More than 100 young people from across the country demonstrated outside Parliament yesterday for a better system of education advice for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The "Right not a fight" rally, organised by the Association of National Specialist Colleges (Natspec), marked the launch of a petition for more careers advisors for students with SEND so that they and their families can make informed decisions about their future.
An Ofsted report earlier this year revealed that learners with SEND have significant problems in accessing impartial information on further education. The report stated that the provision of specialist, impartial careers guidance to learners with high needs was “generally weak, and, of the 20 local authority websites that inspectors reviewed, 16 failed to provide sufficiently detailed information.
'Education for everyone'
Kathryn Rudd, principal of National Star College in Cheltenham, said that she had experienced cases where parents spent hundreds of hours trying to find the right educational information for their children.
“Young people simply aren’t getting the information [they need]," she said. "They might get a bit of information from the school. The local [authority] is supposed to be giving that information, but of course Ofsted’s recent report 'Moving Forward' showed what lack of information there is."
“Schools are [sending students with SEND] to the local [provider]... the one that the school may have a link with, but they’re not actually looking at their needs, their aspirations, and actually which college best suits their needs. One of our parents spent 600 hours trying to find the information, then fight for a place. For many of our young people they are so desperate to work and be seen as a valued member of society, they give it their all."
Corey Scott, an advisor to the Department for Education on the special educational needs and disabilities system, and a former Hereward College student, told TES that education should be for everyone, no matter what their need.
[Education] should not be a fight to get educated where you think your needs is best met or catered for,” he said. “I’m determined to make a change; I’m here for those people who haven’t got a voice and can’t communicate as well as I can.”
'We should all be treated as equals'
Kyle Phillips, a student at the Royal National College for the Blind, told TES that he was unable to get on a course that he wanted to do because his local authority wouldn't fund it.
"I wanted to get on to do A levels because they just wouldn’t fund it, they point-blank refused," he said. "I wanted to go and do things like psychology and sociology and perhaps go on to do a degree in psychology. Now I have not been able to do that because I haven’t got the prerequisite qualifications for the degree...By not giving me the funding they have withdrawn the career plan that I had set out."
Sian Punshon, a personal tutor at Linkage College in Lincolnshire, said: "At the end of the day we should all be treated as equals, we all have rights. Just because you've got a difficulty or a disability doesn't mean to say that you can’t be educated or integrate into society and gain paid employment, and live independently.
"In the long term, that is going to be less of a drain on government funding. These [students] are totally focused on what they’re doing. They’re dedicated to their work."
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