Spare a thought for the students when a specialist college closes

12th January 2007 at 00:00

I write in response to the article (College for blind to close for failing disability laws, FE Focus, December 1) referring to the RNIB's plans for its Redhill site and the difficulties in determining the reasons that lay behind it's decision-making.

Although this is a very important aspect, I would like to suggest that another, perhaps the real, story lies elsewhere. That is in the degradation of a vulnerable group of young adults with disabilities andor learning difficulties.

There are 38 students who will not have completed their further education when, if as planned, the college terminates their courses in July. The RNIB is adamant that these students will not be disadvantaged by the current situation. This is also the position taken by the Learning Skills Council, Connexions and the DfES.

Shame on all of them.

You can be very sure that none of these decision-makers would want any of their own children to be in this situation.

This group of students, in particular, needs a stable and secure environment in which to prosper, which is the very opposite of the current situation.

Many are very distressed at the news of their college closing, to the point where one young man was admitted to hospital because of the physical affects of his anxiety. My own daughter has become more agitated than I have ever seen her before over this issue.

Some teachers feel they have been doing more counselling than teaching recently, and even the college principal has acknowledged that teaching time is being used up in reassuring students.

The whole transition process, with its demands on time and resources, would normally occur in the last year of a three-year course. The fact that these students are being forced to go through this process in their first or second year shows that their education is not proceeding as it should be.

This is a group of students who are particularly disadvantaged in our education system already, largely because there is so little choice or provision for them.

There are almost 60 students who would have been attending Redhill College in September 2007 and who are now looking for appropriate placements, and the truth is that they simply do not exist.

Some may end up in day courses at local mainstream colleges, enduring the almost inevitable indifference, or even hostility, which that entails.

Others may find themselves in social services provision staring at blank walls or the television all day. Others may end up in colleges many hundreds of miles away, disconnected from their families and communities.

This is a national disgrace. But who cares?

Brian Foulds

Albacore Crescent

Lewisham London SE13

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