Special needs data is wasted

Vital information on the education and training of people with special needs is rendered ineffective as staff fail to pass it on to the students, research has revealed.

The cause of the communication breakdown is that staff are ignorant of their responsibilities, rather than negligent, a report from the Further Education Development Agency suggests.

Colleges are very very good at producing disability statements, but only a few students could recall reading theirs, the researchers found.

They point to the need for better management training as the Disability in Education Bill will this year, for the first time, enshrine disability rights into law.

Legislation will make it unlawful for colleges and workplace trainers to discriminate against disabled people by failing to make a reasonable adjustment in line with the disability statement. It will also be unlawful to treat a disabled person less favourably.

The report, "FE college disabiliy statements an evaluation," analyses statements from 432 colleges in England and Wales. FEDA worked in partnership with Skill, the national forum for students with disabilities.

More than half the college statements gave no information about the application process - a requirement under Department for Education regulations - and one in five failed to give any useful sources of information that might help prospective students.

The quality of such statements is improving as colleges recognise their importance as a tool for showing their commitment to equality of opportunity. But much has still to be done to improve dissemination, the report says.

It recommends that statements are sent to all relevant external agencies, that staff awareness programmes be organised and that all prospective students who are disabled receive a copy. Colleges could benefit from more student feedback on the effectiveness of statements, the report concludes.

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