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Transition from school to further education, employment or training: Guidance for schools and settings


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Leaving secondary school to attend further education, employment or training is a significant milestone for young people, offering an increased level of autonomy and a move towards independence.

The timing of this move tends to coincide with developmental shifts, including young people displaying an increased capacity for rational thinking and for planning ahead.

Unfortunately, for some young people the transition from school can prove challenging and identifying who is vulnerable to transition challenges, and how to address this, is a priority given the associations between transition problems – and an increased risk of unemployment – as well as a higher likelihood of physical and mental health difficulties.

When it comes to exploring the nature of these transitional challenges, much of the existing research has focused on particularly vulnerable groups such as children in care, those with learning difficulties, or those moving from alternative provision.

Such groups of young people have been found to experience particular challenges at this phase of education, both socially and with adapting to the new learning environment and the pace of learning.

These findings are supported by other researchers who suggest that focusing on supporting social connections, as well as academic support, could be key to reducing ‘drop out’ rates for all students, not just those from particularly vulnerable groups.

The aim of this document is to provide guidance for schools and further education/training providers to help identify factors that may place a young person at risk of experiencing transition difficulties, as well as how to identify steps that can be taken to support them.

The guidance is informed by direct research in Devon, which has included data obtained from staff interviews alongside questionnaire data from almost 100 young people attending further education settings in Devon.

This guidance refers to three levels of support throughout, which reflects the Devon graduated response strands. These are as follows:

  • Universal – recommendations at this level are relevant to all students.
  • Targeted – recommendations at this level are relevant to students who are at some risk of experiencing transition difficulties and may require additional support during their transition.
  • Specialist – recommendations at this level are relevant to the most vulnerable groups of learners who are at the highest risk of experiencing transition difficulties.

Further details regarding which students may fall within each of the strands will be provided in later sections of this guidance document.

Summary of the key factors influencing transition at age 16

Major supports to post-16 transitions

Young person-led.

Social connectedness – perceived availability of peer support.

Family support.

Clear aspirations.

Support at school for decision-making, for example, through mentoring/tutor support/guidance.

Excellent information sharing – a clear and consistent approach to sharing information early and clearly in a useful format.

Strong partnership working between secondary schools and local further education/training providers.

Strong induction programmes.

Comprehensive and clear information is provided about course content prior to transition, so the student is not surprised by the expectations of the course.

Major risks to post-16 transitions

Poor information sharing between schools, parents, young people and further education/training providers.

A lack of awareness of additional needs including a focus on a ‘fresh start’.

Lack of appropriate assessment leading to late identification of additional needs and late support.

A mismatch between the learners’ interests and aspirations and the course/training the young person is studying.

A learner feeling like the course/training is not what they expected leading to drop-out.

Learners starting courses outside of the standard timeframes.

Learners in Devon told us the following about their transition from school

Young people told us that support from others was very important, including support from families and friends.

We were also told that socialising and friends were important, and young people said it was helpful knowing someone who was going to the same setting.

Young people we talked to said it was helpful when information about the course/training was clear so they knew what to expect when they started.

Sharing information was important, particularly when a learner required support assistance for additional needs.

Young people found it useful to know where the course/training could lead to in the future.

Transition was discussed as being challenging by some and transition arrangements including visits, meetings and good

induction was highlighted as a positive factor.

How to identify who needs support

In this guidance we use the terms universal, targeted and specialist to identify and plan which transition arrangements would be appropriate for different levels of need.

The information below offers examples of those children who may be included in those groups. The lists of children are not exhaustive and it’s appropriate for professionals to use their discretion regarding what level of transition support a young person will need.


Transition arrangements in place for all children.


Targeted support for children with a moderate level of vulnerability. This group of children may include young people:

  • with SEND
  • with social, emotional and mental health needs
  • with English as an additional language
  • who become distressed around times of change


Specialist support for children with severe and complex levels of need. This may include:

  • children in care
  • young people with an EHCP
  • young people not in education, employment or training
  • young people where there has been recent multi-agency involvement
  • young people moving from an ‘alternative provision’
  • young people who have been electively home educated

How to identify which students may benefit from targeted transition support

Many of the students who would benefit from targeted transition support will not necessarily fall under an identified ‘at risk’ group. This can result in their potential vulnerability being missed by professionals, if careful consideration is not given to the transition planning process.

Academic vulnerabilities

Many young people can find the shift in teaching and learning expectations within a further education setting challenging.

Our local research has also highlighted that many students feel that, for a variety of reasons, they have been enrolled on a course or training programme which does not fit with their aspirations or interests. These are both potential barriers to successful transitions.

At-risk students include those:

  • with SEND, for example, those with weak literacy and/or maths skills and those who experience challenges with organisation, memory and learning
  • with poor attendance and/or low self-confidence in relation to their learning
  • who are studying courses which they did not choose, for example, where challenges arose as a result of their GCSE results, parental pressure or issues regarding careers advice
  • who have started the course outside of the usual intake period

Social communication and mental health vulnerabilities

Social connectedness has been found to be a key factor in resilience and also in successful transitions between school and further education/training.

There are also links between students’ wellbeing, their engagement in further education and longer-term outcomes such as employment prospects.

At-risk students include those:

  • with identified emotional or mental health needs, for example, depression, a history of self-harm, ADHD, anxiety
  • with Autistic Spectrum Conditions and/or social communication difficulties
  • who find it hard to develop and maintain positive peer relationships
  • with language difficulties
  • who have experienced a fixed-term or permanent exclusion
  • who have moved from an alternative provision environment or who were electively home educated
  • who have started the course outside of the usual intake period
  • who have had low attendance or difficulties managing the school environment due to anxiety or social difficulties
  • who have experienced challenging home environments, including those with involvement from children’s social care services
  • with low motivation and limited aspirations for their further training and/or employment

How to identify which students may benefit from specialist transition support

It is vital that secondary school staff play a key role in notifying further education or training providers of the students who are likely to require specialist transition support.

As a minimum, this should include appropriate information sharing prior to the transition and the development of a support plan.

Some students will require comprehensive levels of support to ensure a positive transition as they reach the end of their school life.

School staff need to play a vital role in identifying these students and intervening at an early stage to ensure the transition is well supported.

Those likely to require specialist support include:

  • young people identified by school staff or other professionals as being likely to require a personalised transition package
  • students who have already been accessing personalised or alternative programmes of support during their time at school
  • children in care or those previously in care
  • young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • young people where there has been recent multi-agency involvement in relation to supporting them, for example, involvement from professionals such as educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, CAMHS
  • young people who are known or previously known to Children’s Social Care including students supported through a child protection plan
  • students who have been excluded from school (fixed-term or permanent)
  • students with significant attendance difficulties
  • students who have accessed alternative educational provision

Signalling that one of the above criteria applies will support further education staff with being able to work in partnership with schools to offer timely ‘specialist’ transition support.

The ‘transition passport’ document within (Appendix A) could be used as a framework for the sharing of such information and the timeframe on the following page provides details for when such information should be shared.

Whose responsibility is it to share information?

We would strongly encourage all secondary schools to use the ‘transition passport’ (in Appendix A) as a framework for identifying and sharing information about students who display vulnerabilities in the above areas.

Further education providers may also wish to consider asking questions about the above areas, as part of their admissions procedures (for instance through application forms and the interview process).

Once students start within a setting, tutors are well placed to review the ‘success’ of transitions and identify those who are in need of additional support. The transition passport (see Appendix A) can provide a framework for reviewing the transition process for students who were identified as requiring targeted transition support.

Where transition support workers are employed in a school, these staff would be well placed to take on the role of information sharing in relation to specialist transition support.

Within settings where such workers are not in place, the role would ideally be carried out by an identified member of the school’s support staff team, for instance, the SENCo.

Where a student’s placement is arranged or commences at a date outside of the usual timeframes, then it will typically fall to further education providers to identify whether the student has additional needs which may place them at risk of transition difficulties.

The school SENCo is likely to be a good initial point of contact for further education providers, in terms of being able to clarify whether a student fell within one of the most vulnerable groups (listed above). The ‘transition passport’ (see Appendix A) would offer a framework for collating the most important information to share.

Strongly encouraging parents and young people to share this information, as part of the further education application process is important.

Electively home educated students

Parents choose to electively home educate for a variety of reasons. Our experience indicates that, on occasions, such decisions are made as a consequence of a young person experiencing some challenges at school.

Whilst it may be tempting for parents and young people to seek a ‘fresh start’, within a further education setting this can lead to young people not having access to support which could help their transition.

We would therefore encourage home educators to also consider completing the ‘transition passport’ to help aid transition support planning.

Equality Act
Under the Equality Act it is illegal for schools or colleges to discriminate or treat young people unfairly, at any stage (including the application stage), as a consequence of them having one of the nine protected characteristics (including learning and mental health disabilities).

Universal transition support - good practice guidance for schools and further education/training providers

The majority of young people will make the transition from school to further education without the need for a high level of support.

Many of the settings we have spoken to are already providing good ‘universal transition support’. The following can act as a prompt for those settings wishing to review their universal transition protocols.

Guidance for secondary schools

All young people need to have access to information about the full range of educational, employment and training opportunities which are available to them.

This is a legal requirement, and it is vital that factors such as the financial implications of retaining students do not influence the information which is shared with young people about their future employment and training options.

Young people need to choose options that are suited to their areas of interest and future aspirations. They need to be supported to develop realistic short and long-term goals to help them achieve their aims.

This is vital in terms of promoting their motivation and engagement.

As well as this schools should consider the following:

Senior leaders should ensure that the transition to further education/training is prioritised and viewed as a key transition point requiring support.

As Ofsted can now consider destination data as part of school inspections, schools are encouraged to consider the importance of effective transition planning.

Raising the profile of further education and training throughout the school from year seven but increasingly so from year nine.

Work experiences should be built into the practices of the school at various stages, with clear mechanisms for ensuring these experiences are valuable and meaningful.
Schools should provide details of careers services to students and promote local further education and training providers.

Schools should provide opportunities for training and further education providers to present information at the school to students.

Students should have time to consider and reflect on their options, for example, follow-up discussions through tutor time and/or PSHE. They should also be clear on how and when to gain further information if needed.

Schools should consider communication with parents as highly important in the context of post-16 transition planning.

Excellent feedback and mentoring systems that support students to develop self-awareness of their strengths to inform future decision-making.

Excellent partnerships with local training and further education providers to promote effective transition arrangements. Schools should also develop effective communication with non-local providers where students will be transferring.

Identify staff at the school who have responsibility for careers and post-16 destinations. This person should work closely with staff who have responsibility for year 11, including pastoral and support staff.

Secondary schools should consider clearly outlining the role of the careers leader on their website alongside outlining procedures for transition support more generally.

The key to supporting successful transitions is ensuring that there are good information-sharing protocols between schools and further education/training providers. This relies upon partnership working between schools, further education providers, young people and their families.

Guidance for further education and training providers

Further education and training settings should support transition arrangements at the universal level by developing partnerships with receiving settings and having clear systems in place for information sharing and induction.

Further education and training providers should also:

Ensure that course and training/employability information is marketed widely. This needs to include exploring ways of marketing to young people who are not in education, employment or training – as well as those who are home educated

Ensure that course information is comprehensive, clear and accurate. Information we gathered in Devon and other research indicates that an important cause of drop-out and failure to complete further education/training opportunities is students feeling that the experiences are not what they expected

Offer students opportunities to ‘check in’ with identified key staff during the initial transition period and beyond. Further education tutors are well placed to do this and can play a role in monitoring the success of the young person’s transition. Factors such as a fall in attendance, missed deadlines or negative feedback from staff should be seen as initial ‘red flags’ for exploring potential transition difficulties.

Offer excellent induction procedures that allow students a thorough opportunity to familiarise themselves with the setting, staff and expectations. Importantly, there should also be induction processes for students joining outside of the regular

Targeted and specialist transition support - good practice guidance for schools, colleges and training providers

Good universal practice as described in the previous section remains important even when considering those who require higher levels of support.

However, individuals who require support at a targeted or specialist level are likely to need more in-depth support over a longer time period.

Early intervention

One of the most important factors in supporting effective transitions for those in the targeted and specialist groups is early identification and intervention.

Schools should have clear procedures in place for the identification of young people who are vulnerable to struggling with transition or at risk of becoming NEET.

The sections above regarding how to identify young people at risk could be used to help with the screening process and it would be important that information is gathered from multiple sources, for example, young people, parents/carers, tutors, heads of year, SENCo, pastoral staff).

Support for decision-making

As well as being told about the range of options, young people who require targeted or specialist support are likely to need further support in helping them make decisions.

The student may require support throughout key stage 4, for example, through mentoring to support them in developing their aspirations.

Many young people with significant additional support needs have aspirations but require mentoring, coaching and support to understand how best to achieve their ambitions.

Students in these groups may also need additional levels of work experience opportunities and need time to reflect on these with a trusted adult so they can develop an idea of their strengths and how this links with the decisions they need to make.

Many students requiring specialist support would also benefit from access to advocacy support, to ensure their views are central to selecting a course/training opportunity. This may involve the student’s key worker researching options with the student or attending open days/transition visits.

Information sharing

To ensure appropriate information sharing, settings should consider:

  • transition planning meetings which involve collaborative discussion between receiving and sending setting as well as other relevant professionals, family and the young person
  • that it is important to focus on appropriate information sharing over the transition and not ‘fresh starts’ as this runs the risk of information not being passed on and support not being put into place
  • using the transition passport (Appendix A) – this provides a template for which information should be shared and is centred around the young person and what they wish to share

Transition planning

Once staff have identified which students are potentially vulnerable, it is important to develop a transition plan, which fits with the needs and aspirations of the young person.

The young person’s voice should be central to the planning of transition support and it will need to be personalised to each young person.

Schools and settings should make the transition leaflet for young people available to young people where necessary.

The following information provides some examples of what targeted or specialist transition support may involve for this age range. This incorporates feedback we gathered from young people in a number of post-16 educational settings across Devon.

What can schools do?

Schools can:

  • ensure that students are making post-16 decisions that fit with their hopes and aspirations as well as their ability levels and strengths – staff should be able to be supportive but also offer appropriate challenge, and question decisions made by students
  • share information early and ensure this information is concise, accessible and clear, for example, this could be information about learning difficulties, emotional wellbeing, and approaches/strategies that benefit the young person
  • engage parents in transition planning, including in transition meetings – ensure the young person’s aspirations are central to the planning process and are not restricted by family beliefs/experiences of education
  • focus on developing the young person’s independence and organisational skills in preparation for the transition

What can further education and training providers do?

Further education and training providers can:

  • ensure that adaptations are made promptly to account for learning needs, for example, the provision of a laptop
  • engage parents/carers in transition review meetings and invite them to open days and events
  • let parents know that their support and encouragement remain important even once the young person is in the new setting
  • be flexible where possible – offer an adapted timetable, consider a phased transition and offer additional visits if needed
  • provide access to structured social activities
  • support the formation of social connectedness-promote engagement in clubs, consider the use of peer mentors

Promoting and reviewing academic integration

Many young people find the shift in teaching style and increased focus on independence, within further education settings, challenging to adapt to.

Signs such as a drop in attendance, and not submitting assignments are possible indicators of students struggling to manage the academic demands of their course.

Within the transition passport (Appendix A), relevant information about possible barriers to academic integration should be highlighted and a support plan developed.
Timetabling a transition review meeting within six weeks of the transition will be important in terms of reviewing this area.

Further assessment is often necessary to ensure there is up-to-date information on the learner’s strengths and needs to inform planning.

Promoting and reviewing social integration

Perceived availability of social support is a key factor in ensuring successful transitions from school to further education settings.

Students who start further education outside of the usual ‘timeframes’ are vulnerable to experiencing difficulties in this area, as they may have missed out on initial social activities, and induction programmes.

Students who have experienced social challenges at school, for example, those with ASC, may also struggle to adapt to the new social dynamics.

The transition passport document should identify possible barriers and support plans to help students in this area. Asking questions about ‘social integration’ during transition reviews/tutor meetings will help to plan and provide support responsively if additional needs are identified once the course has begun.


Further education/training providers should consider how a student with potential social difficulties could be supported. For example, through mentoring, buddy schemes or through social clubs and activities that bring together learners with similar interests.

Appendix A: Transition passport

Please note that the transition passport document can be found as part of the downloadable version of this guidance.

Download the transition from school to further education, employment or training guidance as PDF.