Pilot schemes that will give direct payments to disabled students so they can choose their own support should be a “fantastic” opportunity for them to flourish in mainstream further education (FE), say inclusive education campaigners.
The schemes – part of the new Education Act – will see young disabled people and their parents given direct control of funding that is currently used by schools and colleges.
One of these sources of funding is additional learning support (ALS), which is handed to colleges and other training providers.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said that giving disabled young people direct payments instead of forcing them to accept the educational support provided by colleges will make it easier for them to take mainstream courses.
The government has decided that the 36 English local authorities taking part in the pilot scheme will first have to ask colleges to release the ALS funding so it can be used as a direct payment.
But ALLFIE has warned that FE colleges could sabotage the pilot scheme by refusing to hand over the ALS cash, which is sometimes used to subsidise segregated courses, such as those on preparing for work or learning independent living skills.
ALLFIE said students with learning difficulties were four times more likely to be enrolled on a segregated course than a mainstream course.
Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns coordinator, said: “ALLFIE would like these pilots to establish fantastic practice in providing disabled young people with the support they need in order to flourish in mainstream further education.”
But she added: “For this to be achieved, government policy on further education funding needs to be amended so that education providers have a new requirement to provide one-to-one support packages for disabled learners.”
ALLFIE also wants the government to stop education providers using ALS funding to subsidise segregated courses.
16 February 2012