Preparation for adulthood: Support SEND pupils for their futures


Tina Murray talks about how the ‘Preparation for Adulthood’ programme can help children to achieve a bright future.

Most primary schools will have heard the term ‘Preparation for Adulthood’ (PFA). But what does it mean, and how can we ensure as primary schools and as caregivers that we work together to plan opportunities for our children for the duration of their school years?

In short, PFA is designed to support families, schools and other agencies to ensure that children receive the right care
and support to enable them to live as full and active an adult life as possible. The PFA programme covers four areas to aid in structuring a child’s development, which are outlined below. Each area gives us an idea of the topics we can start discussing with our children or activities we can start incorporating into their lives from an early age.

‘Employment’ focuses on how we can prepare our children for future employment opportunities, education and training.
Parents can start by simply talking to their child about what kind of job they would be interested in, and then using that to create different experiences for them, such as volunteering, meeting role models, or bringing them on real world visits to build their aspirations.

As schools, we work with parents to ensure our pupils have a full understanding of their future options and really think about their short and longer term aims. Our work inside the classroom means that students have a good understanding of numeracy and literacy, a key building block for the journey to employment. Schools can also prepare pupils with a range of experiences, such as arranging personalised opportunities to visit universities or colleges for taster days, creating tailored clubs after school for different interests, and organising chances to visit potential employers to better understand the working day.

Friends, Relationships and Community
For many of our pupils it is important we help them to create positive relationships in and out of school. This area of the PFA framework advises schools on how best to do this, as well as building a relationship with the local community to ensure our children feel safe and confident, covering the likes of travelling, shopping, and asking for help.

The first stage of preparing our children for this starts at the very beginning, with encouraging and supporting social interaction and building friendships. Taking our children on trips, playing games in groups, and attending after school or weekend clubs are all effective ways of supporting their development.

Parents with an older primary child can work on showing them how to be safe online and off, understanding what
bullying means, working on strategies to manage change and developing their knowledge of the local area, by doing
something as simple as a short walk in the neighbourhood. Their school, of course, will also be covering these areas within their curriculum, but this must be aided by further practice at home. This section of the PFA also looks to smooth the transition from primary to secondary school, which can be an anxious time for children and their families.

Independent Living
As our children get older, we want to make them independent learners. The Independent Living section outlines strategies to support independent life skills, such as self care and understanding money. From the earliest of years, this will include eating and drinking, toileting, getting dressed independently, making choices and learning to self-advocate.
It is vital that our pupils develop their communication skills, whether by using their voice, through choice boards, pointing or using pictorial cues. As they grow older, children can help cook at home or go shopping with the family and use small amounts of money to pay for items. Another way to develop skills at home is getting children to understand road safety; crossing roads, learning about traffic light colours and gettingfamiliar with road signs.

As educators, we can organise school residentials to encourage independent living in a structured environment, help pupils to move around the building independently where necessary, and support with travel planning. These may seem like small areas of learning, but they are crucial to developing a child’s independent life skills.

Good Health
From the earliest ages our children should be learning how to keep themselves healthy. This is led by their parents, who
must take care of immediate concerns such as ensuring immunisations are up to date, but it is largely a combined
effort by both caregivers and school. This can include teaching children to articulate when they are hurt, making healthy food choices, or getting the right amount of exercise.

Our schools’ curriculum will support many of these areas but parents should always be working with their child’s SENDCo
to ensure every base is covered. They can also point parents to their borough’s local offer which shows families what they can expect from a range of local agencies including education, health and social care. Every school website should also have a SEN information report which explains how the school supports children with SEND.

Schools and parents must work together to ensure our most vulnerable pupils are able to live as independent a life as possible. The PFA framework helps to structure this task, breaking it down into four distinct sections with clear
recommendations on how to give children the greatest chance at succeeding and fulfilling their aspirations as they journey into adulthood.

SENDCos should look to incorporate these small steps into a child’s Educational Health Care Plan, if they have one in place, then work with parents to personalise the PFA outcomes and ensure they are suitably child centered for every pupil in their care.

About the author
Tina Murray is an Associate Head Teacher and Special Educational Needs Coordinator at Barham Primary School, a large 4 form entry primary school in Wembley. Tina has worked in education for over 18 years, leading all Key Stages from Early Years to KS2.
Tina won a Gold Award for Excellence in Special Needs Education at the Pearson National Teaching Awards in 2019.

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