The Scottish Office is to mount what it is billing as a "major review" of post-school education and training in special needs. A new advisory committee, whose membership has yet to be announced, will be asked to produce an initial report within six months.
The initiative was unveiled at last week's Support Training 2000 conference by Brian Wilson, the Education Minister. "For too long, this has been an area of provision which often leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of consistency, quality and resources," Mr Wilson stated. "Too many young people, having completed school, find themselves at a dead end.
"I am acutely aware how this then becomes a source of frustration and despondency for the young people and their parents, who invariably fight so hard to ensure that their children's potential can be fulfilled. I am determined that this eminently reasonable aspiration can be met throughout Scotland."
The Scottish Office is commissioning research into assessment in the field of special needs, to ensure the right guidance is given on education and training. Another project will identify and promote good practice. Education authorities are currently required to prepare future needs assessments for pupils in their last years of schooling. For recorded pupils, this has to be completed nine months before they cease to be of school age.
Guidance issued by the Scottish Office in March last year stipulates that "only very rarely should a situation arise where pupils have not had their special educational needs discovered until after they have ceased to be of school age".
Existing arrangements for disabled students in FE colleges were dismissed as "tokenism" at the weekend. Alan Dickson, chief executive of Capability Scotland, said the reality was often segregated break and meal times as well as classes.