In the latest report from the Longitudinal Transition Study, research participants – who are now aged between 19 and 22 – were asked to reflect back to their experiences of school and transition.


In this blog we talk about some of the things that the young people told us. What, in hindsight are the things they value about their experiences of school and the specialist support they received, and that helped them make a successful transition? And what are the things that didn’t go so well and could have been improved upon?

How well did school prepare young people for transition?

There were mixed views on how well the participants felt that they had been prepared for transition from school. Some observed that while at the time of transition they had felt well prepared, the reality of life outside school had been quite different to their expectations. Specialist support had been harder to access than they had anticipated and/or they had lacked important independent learning advocacy, and mobility skills.

The skills that young people needed for a successful transition

It was having those all important independence skills, along with the ability to self advocate, that were the key factors in whether a young person felt they were prepared for the challenges that many of them experienced following transition. It is also evident that the participants who left school without good independent learning and mobility and self advocacy skills were far less resilient and less able to cope than those who did have these skills.

“Not prepared at all! They don’t prepare you at all for university, school is a sheltered environment where A-levels are basically tick boxing and teachers are like just dictating to you what you need to know. The moment you get to uni, literally… you aren’t exactly a duck out of water, but you sit there…”

“They didn’t help with confidence or independence. They thought education was enough.”

 “I was taught how to stand up for myself, I was taught how to assert myself, and I was taught to some extent what my rights were and that kind of thing, particularly at the school level…”

Student and staff
Student receiving specialist careers support

“[Mobility training]…was very helpful, it boosted my confidence, even now when I don’t know where I am going I do feel more confident because I know I can do it if I concentrate.”

Information needs

The research also found that many participants had left school not knowing about their rights and the different types of support and funding available to them, or how to navigate this support. For example, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and the Access to Work scheme, or specialist careers advice. Positive accounts came from participants who had received specific transition support, e.g. through careers services or transition officers:

“I guess the one thing that I wasn’t really prepared for is that… I wasn’t really properly told how to apply for DSA straight away, so that was an issue in the first year, trying to get all of that sorted out, and it was hard to get processed. I didn’t know where to go to get the evidence I needed…”

“Very, very very prepared. I had support from Connexions people. They offered me help in terms of career pathways. That definitely helped, that’s why I chose the course I did at college.”

The role of education providers

It is the responsibility of education providers to ensure that as well as having good academic qualifications, students leave school equipped with the skills needed to make a successful transition to independent adulthood. This is made clear in the DfE’s ‘preparing for adulthood outcomes’ toolkit and the principles apply to post-school education providers too. Even confident young people with good independence and self advocacy skills have not been prepared for the lack of inclusive practice in some further and higher education institutions identified in this study.

What are we doing with all this evidence?

Information needs

We have listened to what young people have told us about the information they need at the time of transition and with funding from DfE and the National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP) developed detailed guidance on going to university.

We are working with young people to create resources that can be used by VI services and schools to deliver transitions workshops for young people with VI, and to update RNIB’s current online transitions guidance and downloadable ‘Bridging the Gap’ guide for England.

Training for young people

We are sharing the research findings with professionals who support young people with VI so they understand the importance of teaching independence skills. For example, through the mandatory training for qualified teachers of children and young people with VI (QTVI), and through a ‘Learner Outcomes Framework’ which we developed with Brent sensory service and Positive Eye for NatSIP.

We have shared the research findings on young people’s experiences of university with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education (OIAHE) which is the independent body set up to review individual student complaints, and is developing a good practice framework in supporting disabled students in higher education

Sue Keil and Rachel Hewett.


One thought on “Reflections of school

  1. Very interesting article! I have been working with young VI for over a year now through GiveVision, a startup developing wearable sight enhancement solutions. Most of our young users are in mainstream schools. Their schools have been supportive equipping them as well as raising awareness about their conditions but it seems to me that those kids and their parents have felt quite isolated because they might not have others to share their experience with. Being a VI kid in the middle of 30 sighted kids doesn’t help to boost the confidence as there is easily a delay to process all visual information. I believe in new technologies to tackle this situation but also in networks supporting parents and their VI kids by connecting them.

    Liked by 1 person

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