Parent Information - Process Northern Ireland

The process of transitioning from school to adult services for young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs starts in Year 10 when they are 14. A transition planning review is organised by an Education Authority Transition  Co-ordinator and this meeting will take place at the school.  This is probably the first time you and your son or daughter will be asked to consider what options might be suitable post school. At this meeting the Annual Review of your young adults Statement of Special Educational Needs is also carried out and updated if required.  Meetings will be held with Transition Co-ordinators and the school on an ongoing basis up to leaving school, this can involve  2 or 3+ reviews each year. While this might seem very early to start planning for leaving school, as there are probably another 5 years left  at school, it is important to begin to plan and prepare early.

The Transition Planning Review is a legal requirement and all young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs and their parents/carers will be invited by the Transition Co-ordinator  to attend the meeting. Prior to the meeting the Transition Co-ordinator who has been allocated to your young adult will write to you with details about the process, their role and what to expect.  At the meeting it is likely there will be a number of other people there, some you will already know, and others will be new to you. People who may attend include the Principal, Class teacher, your Social Worker, a Transition Co-ordinator, Careers Advisor and other professionals that work with your son/daughter e.g. an Occupational Therapist, voluntary organisations that are offering a transition service.

Following the meeting a Transition Plan will be created by the Transition Co-ordinator and you will receive a copy to sign and return. The plan will be updated on a regular basis  to reflect how your son/daughter is progressing in areas such as literacy, numeracy, independence and social/communication areas and highlight any changes such as health needs, family circumstances or concerns. It will include your options and preferences for where your  son or daughter will transition to, this will also be regularly  reviewed and you can change your preferences right up to the last term in school.

Education Authority:

Principal & teacher: They work closely with the Transition Co-ordinator to plan and facilitate  transition planning meetings and the subsequent reviews.  They prepare detailed information for the transition plan and update this each year including information on progress, potential options, aspirations and support needs, passing this onto the Transition Co-ordinator.  The school will know your young adult very well and can provide advice on what options you should consider post school and also how best to prepare for leaving school. 

A Transition Co-ordinator has a very important role to play during the planning and preparation stages of the transition process. There are ten Transition Co-ordinators based throughout the five Education Authority areas in Northern Ireland. They provide support and advice to all young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs and work closely with mainstream and special schools to ensure all young people and their families have the information they need to make informed choices.  

As well as triggering the transition process they also oversee it to make sure that young people with a statement have regular reviews and have their transition plan updated to reflect changes and progress.  They will meet your son or daughter at school to discuss options and may also offer home visits to meet parents/carers. They can provide advice and guidance on options based on the information supplied by school as well as taking into account the wishes of the young adult. They will  signpost you to potential options and endeavour to make sure your son/daughter has a pathway after leaving school. For more detailed information about the role of  Transition Co-ordinators and the EA Transition Service visit eani/

Careers Advisors

Careers Advisors are employed by the Department of the Economy and work with all young people preparing to leave school as well as adults who are looking for training and employment.  They can provide impartial  information about courses and opportunities funded by the Department of the Economy including Further Education courses at colleges and training providers. Careers Advisors work in geographic areas so have good knowledge about local courses and how to apply. They also work with voluntary organisations that offer specialist support and employment services to young people and adults with a range of disabilities.

Social Worker/ Care Manager: 

The role of a Learning Disability Social Worker is very important if you and your son/daughter are considering options that are funded by one of the health trusts.  This can include a place at a day centre or a community opportunity offered by a voluntary organisation like Orchardville. In order to be considered for a place at any of the above a social worker needs to make the application and work on your behalf to secure a place.  The social worker will need to complete a number of reports to understand your son/daughter’s support needs and post school options and this will be done over a number of visits. 

They will present this information at panel meetings to a variety of potential providers including Health Trust service managers and voluntary/community representatives, you can state a preference about where you would like your young adult to go when they leave school but places may be unavailable or restricted. The panel meetings take place throughout the year and your son/daughters progress may be discussed a number of times to ensure progress is being made to secure the right place for them when they leave school. Potential options are outlined in the “options” section.

Depending on where you live the social worker who supports you during the transition from school to adult services is either from the adult learning disability team or Children’s Disability Team. This is because the transfer to the adult team is either at age 18 or 19.  If you live in the SEHSCT a Transitions Social Worker representing the adult and children’s teams will support you during this time.

A social worker can also assist with organising other services such as Packages of Care including domiciliary support, respite and housing especially if your son/daughter has complex health needs or challenging behaviour.  Therefore, the support and guidance they offer can extend beyond transitioning from school and well into adult life.

It is important to know that not every young person with a Statement of Special Educational Needs will be involved with a social worker. This could be for a number of reasons such as you haven’t needed the support from one before. Another reason can be that your son/daughter’s individual circumstances don’t meet the eligibility criteria for an adult Learning Disability Social Worker. This may be the case if your young adult has autism or attends/attended a mainstream or Moderate Learning Disability (MLD) school. If you feel you need the support of a social worker then contact your local team for advice and guidance about how to request a referral, they will be attached to your Health & Social Care Trust i.e: Belfast, South Eastern, Northern, Western and Southern.

Voluntary Organisations:

If your son/daughter is involved with a voluntary organisation offering a transition programme they may be invited to the school review. This is useful as they will provide further information about how your young adult is progressing outside the school environment and this can assist you with deciding on where to transition to.

Parent Information - Process Ireland

In Ireland, the transition process is not yet standardised and details can vary depending on where and what type of setting your child attends. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recommend that final preparations for leaving school take place a year in advance of transition. However, families and schools should begin thinking about transition 2-3 years before leaving school. This planning should include the young person, parents or advocate(s), and any relevant multidisciplinary team members.

Students with disabilities in Ireland can attend school until the end of the year in which they turn 18. Beyond that, there are many different options depending on the individual’s interests, strengths and needs. Some individuals will progress to some form of further education or employment, and some individuals will require a different type of support, such as a day service.

The beginning stages of the process will involve helping youth identify areas of interests, build strengths, and move towards greater independence. This will be a joint responsibility among home, school, and perhaps any therapeutic services the youth may attend. You can learn more about what you can do at home by visiting our preparation page.

At school, it is generally the role of the Guidance Counsellor to support students in preparing for life beyond secondary. Special schools however do not have Guidance Counsellor posts. For young people in special schools, or perhaps those in mainstream schools but with greater support needs, guidance is to be provided through the HSE Disability Service’s Occupational Guidance Officers. The Occupational Guidance Officer’s role is to:

  • establish the young person’s support needs
  • assist in the identification of an appropriate service provider
  • guide the allocation of funding for their service

To access this support, families or schools should contact the Occupational Guidance Service through their local HSE Disability Office at least 13 months before the student is set to finish school. Often, it is the school that makes contact, but parents may make the request as well.

The Occupational Guidance Officer will organise a meeting to explore the young person’s needs, wishes and expectations. Having a detailed knowledge of HSE funded Services, the Occupational Guidance Officer can offer advice on options and help the young adult make informed choices. If a suitable placement is agreed, the Occupational Guidance Officer will complete the steps required to secure the placement and facilitate a smooth transition for the young person.