School children with special needs in Northamptonshire are now better prepared for their future thanks to support from a local charity.

Teamwork Trust, whose members have mental health needs and learning and physical disabilities, received funding from Children In Need last October to create a new Transition Officer post to help bridge the gap of support in schools for special needs pupils as they prepare to leave school.

Now almost six months into the role, former teacher, John Akers’ has helped make a real difference to the lives of over 30 local young people, by working closely with schools and colleges to identify and then support pupils in Years 9 to 13 who need extra help to start planning for their future.

Friars Academy in Wellingborough, Isebrook SEN Cognition & Learning College in Kettering, Kingswood Academy in Corby and Corby Business Academy are among the schools he has worked with so far.

“My role with Teamwork Trust was a totally new position and it has really made a difference,” said John. “For youngsters with special needs, leaving school can be an especially daunting time. Schools are structured, often set up to support the whole family and suddenly that changes. Young people find themselves out in the big, wide world and it can be a scary time for everyone involved, but it doesn’t need to be.

“My role is varied – some pupils I have worked with in school, some in small groups and others I have worked with more intensively on a one to one basis, assisting them in the decision making process and making them aware of various opportunities as they plan to move into a work environment. I provide a programme of enabling and education projects and activities and constantly monitor their progress to make sure they have all they need for a smooth transition.”

One of the effective elements of John’s work with local school pupils is the offer of vocational work placements on the ‘factory floor’ at any of Teamwork Trust’s centres in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough.

John said: “We are very proud of our enabling programme where our members get a taste of a real-life working environment – assembling, packing, re-working and labelling. It gives the young people I am working with valuable education, employment and vocational experience, a chance to make new friends and prepares them for the prospect of leaving school.”

Victoria Bell, Head of Learning and Development at Teamwork Trust, said: “We are delighted with the results of John’s work so far. We are really making a difference to the lives of young people locally as they transition into the big wide world. It is all thanks to the generosity of Children In Need that we were able to create the transition officer role and we are looking forward to continuing our important work with Northamptonshire schools.”