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Backing for new funding regime

A national funding structure and more staff training for special needs education is supported by colleges.

They were responding to Through Inclusion to Excellence, a report published last year by an independent steering group chaired by former headteacher Peter Little.

Colleges have said they agree with the group's central finding: that there should be a national funding scheme to replace the current arrangements, which involve money coming from a range of organisations, including health trusts and the Learning and Skills Council.

Others who responded to the consultation included the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the National Institute for Mental Health for England.

Bill Rammell, the further education minister, said: "The consultation has demonstrated overwhelming support for our proposed direction of travel, which is vital as we work together with our partners to meet the needs of learners."

The LSC plans to carry out the report's recommendations from the beginning of next year and has appointed a learning difficulties manager for each region of England.

On transport, 98.2 per cent of respondents agreed that improvement to transport is either "essential" or "very important" for special needs students.

Sharing common definitions and terminology in the discussion of disabilities was regarded as important by 94.6 per cent of respondents, with one suggesting students and families should be consulted about the way various conditions are described.

The creation of special needs statements for students was widely regarded as too bureaucratic.

It was agreed that the progress of students should be more closely monitored to make sure they were developing and their learning was properly structured.

There is too much emphasis on qualifications, according to a third of respondents, who said this was not always the best way of preparing such students for employment.

Developing occupational standards and qualifications for staff was strongly supported, as were incentives for employers to give students workplace experience.

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