Apprenticeships bill ‘will discriminate’ against disabled students


Campaigners say a government training and education bill will discriminate against many disabled students by depriving them of the right to join a basic apprenticeships scheme.

Discussion of the apprenticeships, skills, children and learning bill – which has reached the committee stage in the Lords – will resume in October when parliament returns from its summer break.

But the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), a national campaigning and information-sharing network led by disabled people, is already preparing to put further pressure on the government to change key parts of the bill.

The bill says that all suitably qualified young people would be entitled to a basic, “level two” apprenticeship place.

But ALLFIE says the requirement to have five GCSEs in order to secure this entitlement discriminates against many young disabled people, such as those with learning difficulties.

ALLFIE is also trying to improve other areas of the bill, including: allowing disabled apprentices to seek support from the access to work scheme; placing more emphasis on including disabled children in mainstream schools and colleges; including the experiences of disabled people in the national curriculum; and calling on the new exams and qualifications regulator OFQUAL to ensure exams and assessments are accessible to disabled students.

ALLFIE has already had backing for suggested amendments to the bill from peers such as Lord Rix, Lord Low, and Lord Addington.

But it also secured a meeting in July with Lord Young, the business, innovation and skills minister, at which he said the government was looking at making the apprenticeships scheme more accessible.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s campaigns and policy co-ordinator, said: “We are encouraged that the government are looking at it but the devil is always in the detail.”

18 August 2009

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