These pages are about education after 16 for people with epilepsy in the UK. If you are looking for information about education after 16 and epilepsy in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.
To be 16 is to be at an exciting crossroads in your life. Should you stay on at school, go to college, apply for an apprenticeship or start planning for going to university?
If you have epilepsy, many choices are still open to you. The important thing is to plan things well in advance. This is especially true if you have uncontrolled epilepsy. This information will help you ask the right questions and get the right things in place for your next choice to be as successful as possible.
If you’re wondering if further study will be possible for you with epilepsy, do remember the equality laws. The equality laws mean that the education providers have a legal obligation to make “reasonable adjustments” so that you are not put at a disadvantage because of your epilepsy.
If you have special educational needs and an Education Health and Care Plan, this can last up to the age of 25. And it should have a transition plan in it. This is a plan of what support you will need to move from school to further education. If you feel you need educational support, then you need to ask your local authority for an assessment.
Epilepsy Action has more information on Education Health and Care Assessments and Plans
- How do I choose the right course?
- Where can I get support from?
- What support might be available?
- What learning support can I get?
- What exam support can I get?
- How do I make a complaint?
- What support can I get with healthcare?
- What support can I get with day-to-day living?
- How can I have a good social life?
- Useful organisations
This section gives information on financial support if you want to study after you’re 16. It doesn’t cover higher education such as university.
In England you have to continue in some sort of education until you are 18. If you want to continue in education after 16 you can apply for a bursary fund. You could leave education if you start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or work or volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training.
You may be entitled to a bursary fund to help with education-related costs.
For more information on apprenticeships, traineeships and careers see the government website.
Once you are 16 in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales you can leave education. If you want to continue in education you can apply for an Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
You may be thinking about going to further education college, sixth form college or a similar place of study. If you already have an education and healthcare plan, you should be able to take this with you into further education.
If you didn’t have any special support in school but feel you need it once you get to college, talk to the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). They will help you go through the process of applying for support. For anyone aged 25 or under there is a further education code of practice that says what a local authority should be doing to support people with special educational needs.
For more information on this support see epilepsy in schools
If you are over 25 when you go to college and you need support with your studies, you will need to ask for them as a reasonable adjustment. You can do this under the equality laws. Again the SENCO should help you with this process.
Epilepsy Action has information on the equality laws
Choosing a course can be a difficult decision. As a person with epilepsy you will need to ask some extra questions like:
- Will I be able to do all the course work safely?
- Will I be able to get a job in this area of work?
- Will there be enough support available for me to make this course possible?
- Do I want to live with/near or away from my family?
Ideally you need to start planning your next move 6 to 9 months ahead, especially if you are going to be living away from home. The Armed Forces are the only employer which can legally exclude people with epilepsy. But if your seizures are not controlled you will want to think carefully about your choices. You will need to ask yourself how possible a choice is and what support you might need, to make it happen.
UCAS has a video and a very full list of useful questions to ask yourself at the planning stage. It is aimed at people going to university, but many of the questions are relevant wherever you may want to study.
Some support will be available through your university. And some support may be available through the Disabled Students Allowance. At the time of writing (August 2016) where you get support from is changing. Once the situation becomes clearer we will add more information.
The Disability Officer at the university you are applying to can explain what support you may be able to get and who it will come from. Before you contact them, you will first need proof of how your epilepsy may affect your learning. This can be a letter from your doctor. The more specific the doctor can be about your needs, the more likely you are to be able to get the right support. If you have problems with memory or understanding information, your consultant or family doctor should mention this in their letter. Don’t expect your Disability Officer to be an expert in epilepsy. You may need to help them out with some awareness raising.
Find contact details for Disability Officers
You may be able to get help with extra costs related to education as a result of your epilepsy. You won’t get help with everyday student costs, such as course fees or accommodation. This support may come from the university or it may come from the Disabled Students Allowance.
Here are some particular examples of things that might be paid for:
- Digital voice recorders
- Assistive software, such as text to speech software, voice recognition and mind-mapping software
- Seizure alarms
- One-to-one study skills support if you have difficulty in understanding and remembering information
- A mentor
- Occasional assistance with study-related travel costs, such as taxi fares
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)
DSA is a government fund for people who have a long-term health condition and are applying to be an undergraduate or post graduate. The funding is in place to make sure that as a disabled student you’re not disadvantaged during your studies. The extra financial support you may get will be based on your level of need, not on what your income is.
If you are applying for general student finance, you can usually apply for your DSA at the same time. There is a tick box for this on your student loan application form.
More information on the Disabled Students Allowance.
The college or university should help you to make the most of your education. They need to bear in mind the equality laws and consider reasonable adjustments for you so that you’re not placed at a disadvantage because of your epilepsy.
Here are some examples of possible reasonable adjustments:
- Finding you a room in halls of residence
- Supplying notes or making sure you have a ‘catch-up session’ if you miss a lecture because of a seizure
- Making sure any material they use is not going to trigger your seizures, if you have photosensitive epilepsy
- Having handouts and discussion materials provided before a lecture, to help you become familiar with the content
- Having lectures recorded, so that you can listen again after the lecture
- Having tutors and lecturers provide you with written instructions and feedback
- Giving you flexible deadlines to finish your work
- Giving you extra time to copy information from the board
If what you feel you need isn’t there, still talk to the Disability Officer about it as an adjustment may still be.
Access arrangements are arrangements made for someone to take an exam in a slightly different way to other people. They must be put into place before the exam period starts. Your college must have proof that you have epilepsy and details of how your epilepsy affects you. There is a deadline for applying for access arrangements, so it is really important to speak with your exams officer as early as possible. Examples of possible access arrangements include:
- Having supervised rest breaks during an exam
- Having extra time in your exam, if you have absence seizures, or difficulties with memory and processing information
- Having an exam supervisor sit with you, to identify seizures, and add extra time missed
- Taking an exam at a different time of day or place to other people who are taking the same exam. For example, if you usually have seizures first thing in the morning, you might be able to take the exam in the afternoon
- Getting one-to-one support for practical exams
Epilepsy and assessment
The exam board may take your epilepsy into account if you feel your marks for an exam or assessed piece of work may have been affected by your condition. Possible situations could be missing an exam because of a seizure, or feeling you have performed less well than you could because of a seizure.
The exam board may, for example, award you an increase in marks. They may allow you to re-take a failed exam or assessment. Or they may excuse you for handing assessed work in late.
Practice varies between places of study and you should check the rules for where you are studying. It will normally be your responsibility to inform the exam board that your performance has been affected. You will also need to provide supporting evidence such as a letter from your doctor.
If you had support during exams at school or college, it is possible that this can continue. If you have not had support at school or college, you may still be able to get some. The Disability Officer at your college should be able to help you.
If you’re not getting the support you feel you need, here are some suggestions:
- Talk to the Disability Officer
- Follow the internal complaints procedure
- Contact Disability Rights UK’s Disabled Students Helpline
You will need to register with the campus medical services, or a local doctor’s practice. You might also like to book an appointment to talk to them about your epilepsy medicines and repeat prescriptions. It is possible your Disability Officer may be able to recommend someone.
If your seizures are not fully controlled, you might want to talk to the teaching staff about what to do, and what not to do, if you have a seizure. You might also want to talk this over with some of your fellow students.
The more upfront you are about how your epilepsy affects you, the more likely it will be that your friends are relaxed about it.
If you already have extra help with day-to-day living you can take your care package (provided by your local social services department) with you into further or higher education.
If you don’t already have help, you will need to get an assessment from your local social services department. Apply to the social services department where you are living before you go to university. It is worth applying for this assessment as soon as possible, up to 9 months before you are due to go.
If you already get personal independence payments you may be entitled to extra finance.
At college or university you’ll meet new friends and probably try out some different activities. Don’t let your epilepsy stop you joining in, but be aware of triggers that could make your seizures more likely. Here are some of the more common possible seizure triggers:
- Forgetting to take epilepsy medicines
- Too much alcohol
- Recreational drugs
- Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep patterns
- Flashing or flickering lights for people with photosensitive epilepsy
Disabled Students Helpline: 0800 328 5050
Open Tuesday and Friday 11am-1pm
Into higher education 2016 is a comprehensive guide to higher education for disabled people
A list of factsheets and guides on higher education
UCAS This is the universities and colleges admissions service. It has a range of information on going to university if you’re disabled, including a detailed list on how to prepare for university. They also have a video featuring various disabled people talking about their experience. It includes Rachel who is blind and has epilepsy.
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank June Massey, Specific Learning Difficulties Consultant, for checking this information.
June Massey has no conflict of interest to declare.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated August 2016To be reviewed August 2019