Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: Further and higher education - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Children's Commissioner for Wales

  The Children's Commissioner for Wales is an independent children's rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. The Commissioner's remit covers all areas of the devolved powers of the National Assembly for Wales insofar as they affect children's rights and welfare. Evidence in this submission will not necessarily deal with issues affecting adults.


  1.1  Specialist post-16 education placements are commissioned for a small number of learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities on a cross border basis. These placements are made for those learners whose needs cannot be met on a day to day basis in any of the 25 FE institutions in Wales. These placements are identified by a number of professionals. Great care is needed when placing these young people in specialist residential placements. The Children's Commissioner for Wales is concerned about the involvement of the young people in the planning of these placements and how the young people's welfare is safeguarded in these placements by Welsh local authorities or the Welsh Assembly Government. Given the special needs of learners, there needs to be a clear commitment to ensuring the quality not only of the learning experience but also the pastoral elements of the specialist educational placements.

  1.2  We are aware that these placements can cause considerable disruption within families and that, although there are appeal mechanisms in place, these may be not be available to children and young people. Through discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government we have been notified of plans to amend the appeals procedure to allow children and young people themselves to raise an appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW) and would welcome a similar policy change in other areas of children's services.

  1.3  Estyn's[7] evidence to the Additional Learning Needs Legislative Competence Order of the National Assembly for Wales highlights a number of other issues for post-16 learners. Of particular concern are the statements at paragraph 21 about the lack of guidance for post-16 learners and the difficulties around the transfer of records leading to disruption of the young person's education and the statement about the lack of access to transport at paragraph 27.

1.4  Post-16 providers

    21. The lack of a statutory framework and supporting guidance for post-16 learners with additional learning needs hinders the process of transition from school to further education, training or employment. Careers officers help pupils with SEN to gain access to post-16 provision that is appropriate for their needs. However, schools and LEAs do not normally pass on pupils' records, statutory assessments or statements to post-16 providers. As a result, post-16 providers often have to make a fresh start with assessments, leading to delays in providing the necessary support.

    22. Estyn produced reports in 2004 and 2005 on provision for learners with additional learning needs in further education (FE) colleges and work based learning companies.

    23. These two reports highlighted many ways in which going to FE college makes a positive difference to the lives of young people with additional learning needs. However, there were also some shortcomings, including the limited opportunities for progression within or from FE for learners with severe or profound learning difficulties, the lack of support for challenging behaviour and limited access to specialist mental health services.

    24. Overall, the main focus in work-based learning is on immediate programme outcomes, such as securing employment or a qualification, with less attention paid to learners' other needs.

    25. Few learners with additional learning needs progress from college to work-based learning or employment. Many of these learners need much more support to enable them to use public transport because they lack the skill and confidence to travel independently.

    26. By extending the scope of legislation to education and training for "all persons", irrespective of age, the proposed order will open the way for improving transition arrangements from school to other providers.

    27. It is, however, very important to recognise that lack of access to transport is a major barrier to equality of access to education and training for learners with additional learning needs and disabilities.

7   Proposed Additional Learning Needs LCO Committee-The National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) Order 2007 Response to consultation Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Education and Training in Wales Back

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