No room for an underclass

19th September 2003 at 01:00
"Student victory for the disabled" (FE Focus, September 5) raises many significant issues regarding equality and parity of esteem.

Provision for students with learning difficulties andor disabilities in many incorporated FE colleges is good. However, the range and quality of provision post-19 gives cause for concern, particularly for students with severe or profound, multiple and complex learning difficulties. The constant promotion of basic skills at the expense of more useful liberal adult education, lack of personal welfare support, the constant battle over class sizes and staffing ratios combined with universal homogeneous targets that are not appropriate and, to a degree, the limited numbers of qualified staff to teach on specialist and specialised programmes of study, has created an underclass of learners.

Creative thinking, proactive planning and a responsive FE service is required to provide for these marginalised groups. Lifelong learning may have passed away but what about "learning to live" and having fulfilled lives in an adult world? FE has an important part to play.

Len Parkyn

Head of Cherry Trees FE Centre

104 Lynhurst Road

Brighton and Hove City

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