Are inclusion and TAs more hindrance than help for pupils with SEN?

30th October 2009 at 00:00

Although your article "Sight unseen? Inclusion blamed for results gap" (October 23) is undoubtedly disturbing, it is in no way surprising. The significant variation in conditions of sight loss that exist can make it difficult for diagnostic assessment to be consistent. And when that means inappropriate guidance is provided for learning, the impact on young people is potentially devastating.

At a time of scarce resources, we must maintain the concentrated support the most vulnerable young people in our society need through high quality, specialist residential teaching. The assumption that such specialist provision can be created through a national network of local schools and colleges is fundamentally flawed.

No one supports inclusion more than independent specialist colleges such as the Royal National College for the Blind, but to truly integrate into their local community, young people need a range of skills one cannot easily learn in the classroom.

Specialist residential education and training is best placed to facilitate personal independence for young people with sight loss and other disabilities. Students live and socialise in an environment that responds to their individual needs, allowing them to develop confidence. The college thus acts as a stepping stone to further and higher education, the world of work and a more independent future - ultimately the goal for every student in the UK.

Ian Pickford, Chief executive and principal, Royal National College for the Blind, Hereford.

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