There are 282,000 students who have declared a learning difficulty, disability or health problem studying in colleges; 141,000 of these have a disability and 156,000 have a learning difficulty, while some have both. The response to the NUS survey by 400 students reported in last week's FE Focus ("Disabled student aspirations `capped' by colleges' attitudes, claims union", January 22), therefore, represents a small minority.
Colleges' achievements in supporting the success of students with disabilities has been recognised by Ofsted and learners in the Framework for Excellence. Since December 2006 colleges have had to consult with disabled students on their courses and their support. Also, Additional Learner Support funding supports students from a wide range of educational disadvantage including ex-offenders, students with eating disorders and those students on the autistic spectrum.
The conclusions of the NUS survey will be unfamiliar to colleges, their funders, or the regulators. Provision has improved, there are more students with learning difficulties and disabilities accessing FE courses, and their level of satisfaction is high.
Joy Mercer, Deborah Ribchester, Nathan Lucas, Association of Colleges (AoC) Policy and Employment teams.