Neediest are being shortchanged

28th May 2010 at 01:00

In her recent comment ("RUGroom's royal seal shows class of sector", May 7), Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning, was right to celebrate success, innovation, enthusiasm, dedication and vision on the part of the principal and all staff in working with students with autism and learning difficulties andor disabilities.

City College Norwich is to be applauded and publicly recognised for its outstanding work. But alas, the picture in terms of opportunities, access, provision and support elsewhere is severely lacking.

This week, I had three major enquiries for advice. One was from an experienced tutor from a local college seeking guidance and advice concerning "next step" provision for a 17-year-old young man with autism. There is nothing relevant locally in the incorporated sector, while a local charity may be able to assist and there is an outstanding specialist college if the young man can secure funding.

The second concern came from parents who were anxious about their son's future education. They were rightly worried that all that was on offer for him was a two-day-a-week placement at a college with somewhat "impoverished" circumstances. They were dismayed to learn that this constituted a full-time offer and was some 30 miles from their home.

The third was from an experienced tutor potentially facing redundancy because of "efficiency criteria, restructuring and a review of services".

Many learners with special educational needs and learning difficulties andor disabilities at 16 and 19 are being marginalised and shortchanged on opportunities and quality - not by tutors, teachers or other staff in the sector, but by funding and resource streams that do not reflect the genuinely needy demands that many learners place on educationists, support staff, equipment and welfare services. This is compounded by the lack of sensitivity of many managers concerned with "cost centres", target-driven agendas and league tables.

Dr Len Parkyn, Senior teacher.

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