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Special needs funding granted

Colleges will be able to claim extra cash to meet the additional costs of providing for students with special needs.

The Further Education Funding Council has increased the number of cost bands for claiming additional support and has raised the maximum from Pounds 8,800 to Pounds 13, 600, according to a new circular.

Lord Henley, minister of state at the Department for Education and Employment said during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 that "once accepted by a college, students will be entitled to expect that they will enjoy the access and support necessary to to pursue their studies". The DFEE has asked the council to draw colleges' attention to the statement.

The council will attach conditions to funding bids: colleges should try to provide for at least the same number of special needs students as in 199697, and at least maintain the proportion of such students and publish a disability statement.

One concern is the position of students funded by the council but studying at a specialist college outside the sector. Not enough support is being given to students coming to the end of their funding.

The council is concerned that "for a significant number of students during 1996, no alternative arrangements appear to have been considered for young people whose funding was to be concluded and no other agencies appear to have been involved to support the necessary transition from the specialist college". Specialist colleges are urged to make early contact with appropriate agencies to support students completing their programmes.

Although funding in this area is complex, the council wants to ensure its decision processes are well understood. It is sensitive to "the need to recognise that students with learning difficulties andor disabilities are seeking to attain adulthood and independence".

Students views are central to the choice of post-16 provision, it says. Students should be involved in the assessment of their needs and support the recommendations made on their behalf. They, their family or advocate should be content for information arising from any assessment of education needs to be made available to the council.

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