Research, just published by the Thomas Pocklington Trust, shows blind and visually impaired students are being excluded from post-16 college education.
The report, ‘Give Me Access to University’, shows a fragmented and unreliable support system for blind and partially sighted students leaving secondary education.
Local authorities (LAs) have a statutory responsibility to provide specialist support for educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to all children and young people aged 0-25. However, research has shown that when a young person reaches the age of 16, their support diminishes or disappears.
One LA admitted, “We don’t support students in a regular college. They access their own support, for example from charities.
Give me access to the main results of the College
• A quarter (24%) of LAs offer different services after age 16 depending on whether the person studies in a regular middle school or in a high school
• Nearly two-thirds (61%) of LAs offer statutory services for blind and partially sighted sixth-grade students, but less than half (44%) offer statutory provision for mainstream colleges
• A quarter of ordinary colleges must buy their support, compared to 10% of sixth form colleges. Additionally, LAs that charge for their services have seen their supply low, with 20% not supporting any students in the 2021/22 year.
Ramneek Ahluwalia has first-hand experience of the challenges VI students face in college. She said: “Most of my resources and materials were given to me in hard copies, which 90% of the time did not meet my access requirements. »
Tara Chattaway, education manager at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “Urgent action is needed. We call on the government, through the SEND review, to ensure adequate earmarked funding to provide statutory services to blind and visually impaired students in all post-16 education institutions.
“We need to incorporate the Education Framework for Children and Young People with Visual Impairment into the proposed National Standards or updated Code of Practice so that parents and children and young people who are blind and partially sighted know what they should do. ‘expect.
“Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) should not be used to determine if someone is eligible to access statutory support for sensory impairments.
“And young people who are blind and partially sighted must leave compulsory education with the skills and knowledge they need to use mainstream and assistive technologies.”
Ramneek said, “I had never used assistive technology until college. More emphasis needs to be placed on training blind and visually impaired students in the use of assistive technologies, especially from an early age.
“It took a lot of resilience, determination and perseverance to get to where I am today. There were days when I thought about saying enough is enough. I know that many young people have lost faith in the education system to support them adequately.
Visually impaired student Alice Gresswell said: ‘I just feel like I was never wanted at university in the first place. As the only totally blind student, this caused them too much trouble. I feel like I was just a problem for them. I now dread going to university and if I want to continue my studies, it has totally discouraged me.
In addition to the call to government, TPT calls on LAs to:
- Review their offer for blind and visually impaired young people in post-16 education, to ensure a service is in place
- Review their eligibility criteria and policies to ensure EHCPs are not required to access sensory impairment services
- Join TPT in calling on the government to ensure there is adequate funding so that all young people who are blind and partially sighted can access local authority sensory impairment services in post-16 education.
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