further reflection and research, I picked up doubts for this subject too as I prefer to analyse things using numbers and the logic of mathematics rather than looking at legal text. Additionally, both of those degree subjects had very high entry requirements for any of the top UK universities!
Economics made a lot of sense because I had taken the subject at A level and was really enjoying the course. The problems studied in economics were on a large scale and relied on a lot of thinking, which I was comfortable with and found interesting. I knew that I would have the opportunity to apply statistics to problem solving and this was good because I always enjoyed statistics and did well in that part of maths. I was doing well at the A level course in economics so I was confident that I would not be left behind in my degree studies. It also offered a variety of career paths which was important as I did not know what jobs I was interested in. The fact that it was quite a quantitative course also encouraged me as I knew there would be less presentations and discussions, instead there would be more opportunities to think about problem-solving individually.
I am very glad that studying economics at Southampton worked out well for me and I graduated with a first-class degree!
Tell us about your new job and what it is like having a job? Have you shared your autism diagnosis?

I joined the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) in an assistant economist role in January 2021 and have been with them for over 8 months total. I have been working from home during this time, which has had mixed effects. One positive was that it was nice to work in a place that I knew well as it made the experience less overwhelming, additionally I had space and time to manage things and recover from meetings or difficult tasks without the pressure of facing people. I enjoy the fact that all meetings are scheduled for a set time and less spontaneous and informal compared to the office. Furthermore, avoiding the tube commute into London has been a plus that I appreciate! Nevertheless, it was strange not physically meeting my colleagues and it is difficult to ask for advice when you have a problem with your computer or want to do your work better.
I shared my autism diagnosis with the occupational health provider, as I was asked to state this for a fitness certificate for my role, and I consented to them sharing the information with Defra. I then checked and my line manager was aware of this prior to starting. I also shared my diagnosis when applying. One of the reasons I shared my diagnosis was because the civil service is an inclusive employer and so I felt I had reason to be confident I would be treated fairly after disclosing this. Of course, if they would not do this then I wished to know, but someone from the civil service fast stream came to Southampton University and said they had disclosed their Asperger's syndrome diagnosis when applying and told us about the workplace adjustments that were available. So, I felt that sharing the diagnosis in the application stage had a lower risk than usual. I also felt that the application process focused so much on technical (economics) ability that the benefit of having appropriate adjustments to perform my best outweighed the risk of being considered a less suitable candidate due to having autism and dyspraxia. In the end, I was given additional adjustments for the assessment, and my manager has been very supportive. I do not think any further colleagues know about my diagnosis, but they could suspect something based on my behaviour. Although sharing the diagnosis before applying is may be the riskiest aspect, I think sharing it with my manager was the most significant thing. It was very reassuring when I was asked if there were any adjustments that I needed to do my job, although there were none and I have also discovered there is a disability network in Defra too.

An Autistic student’s journey through education by Selvin

When did you first learn about your diagnosis of autism?

The earliest time I found out about my autism was when I was three to four years old from the GP and I was referred to a specialist for an assessment. This affected my ability to focus on tasks, a delay on my speech and language and difficulties adapting to new environment as well as interacting with new people especially with eye contact. This was also confirmed during the time when I was in Nursery as I struggled to pick up words. My mother also discussed this with the specialist regarding of dietary needs as there was a time where I was not eating well, and I was also quite hyperactive compared to other kids. However, despite my difficulties picking up words, I found that II was able to learn better through visual means rather than written or verbal forms and the support that I received from primary school addressed my difficulties by providing me with extra support. My Primary school referred me to BOAT services at brent for additional support such as extra time to focus on task and speech and language therapy. BOAT provided me with one-to-one support which has provided positive impact to my learning. Overtime with the support provided with BOAT, they have actively engaged with my school to arrange meetings with me to discuss new ways to improve my development skills which has led to positive progress.

What support / resources helped you most when you were at school?

Throughout my education, The teachers and teaching assistants provided me with support and guidance whenever I struggled with an immediate task. Additionally, the teachers and learning department team that I have spoken to have always been patient with me when I was struggling to understand a topic as it sometimes takes me longer for me to fully understand a topic or task initially and they made sure that extra time was provided to accommodate this difficulty as well as providing guidance and resources that broke down a task/topic so I can understand it easier. This provided me with reassurance that I can reach out to someone for help with confidence in situations where I am unsure of what to do. The extra time provided has also been very helpful for me especially during exams as it allowed me to read and understand the questions given.

What / who supported you at university? Did you have any additional resources to support you at university?

From my transition to university, I was referred by Brent council for an assessment at Middlesex University to identify my educational needs and what would support me the most during my time in university. The one-to-one support provided by my universities DLS team, and I also received support from DSA regarding transport and education has also been a great help as the educational support helped me with guidance on how I could approach my coursework’s and directed me to resources that would help me the most for certain modules. Additionally, the universities online resources and the effort they made to enable its accessibility even outside of the campus was also invaluable especially during the covid lockdowns as I would have struggled significantly when approaching and gathering resources for assignments.

Tell us about your choice of university course?

Since Secondary school, I had a strong interest within computer science and by extension cyber security as I was interested in seeing how technology and the industries using them react to disasters and how they took steps to mitigate the damage in the future. I chose to study BTEC ICT with the City of Westminster College to expose myself to the inner workings of some elements commonly seen and essential such as image editing, web development, presentations, and hardware repair. From there I gradually exposed myself to programming through visual basic. I knew that I wanted to go further with this field and chose my course in computer science with the University of Westminster which my teachers in college and my parents have been very encouraging and supported me for the application process through UCAS. Upon studying for computer science, I realised that the field of computing was more varied than I expected it to be however this encouraged me even more to learn the fundamentals in each subject. Overtime I found that the fundamentals for many subjects such as programming does translate over to other subjects almost seamlessly which made learning in the field of computing far less overwhelming, and I felt rewarded for picking up the skills from previous subjects as I was regularly incorporating them to my coursework’s which also helped refresh my knowledge of prior subjects. This also became prevalent when I studied for my Masters in cybersecurity and forensics as I developed a mindset that enabled me to assess a task at hand and implement the knowledge that I have developed into my tasks from a computer science perspective. I also discovered that risk management and to an extent evidence and procedure are fields that aligned more closely with my interests within the computing field rather than the programming aspect, and it is an area that I strived to further develop in. However, the fundamentals for many of the subjects that I have studied provided an important insight when approaching tasks in these subjects as the knowledge provided can enable me to identify potential risks more effectively as I can be able to effectively understand and convey the nature of the damage from a technical side.
Overall, it has been a delight to have been given the chance to study at the University of Westminster with an upper 2nd class honours for my bachelors in computer science and Merit in my Masters in Cyber security and forensics despite the challenges I’ve experienced during the Covid Lock downs.

So what next….what type of job / career are you aspiring to do?

Since I have found that I enjoyed proactively looking for potential risks and proposing solutions in my risk management module, I intended to develop skills that would be beneficial for a career in this field and have been proactively looking for roles related to risk management After I have worked within this industry for a period, I might consider returning to education to complete a PHD. The modules that I have been exposed to during my time in education has been invaluable as it provided me with the opportunity to grasp the fundamentals of different aspects of computing and security. However, there are various skills that I could still develop beyond my education that would be beneficial in risk management. After my graduation ceremony, I took courses to widen my perspective in security and technologies with Microsoft Azure fundamentals certification and the SIA CCTV course being two recent examples. the certification for Azure fundamentals would help me gain a solid understanding of how cloud computing operates as well as highlight the types of risks that are common with the technology used which will prove to be beneficial when working with sectors in an organisation that relies of the cloud for their tasks. The SIA CCTV course provides me with an important insight into the nature of physical security and what to look for when conducting proactive risk assessments. Additionally, I also consider the skills gained from the SIA course to be incredibly valuable regardless of career as it provides guidance of what to look out for when an unauthorised person enters a facility or what to do when a suspicious item is found and how to approach the situation safely.

I would like to express my gratitude from Brent council team in general for supporting me throughout the entirety of my education term and I would like to thank the individual members of staff at Brent council (BOAT, Assessment team at Middlesex University) and the learning difficulty teams throughout Christ Church primary school, Queens Park Community school, City of Westminster College and university of Westminster for all the help and support they have provided me when I needed it most.




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