There's a BRITE side to disability

PARENTS and carers of vulnerable and disabled young people need to be convinced that they can go on to achieve more than they are thought capable of, the former chairman of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council said this week.

Bob Beattie, himself disabled, was making his first public appearance in nine months to join Iain Gray, Lifelong Learning Minister, in opening an FE centre that bears his name - the Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education, known as the BRITE centre, which is based at Edinburgh's Stevenson College.

Mr Beattie chaired the committee whose 1999 report called for action to break down barriers which prevent young people continuing education after school. The Executive has committed pound;22.6 million to implement the recommendations, including more than pound;1 million for the BRITE initiative.

The centre can be used by all FE colleges via a "virtual staffroom" and an "assistive technology workstation" now installed in every college. Assistive technology allows the blind to use the internet, converts type to Braille and uses speech recognition to type an essay.

Mr Gray said the centre was "a very important development which the FE sector could be proud of". While Mr Beattie praised the Scottish Executive's commitment, he pointedly reminded the minister that the money runs out in 2004.

He also underlined the importance of the second part of his report's title Implementing Inclusiveness: Realising Potential. It was important that parents were made more aware of what their children could achieve, Mr Beattie said.

Around 140 key workers are already in place to help "marginalised and vulnerable" young people make the transition from school to FE. They are backed by 12 "inclusiveness teams" linked to the Careers Scotland areas.

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