Special needs students 'lose out'

7th February 1997 at 00:00
Thousands of students with special needs are failing to win places at FE colleges, researchers revealed this week. The Institute of Employment Studies (IES) found 126,500 students with special needs were at FE colleges, writes Ben Russell.

But the study, Mapping Provision, carried out for the Further Education Funding Council, estimated that demand from people with disabilities or learning difficulties could be double that figure.

Some 63 per cent of colleges surveyed admitted having turned away some students with special needs. But even more said they could not estimate the level of demand from people who had not tried to get on a course.

Researchers said colleges relied on ad hoc information about local communities and needed to do more to assess demand for education. They said: "It is clearly very common, for example, to use information from local schools, education authorities and health authorities to assess potential demand.

"There was no evidence from the survey, however, that colleges had been able to integrate data from these different sources to build up a systematic picture of their local catchment areas."

The survey of 274 colleges found wide variations in the number of special needs students taught by each institution. Agriculture and horticulture colleges had the highest percentage of people with disabilities and learning difficulties, with the rest split between art and design, tertiary, sixth-form and general FE colleges.

The vast majority (90 per cent) tried to identify students with learning difficulties, but as many as 44 per cent of colleges said they believed they had students with unidentified special needs. Thirty per cent of colleges said there were enrolled students with special needs which could not be met because of staffing problems or physical obstacles.

The report comes four months after the Tomlinson committee on special needs in FE concluded that disabled students get a poor deal in colleges, although the sector is meeting its legal obligations.

The committee recommended a Pounds 5 million staff development programme in FE and a tough new inspection framework paying greater attention to colleges' track record on matching teaching to the learning needs of all students.

The 50 recommendations in Professor John Tomlinson's report included suggestions that colleges should collaborate with regional bodies to focus more clearly on special needs when drawing up strategic plans.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now