How to Apply to a Specialist College: information for parents and carers

Transition planning should begin in Year 9 or 10 at the latest – when your son or daughter is about 14, and you can begin to think about options after school. Your son or daughter should have a Connexions Adviser or Careers Officer, who can give advice and guidance about the choices available.

The procedure for applying to a Specialist College will vary slightly depending on where you live; in particular, the timings might differ, so ask your Connexions adviser or careers officer what should happen where you live. Make sure you know the completion dates for all the steps that are needed, and chase up your adviser if you think it is taking too long. The full process is in the YPLA document linked below:

If your son or daughter has a statement of special educational needs, your Connexions adviser or careers officer, on behalf of the Local Authority, must produce a Learning Difficulties Assessment (LDA) for them – it might also be called an S139a assessment.

This will identify their hopes for the future, their learning and support needs, and the best place to meet these needs. If your son or daughter does not have a statement, but has a new disability, or their disability has become more severe, you can ask for a Learning Difficulty Assessment. The LDA should include your views about what is best and right for your son or daughter, and their views wherever possible.

If you are thinking about further education, it is a good idea to visit the local further education college to see if it can meet your son or daughter’s needs. If not, and you think a specialist college is the best choice, you should arrange to visit one or more. You can find information about the specialist colleges listed in the directory. This may take some time, so the sooner you start the better. If your Connexions adviser or careers officer agrees that a specialist college is the best place to meet your son or daughter’s learning and support needs, this must be clearly stated on the LDA. Your son or daughter can then visit the chosen specialist college for a more detailed assessment. The college admissions team can provide help with your application.

The Connexions (or careers) service will then make an application to your Local Authority. If they approve it, they will apply for funding to the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) in England, or the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) in Wales. The YPLA has a budget to pay for specialist college places; this budget will stay at the same level in 2011/12. It is important to be clear that the government has allocated funding for this purpose – there is definitely money available to pay for a place at a specialist college.

Note: the Young People’s Learning Agency becomes the Education Funding Agency (EFA) on April 1st 2012. More information is here:

For September 2012 entry, the placement and funding arrangements remain the same. We anticipate significant changes for entry in September 2013 and will update this information as soon as possible

Taken from July 2012