01 May

16-25: Our chance to shape the young adult agenda

The new Children and Families Act 2014 has handed us all a chance to give every child a better start in life. I believe it’s time to speak as one, through Special Schools’ Voice, and be proactive in our response to one of the greatest transforming opportunities many of us have ever seen.

For many years, it could be argued, schools have placed the preparation for young adulthood in the hands of other organisations. Local colleges, independent providers and social care provision have all taken our, at times, unfair criticism. But things are changing. The new children and families bill has rightly placed aspiration for our young people at the heart of a revised school-based strategy that is intended to be both challenging and ambitious.

So what does this mean in reality for our schools? The coalition has given schools the green light to innovate. Without careful planning, this could mean our impact is limited. So we need to embrace an employment, volunteering, independent living and community engagement strategy.

We need to have a shared understanding of positive outcomes for our young people. If we can clearly articulate what these community outcomes are, it could help frame our curriculum offers and assessment systems.

It will be a challenge. For many years, we’ve followed various government initiatives and strategies. It could be argued that only a minority have challenged a young adult agenda and very few have had a lasting impact on our young people’s life opportunities.

Many schools have highlighted that we now lack help from special advisers and national experts. This has actually handed us an opportunity. It’s a chance for schools, the organisations that know their young people best, to help shape an agenda and ensure a new way forward. We can offer our young people improved life chances, experiences and opportunities.

We have many questions to discuss. How do we involve young people themselves in these solutions and decisions? How do we ensure creative curriculums and calculated risk-taking within an (inspection) system that struggles to understand our personalised approaches? How can we ensure our curriculum also contain enjoyment, joy, creativity, being healthy and being safe?

Collectively we have the knowledge and expertise. Together we have the creativity to challenge previous assumptions. Special Schools’ Voice can help co-ordinate our shared and creative solutions, and provide a forum for us to support each other on this incredible journey.

We need you to get involved.

Please share your best practice with others. We can learn from each other. We can find the solutions. We can rise to the challenge. If we speak with one voice from day one, we can make a real difference to young people’s lives.