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My 15 year old AD is hoping to do a level 3 BTEC course next year at college. She came to live with us at the age of 5 and while she seems to manage well, she can be quite immature and does the least work she thinks can get away with.

I am concerned that when she gets to college (which she thinks will be one big laugh) she will fail her course due lack of structure and supervision.


Do colleges put in extra support for vulnerable young people?


There is nowhere specific to put on the application form that she is adopted, and when I suggested to my daughter she include it, she said she didn't want them feeling sorry for her.


What have other parents done to support their adopted children through college?


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Is there anywhere on the application where you asked to describe additional/special needs ?


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DS applied for college last year (but has stayed on at school in the end) and there was a box to tick for additional support needs on the form. After he had been offered a place, the ASN team got in touch to find out what sort of support would help him.


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Well my dd has an EHCP so we met with college before she started and she does have support. Not sure otherwise, although seem to recall her filling out a section re needs on the form.


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I used to teach in a college on BTEC courses and would say it very much depends on the college and the tutor. We had lots of kids who needed close supervision and was regularly on the phone or email to parents to let them know how their son/daughter was progressing, what work needed to be done etc. Not all tutors did this, even in the same college. There should be open evenings and interviews and I would ask to speak to the course leader. She may not get in class support but she should have a progress tutor who will monitor her progress. If you ask how they monitor progress and what contact they have with parents you should be able to guage how proactive they are likely to be


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I have to admit to feeling cautious about college and students with limited self motivation skills.

Im thinking back to me at 16 and long ago acknowledged that I should have stayed on at school as college just wasnt pushy enough and i was only too happy to cruise. I quit after year 1.

I worried about my older birth son and college cos like me he is able with a lazy streak. He too quit at the end of year 1. BS2 different kettle of fish, uber organised, motivated, did great at college and went to uni.

BS3 not as academically able as the older 2 and frankly daft as a brush. Really didnt see college or school 6th form being anywhere other than somewhere where he would spend a year drifting until he got chucked out. REALLY pushed him at an apprenticeship. Definitely the right option. I think they have had a lot of patience with him, he's done L2 and has now completed L3. Theyve raised his wages regularly and he's on track to be earning £18K by the end of the year. It's been the making of him (inspite of the fact I have to unpick alot of the right wing BS Daily Mail-esque propaganda they fill his head with)


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I really do think that college is an enormous change for many young people but the total freedoms offered at college are equally terrifying and hugely exciting at a new level for vulnerable kids who had a less than ideal start.

Our experience is that you might find it incredibly difficult to get any communication at all from college until it’s all a big crisis.

So much better to get little and often rapport going.

I’d gently suggest doing a level 2

Although academically able for level 3 it might be a good idea to give her something that’s relatively easy and she can practice ‘managing college’ and it’s expectations without much in the way of academic pressure.

Further, doing longer at college might, just might give her longer to grow up.


....I would suspect that within a very short time she will tell all and sundry she’s adopted and woe is me.... but then it’s on her terms and maybe she’s better off telling a lot of people, having it blow up in her face, then at least she can’t blame you for telling


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Yes. Ditto PT. My BS3 has 8 GCSE passes (plus a D in English). He did L2 first along with the English skills to get an acceptable level of English. It was theoretically 'too low' a qualification but gave him an easier lead in to the world of work.


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Thank you everyone.


How hard is level 3 BTEC, I know it gives you equivalent to A levels but I got the impression a lot of the mark is made up of course work, is more career related and is a bit easier than doing A levels.

I would say she has above average ability, but is easy distracted and puts in below average effort, so I don't think she would do well at A level. DD wants to go to university, and should be able to do the course she wants with a level 3 BTEC.


At work I mentor university students on work placement, a lot of which have done level 3 BTEC and some of them seem more "scatter brained" than my daughter so part of me thinks she should be able to do it.


At parents evening one of her teachers told me DD had only done one piece of homework this year ( though having a quick nosey at the teachers sheet of paper at looked like there where about 6 other children the same in her class who had done no homework). DD said her teacher does not impose any consequences or chase them up when homework isn't done so she doesn't do it, and it worries me that this will happen at college.

For other teachers she will do all her homework because she knows if she doesn't she will get detention and they will be on her back until it's done.


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A BTech level 3 is equivalent to A levels but more practically based. Both mine went to supported learning in college followed by mainstream courses. My son did fine - he did level 1 then 2 sports - he then went onto level 3 but because it was very similar to the content of the earlier courses found it de-motivating but at the same time too academic for him. He had been told he could "go all the way" which I presume meant to university - and probably could but would need intensive support. I found the college to be good at communicating with parents - particularly if there are specific concerns / issues / needs - and they have a learning support department separate from the supported learning department (those with higher levels of need) My son did not have a statement and I think if he had continued I would have needed to apply for an EHC Plan as there is only so much they can do without specific guidance. My daughter on transferring to a mainstream course was interviewed on her own (without me or previous tutor there ) and she said she had no additional needs. How would she know? - as she had been in special education from age 7 - she only knew that she did not need additional support to what was provided there - so her first choice course failed because of inadequate support and she was persuaded to do a different entry level course. I would also say that if your child is particularly vulnerable for any reason it may not work well as there is not the same level of supervision and awareness there so they are very much at risk from (for example) predatory boys - this is what happened to my daughter but once it had happened (she was the victim of a very serious sexual assault) the college were very helpful and understanding and very supportive to us all. They permanently excluded one of the boys who was intimidating witnesses and provided space for the expert witness to assess the students involved and worked closely with the police. I would recommend visiting and discussing your son's needs with staff before hand as it could so easily go wrong before parents evening if they are unaware.


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Have you tried phoning the college's pastoral section or the head of the subject she wishes to take? That will give you an idea of the sort of support she is likely to get. I had similar concerns about our daughter not coping with a more 'grown up' environment, but in reality the college she goes to does give quite a lot of support and has good communication with parents. I am aware this does vary between colleges; so it is worth looking at several colleges if that is possible in your area.

Our daughter also planned to do a level 3 course and was offered a provisional place last Autumn. Shortly after she began to suffer from extreme anxiety and started to refuse school and I knew she was unlikely to get the qualifications she needed. I phoned up the college and they were really helpful and told me that they would be able to find a course for her at a lower level if needed and that due to her anxiety she might be better off doing that any way to build her confidence and because she would receive more support. As expected she did poorly in her exams but the college were so positive with her and found her a suitable course in the subject she wanted. At enrolment parents had to enrol with the students if they were under 18 so I was able to make sure they knew about her needs ( by this time we had a diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety disorder) It is early days but our daughter is really enjoying her course and seems to be thriving as she is not constantly feeling stressed and anxious and she seems to be getting more support than at school. Her confidence has been boosted just in the short time she has been there. From our experience I would definitely think about doing level 2 first even if she has the qualifications to do level 3 as others have said.


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At college the trouble is if you aren’t putting in the reading, coursework, investigations and research you won’t be picked up on.

With his GCSEs he got onto a level 3 course in wildlife which is a subject he liked

My son had 2 terms of not doing much at all but they didn’t communicate that to us at home at all. I thought it was suss he never ever had any work to do and found out to my horror he’d basically not handed anything in, was in trouble for legging it and leaping over the lunch benches to impress girls, hadn’t attended sessions even though he was on the premises etc.

I cried! He didn’t give a stuff...

Then they said he was going to be chucked off and it confirmed to him why he didn’t do the work as he’d be chucked off anyway.

It’s not the academics. He knew exactly what to do. He just was too socially and emotionally immature to manage.

Plus he had 2 tutors who were in their early 30s and frankly needed to grow up themselves. They smoked around the students so they all took it up!

They had no idea whatsoever what supportive behaviour should/ could look like and as Partridge is genuinely a nice lad who is plausible initially they didn’t twig until late on that I hadn’t made up his problems

They made a big thing of ‘you’re a young man now, are you ready to cut those apron strings and face adult learning’

All that bravado crap Partridge lapped up, especially as it makes us mothers rubbished. but of course when it came to it, he couldn’t do it.

The college after a huge incident where his vulnerability was exposed beyond doubt they said if he could do 2 pieces of missed work he could do level 2 horticulture the next yr. I met the tutor with him. She looked about my mums age and head screwed on. She got it. She emailed weekly. I did the same.

He did a good pass there but then went on a really awfully run course again the following yr but this time passed. Again a level 2 with a support person in most sessions helping him sort out his equipment etc.


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I found college much more supportive and flexible that secondary school - it is the social side that is more of a problem sometimes


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My daughter entered college to study a Level 3 Cache Childcare course in September with 4 GCSEs and needing to repeat Maths. Despite a meeting with the SENCO and leaving the usual literature with them to show all tutors on day 1 it has taken 6 weeks to get any support and she has just been told she is not managing Level 3 and has had to drop to Level 2...after making new friends and being really happy her perception was she was progressing well. Terribly frustrating for me and hurtful for her - socially as well as academically - she came home today upset at having no-one to sit with for lunch as none of her new class spoke to her.


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I'm following this with interest as my ds is 15 and we are looking at his options for next year. He does have an EHCP which at least means people have to have meetings and plan for his transition!! BUT I am not even slightly convinced yet that the local colleges can/will provide the support he will need outside the classroom. If a course is described as 'fulltime' but only involves 12 hours in the classroom then that means (as the tutor told me) that the rest of the week is meant to be self-study. NO CHANCE of that happening. He currently does all homework and revision in school because he can't/won't do it at home, and can't won't accept help from me. So unless a college meets him at the gate each morning, coddles him all day, then puts him back on the bus with everything done, then he will fail.


I am trying to get him to accept that doing a course at his current school would be better - it's mainstream, but they are pretty good with him.

Academically he could probably do a level 3 course, just, if he manages to sit his GCSEs this summer. But I am definitely more keen for him to do a level 2 course to 'consolidate' his learning.

Unfortunately colleges have much more choice of course than schools, but they provide much less 'scaffolding' to enable him to access it all.


I am starting to challenge our LA about post-16 provision for vulnerable kids. The local SEMH schools stop at 16 so those kids must still need lots of support to move on - are they getting it? I doubt it, I bet most are NEET. It's not good enough.

I am also involving the Virtual School locally as they now have more responsibility for adopted kids - primarily for advice and guidance rather than anything massively useful!


Good luck


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Some of the supported learning courses (those for kids with higher level of SEN - but probably more than your son if he's done GCSEs) are 4 or even 5 days a week. I'm not aware of them even having enough work to do on those extra days anyway. I thing some of the level 1 or 2 courses also span more days but obviously less hours. Is it possible to add extra courses? Or even just supplementary activities (such as art, sport etc) which is what schools would do? Also if he was interested you could organise some work experience on the extra days. I think however it would be very much up to you unless the college provided such options and even when they do I don't think they necessarily do active planning for these but leave it very much up to you / the student If he has an EHCP maybe you could get help through this?


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My dd has an EHCP and the person in charge of SEN at her college has been very helpful. Dd sounds like she's more independent than your ds chookynoo, but we were advised we could use EHCP funds for someone to support Dd travelling to work experience placements, for example. She doesn't need that kind of support so we didn't pursue it, but we could have asked for it at her end of year 11 review.


In fact you can take charge of the funds yourself and employ your own support person. I know people who have done this.


Also dd gets time within the college day to complete assignments where the tutor is present (everyone on the course does) She's also been offered one to one tutoring in maths - not 100% sure if that's via the EHC, though I think it is.


She has also been given some counselling at college. (Amazingly she has started to be able to really talk through her feelings properly - also asked for a 1 to 1 session with her CAMHS psychiatrist - after 10 years of "everything's fine" or one word answers. They do grow up little by little!)


I feel relieved dd is free of the constraints of school in spite of a rather unsettled start at college (not all due to transition though).


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Please try to encourage her to declare her previous looked after children status on the application form. Colleges have a range of different things on offer for students - and it remains confidential - with the designated person knowing. Many Colleges and Universities are members of the Frank Buttle Trust where the emphasis is on supporting young people who are leaving care - but they'd still be keen to support your daughter. http://www.buttleuk.org/areas-of-focus/quality-mark-for-care-leavers


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