Many young people with learning disabilities face a postcode lottery when it comes to post-16 education according to a new campaign set up to increase choices for those hoping to remain in education.
The 'A Right Not a Fight' campaign, is calling for students with a physical or learning disability to have the choices most young people take for granted – such as choosing a further education college that best meets their needs.
The idea for the campaign was developed by a group of student representatives who attend specialist colleges, with the support of NatSpec (The National Association of Specialist Colleges), and has been launched ahead of the new Children and Families Act, due to come into effect next month.
There are about 70 specialist further education colleges in the UK – most offering residential care – but places can cost more than £30,000 a year, and over £150,000 for students with complex needs. Many young people and their families face a long battle to secure funding for their child to attend such a college – particularly (as is often the case) when the one that best serves their needs is in another local authority.
Young people with physical or learning disabilities face particular challenges and difficulties with education and employment. While it may be possible for them to work and live independently, they sometimes take longer to learn new skills and need support in doing so. Specialist colleges do a huge amount of work in helping young people to prepare for the next steps in their lives.
Alison Boulton, Chief Executive of Natspec, said: "We want to see the Children and Families Act working in the best interests of young people and ensuring that local authorities listen to their views and wishes – but so far the signs are not good. Too many young people are not told about all their options, and even if they are asked what they want, their views are frequently ignored."
Natspec and its member colleges promote good quality work experience and effective engagement with employers, as shown in our annual employer survey. Natspec has supported this activity by signing a memorandum of understanding with Fair Train. Both organisations are committed to encouraging young people, including those with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities, to take up the opportunities available.
The memorandum will see Fair Train staff help member colleges adopt the National Work Experience Quality Standard. Natspec and its members will also be promoting Work Experience Week, 13th to 17th October, with a range of events and work related showcases http://www.giveyouthachance.com/.