NIACE responds to Children and Families Bill

7th February 2013

NIACE welcomes many of the aims of the Children and Families Bill – published on Tuesday 5 February – but believes the real challenge will be in developing a system that supports young people in their transition to and progression in further education.

Responding to the publication of the Children and Families Bill, which takes forward the reforms set out in Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability – Progress and next steps, Yola Jacobsen, Programme Manager at NIACE, said:

“The new rights and protections in the Bill for young people with disabilities aged 16-25 in further education are welcomed. Young people and their families will now have the right to request an assessment and to name a college. However, whilst we do welcome clarity on the rights of young people – we are worried that there will be problems in implementation. Funding cuts, capacity to deliver and understanding amongst local authorities, who may lack experienced staff in this field, will all be big challenges to tackle if young people are to get the education provision they need.

“NIACE welcomes the fact that some of the issues raised in the report of the Education Committee in its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill have been addressed. This includes Education Health and Care Plans to be extended to young people undertaking apprenticeships and for those not in education, employment or training and, the inclusion of independent specialist colleges in the list of providers for which parents can express a preference.

“There are potential opportunities in the wider education reforms that have been taking place; in particular the flexibilities of the Study Programmes that could support the development of personalised learning that focuses on meaningful outcomes for the young person, including the opportunity to move into employment. The challenge will now be how the aims of the Bill can be met in the difficult funding environment, so that the system supports young people in their transition to, and progression in, further education.

“NIACE is committed to supporting local authorities and colleges to ensure this happens as people with learning difficulties and disabilities are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We will be responding to the consultation on the new SEN code of practice that is due out this Spring. And we will continue to work with providers and partner organisations to support development of person-centred learning for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities who have complex needs.”