Young people with disabilities campaign for educational equality
Earlier this year a group of young people from around Britain travelled to the houses of Parliament to carry out a demonstration campaigning for education equality.
This paved the way for the A Right Not a Fight campaign, which calls for students with learning or physical disabilities to have the choices that all young people have when choosing a further education college that best meets their needs.
Unfortunately, many young people with learning or physical disabilities face a number of difficulties and challenges – in particular the postcode lottery.
This means that they are unable to access affordable post-16 education that can help in their development towards employment and independent living.
Currently there are only 70 specialist further education colleges in the UK, and to secure a place it costs more than £30,000 a year – and over £150,000 for students with complex needs.
This means that hundreds of families face a battle to secure funding for their child to attend such a college – particularly (as is often the case) when the one that best serves their needs is in another local authority.
Although a large number of young people with learning and physical disabilities can enter employment and live independently without further education, others require extra support and more time to learn appropriate skills.
Specialist colleges can provide this, and are considered extremely valuable for helping young people to prepare for the future.
The A Right Not a Fight campaign aims to tackle these challenges and raise awareness of the need for greater educational choice for students with learning or physical disabilities.
Developed by a group of student representatives, it has backing from NatSpec (The National Association of Specialist Colleges) and coincides with the launch of the new Children and Families Act which aims to encourage and support education for young people with disabilities up to the age of 25.
It also hopes to strengthen the cooperation between health, social care and education professionals within this sector.
Although changes have been made to funding for school-leavers with high levels of need, there is hope the Children and Families Act will increase the specialist educational opportunities for young people.
It is however still recommended that families consider every possible local option before seeking a specialist college, but this only reinforces the challenges of the postcode lottery.