Quality and variety for special needs pupils are being cut

8th December 2006 at 00:00

"Out in the cold" (TES, December 1) raises the dire position of many special needs pupils being abandoned by their local authorities as part of a cynical funding exercise so that local incorporated colleges pick up the reduced cost of post-16 education.

So many changes happen when students leave local authority provisions - the most significant of which is the lapse in the statement of need. It is not just the closure of post-16 education and other services. It is the limited opportunities of relevant and meaningful choices and options offered by incorporated colleges.

Over the past decade courses have closed, been reduced in hours or cut in terms of length of study. Much of what was good in the old LEA and FEFC resourced post-16 provision has disappeared on the altar of targets, academia, work related objectives and in the vicious obsessive cutting of costs.

The quality and variety of educational opportunities for those with learning difficulties andor disabilities have been reduced in the past few years. What happened to plurality of services and genuine choice?

We already have examples of specialist major players with national recognition withdrawing from the world of education and colleges restricting provision by stringent entry criteria.

We welcome the survey into LSC reforms. We can state without reservation that the agenda for change will probably reduce or restrict educational opportunities and options for those with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD). Of course one cannot object too robustly to the broad principles stated. However, unless realistic funding packages are realised for this marginalised group of students then quality of service and breadth of provision will suffer.

The ever-increasing void between school and college services can only expand. "Real" money following real learners into real quality educational services is the only way to take the stress and concern from families seeking continuous education post-16 for their loved ones.

Often for LDD students the right to education to the age of 18 at school, then continued adult services at 19-plus has, in the past, bought time to mature intellectually, socially and emotionally. The forced launching of special needs pupils into the incorporated sector at 16 not only deprives them of choice but is an infringement of their right to access quality educational services in many diverse forms.

Local authorities should not abrogate their responsibilities at 16 and colleges must do more to provide for the broad community of LDD students that they attempt to serve.

Carol Willard

Len Parkyn

Downs View

link college

Brighton and Hove

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