On Thursday 4th March, a Virtual Parents’ Coffee Morning on Transition and Options after Chailey at age 19 provided an opportunity for parents to get together and share experiences.
This event was delivered via TEAMS. It was an information-sharing event for parents where they had the chance to ask questions about topics connected with the transition to Adult Services. We felt that it would be valuable for parents of students currently attending Chailey Heritage School to hear advice from parents of students who have left and moved on to Adult Services. Following a welcome by Paula Marten, Susan Duke and Rob Hambrook talked about the Futures provision. After this, our Parent Speakers took the lead. They were given these prompt questions in advance (see below) and discussion moved very naturally from one parent to the next.
Seventeen people attended the Coffee Morning in total, including two CHF Governors, and the mother of a boy who attends Five Acre Wood School in Maidstone who had found out about the event via social media.
Deborah joined the call from North-West London. Her son Ruben is now at National Star college and has been residential there for four years. Deborah talked about Ruben’s needs and what worked well for him at Chailey, which she described as a very happy time. She found the prospect of transition “totally terrifying!” She said that a move to Futures would have felt like a very natural transition, but she and her husband believed that Ruben needed to go on to college. She set a 2-hour radius on the destination in terms of how far she was prepared to travel. She shortlisted two colleges. She had thought a lot about this in advance. She worked with CHF staff to make sure that the EHCP was ready, and that it included all the things that they wanted it to. Deborah said she kept learning at the forefront of Ruben’s EHCP. They said a lot of preparatory work was done to make sure his CCS book was up to speed for when he left the school and eventually, he spent two days settling in at the college.
Deborah’s advice for parents is “Think about what you want, in the long term, for your son or daughter. Trust your instincts.” She and her husband were terrified at the prospect of college for Ruben but found that he was incredibly resilient. She said Ruben is enjoying being one of the seniors, he is doing a BTEC and enjoying karaoke! He even went ski-ing recently.
Juliet said that she and her husband looked at colleges for their son, Ryan, and National Star ‘felt perfect’, although it did mean travelling further than they had wanted to. Ryan has now moved to his own flat on campus and is very happy.
Some parents voiced concerns. One asked the group “What happens if there’s nothing?” Sarah gave her account of how she had had to work very hard on the EHCP, as she wanted a place at Treloar’s for her son Guy. However, she could only secure funding for a ‘term time’ place and this isn’t what was needed. Her advice to parents was to “Find out where you don’t want them to go, as much as where you do.” She investigated at least seven places, included two supported living places and none of these felt right for Guy. Sarah has achieved the funding and a suitable placement after fighting for it since 2018. She said “You just have to go hell for leather. Think about their time frame, not yours.”
Sarah said that “Chailey were amazing. They went through everything to make sure that everything was in place.” Deborah advised parents to be aware that all major assessments need to be up to date and completed within the last year of school. She advised, “There is no ideal option out there, but remember the importance of compromise.”
Denise Howard, Family Liaison Worker, explained the difficulties of the overall situation in 2022. Places at both Futures and specialist colleges are few and far between; some colleges are delaying applications for another year.
Deborah, Juliet, and Sarah gave pragmatic and warm advice. We are very interested in hearing suggestions for topics for future events like this, to provide support and information for parents of students preparing to leave school.
Lawrence Mudford, who is a Governor for CHF, attended the Coffee Morning for the first time.
“What a fantastic conversation. Parents have really spoken from the heart. Our expectations are to get the very best, but what I’m hearing is that the best is what’s best for the young person. This is a terrific group of parents, who could form a great support group.”