Children and Famlies Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Association of Colleges (CF 05)

Introduction to the Association of Colleges and our students

1. The Association of Colleges (AoC) represents and promotes the interests of the 352 Further Education Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges established under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and their 3 million students.

2. Colleges play a significant role in educating young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. About 6% of College students state that they have a disability (200,000 in all) and another 6% state that they have a learning difficulty. Many of the people in these two groups have relatively low cost needs but about 10,000 require support costing more than £6,000 per year.

Children and Families Bill

3. We have focused our comments on the proposed changes to the way in which education and training is provided for children and young people with a special educational need (SEN).

4. One of the most significant problems with the current system is the fact that two different systems operate for people aged under and over 16. This has often resulted in students enrolling at College at the age of 16 but the College receiving little or no information about any SEN. Therefore the Association of Colleges welcomes the establishment of a seamless system for everyone aged up to 25 including young people studying in Colleges and apprentices.

Role of local authorities

5. We support the proposed duties for local authorities as set out in the legislation. However, we ask the Committee to note that local authorities will, from September 2013, become responsible for the funding, education and training for 16-25 year olds with a learning difficulty and disability – a full year before the legislative changes are due to come into effect.

6. These funding changes are designed to support the new integrated 0-25 system by simplifying the current post-16 funding arrangements for high needs students. However, they are proving exceptionally complicated and difficult for the Government’s Education Funding Agency, local authorities, schools and Colleges. It is regrettable that there was no trial of this very significant change. We are concerned that there is a real danger students are going to miss out on their education of choice.

7. Local authorities have not had a direct funding relationship with Colleges for 20 years. There is therefore understandably, a limited understanding of the education offered by Colleges.

8. We hope the Department for Education will monitor implementation of this legislation. Local authorities will become both assessors of need, commissioners of provision and funders. There is little impartiality in the system and no monitoring other than a right for parents and young people to use the tribunal system. We are concerned that there could be tension in meeting the needs and wishes of the young person/parent and managing limited resources.

Clause 22: Duty on local authorities to identify children and young people with SEN

9. This Clause places a duty on local authorities to identify children and young people in its area who "have or may have special educational needs". The poor handling of preparation for the funding transfer to local authorities, taking effect from September 2013, has raised real concerns that local authorities may not be able to perform this new duty to identify people aged over 16. We have received concerns from FE and Sixth Form Colleges that their local authority has even been unable to confirm the numbers of young people in their area who have a learning difficulty or disability.

Clauses 28 and 29: Duties to co-operate

10. These Clauses place new statutory duties on Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges (and schools etc) to co-operate with local authorities and vice-versa. We welcome these provisions but ask the Committee to note that by the nature of their provision, Colleges, particularly Independent Specialist Colleges (ISCs), will enrol students from many local authorities. For example, National Star College in Gloucestershire enrols students from 51 local authorities and Derwen College in Shropshire enrols from 63 local authorities. [1] Co-operating with each of these local authorities could result in a significant administrative burden unless local authorities use similar systems and paperwork.

Clause 30: The Local Offer

11. The Association of Colleges supports the principle of a local offer setting out the provision available to children and young people in any particular area. It is essential, however, that the local offer includes within it education from providers outside the area. As stated above some ISCs enrol students from many local authorities, some a considerable distance away. This is also true for mainstream FE and Sixth Form Colleges in urban areas enrolling students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. We support the introduction of a national framework to ensure parents and young people can easily compare what is available.

12. It would be preferable for Colleges to know in advance the form in which they will be asked to provide information for the local offer and then be able to provide this to all relevant local authorities. This would be preferable to producing information in different formats for each local authority.

Clause 32: Information and Advice

13. This Clause places a statutory duty on local authorities to provide information and advice about the SEN provision to parents and young people. We are unclear how this relates to the statutory duty placed on schools to secure independent advice for their pupils, as set out in Section 29 of the Education Act 2011. Following the Act, the Government issued statutory guidance to schools which stated the following:

"In fulfilling their new duty, schools should secure access to independent face to-

face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support for young people to make
successful transitions, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds or those
who have special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities
." [2]

Clauses 36, 37, 44 and 45: people aged 18 - 25

14. These four Clauses place a duty on local authorities to ‘have regard’ to a person’s age if they are aged over 18. Clause 36 sets out the process for assessing education, health and care needs. Clause 37 is about Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). Clauses 44 and 45 cover reviewing and ceasing an EHCP. We are very concerned that this duty on local authorities will result in people aged between 18 and 25 receiving poorer access to education than their younger counterparts. This approach is to be regretted. In this Bill, compared to the draft Bill, Government has made a welcome change (in Clause 28) to include a duty on teams within a local authority to co-operate with each other, including the team leading on ‘transition to adulthood’. This change shows that Government views this transition as important but is contradicted by the references to the age of 18 in Clauses 36, 37, 44 and 45.

Clause 43: duty to enrol named students

15. This Clause places a duty on Colleges, schools and others to enrol a student named in an EHCP. In the past Colleges have resisted efforts to place new duties upon them and have welcomed efforts by the Minister for Skills, Matthew Hancock and his predecessor John Hayes to reduce such burdens. However, Colleges accept this new duty because it is part of a wider set of proposals which ensure Colleges are involved in the general approach to SEN and also in the formation of an EHCP. This should ensure no student is placed in a College without consent from the student and the institution.

Clauses 47 and 69: young offenders

16. These Clauses relate to the EHCPs for young offenders. Clause 47 places a duty on local authorities to maintain and review a previous EHCP for a young person released from a custodial sentence. Clause 69 appears to exclude any young person serving a sentence from the legislation. We recognise that the education available to young people in custody is significantly different from that available outside but this could be taken account of in the form of an updated EHCP which recognises such differences.

Clause 60: power for local authorities to have access to Colleges

17. This Clause extends a current power available to local authorities, in relation to accessing schools to monitor education and training, to Colleges and other institutions. Although we do not oppose this power we would welcome assurances that such access would be agreed with the College beforehand.

Clauses 66 and 67: Code of Practice

18. We warmly welcome Edward Timpson’s confirmation that he intends to publish an indicative code of practice as part of the Committee stage proceedings. [3] We would prefer to see the revised Code placed before Parliament on the positive resolution procedure to ensure maximum scrutiny by MPs.

Higher Education

19. The Association of Colleges regrets the fact that young people will cease to be eligible for an EHCP if they go to university. There are many benefits of an EHCP continuing into university, including reducing the need for further re-assessment and ensuring co-ordinated support continues for young people who may be moving away from home. We therefore think universities should be included. It is unclear whether higher education provided in FE Colleges is covered by this legislation. 10,000 College-based higher education students (at level, 4, 5 and higher) ‘considers himself or herself to have a learning difficulty and/or disability and/or health problem’. [4]

March 2013


[1] Individualised Learner Record (f05) 2010/11

[2] Paragraph 13, Statutory Guidance for Head Teachers, school staff, governing bodies and local authorities, The Duty to secure independent and impartial careers guidance for young people in schools .

[3] House of Commons Hansard, 25 Feb 2013 : Column 64

[4] Da ta from Individualised Learner Record, 2010/11. Note this figure excludes any students on HE provision franchised through a university.

[4]

Prepared 6th March 2013