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Inclusion targets under fire;FE Focus

A pound;5 million scheme to promote inclusive learning in further education colleges has been criticised by disabled campaigners for its modest targets, writes Harvey McGavin.

The Further Education Funding Council's Quality Initiative, set up nearly two years ago in response to the Tomlinson Committee's Inclusive Learning report, has so far produced action plans from fewer than 40 colleges.

And a circular sent out this week from the Association of Colleges - which is managing stage two of the initiative - lists "effective targets" for the scheme which could be met with little or no effort, and without reference to students with special needs.

The circular suggests a 1 per cent increase in achievement (which colleges managed in 1996-97) and a similar rise in retention rates (which were stable during the same period) would represent success. The four-page circular mentions students with learning disabilities andor special needs only once.

Barbara Waters, director of SKILL, the national bureau for students with disabilities, said she was monitoring the initiative closely and was concerned that it had set no targets for disabled students.

"It has moved partly away from the needs of students with learning difficulties," she said. "We are concerned that the needs of these students should be at the forefront."

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