Special needs come last

17th December 2004 at 00:00
In the compelling FE Focus edition (November 11) three articles have unifying themes.

Colleges to raise cash (to help them do their own jobs); the report on the outstanding Chichester college and its adult special needs work and the Learning and Skills Council special needs review.

There is no doubt that many aspects of post-16 and 19 special needs education and work in colleges have improved over the past two decades.

However, for the LSC to hold another review is prevarication of the worst sort. What the LSC needs to do is provide educational opportunities for those students with severe and profound, multiple and complex learning difficulties.

The LSC should encourage and promote the employment of experienced, well-qualified, professional and skilled staff and pay them a rate that attracts and retains them, possibly even from the school sector.

The LSC is aware of the extent of unmet and under-resourced demand from many marginalised groups of learners.

Colleges have major issues regarding income. It is often special needs work that is seen as high-cost and low-status with a lack of career opportunities for staff.

It is a soft target at a time of financial constraints.

With the LSC and central government continuing to push vocational and academic routes there is a danger that special needs work can be offered a token profile and resources.

Chichester does offer outstanding services - perhaps other colleges could follow its exemplary model rather than push up fees or charge groups who are already in reduced circumstances.

Len Parkyn Head of Cherry Trees further education centre 104 Lyndhurst Road Brighton and Hove City Sussex

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