Agenda item

Ribina Shahin asked the Executive Member for Children's Services the following question:



Why is there a complete lack of a unit or local college course for those with profound special needs leaving secondary school?





Why is there a complete lack of a unit or local college course for those with profound special needs leaving secondary school?



Before I answer your question I would like to formally apologise that the quote that was put into the paper was misinformed and incorrect.  So hopefully you will accept my apology. I didn’t realise at the time that you hadn’t met with the Chief Executive of the Council.


Thank you for raising this question because it brings to light the complex situation in which there appears to be a shift in the approach undertaken by colleges to the running of those courses for learners with Additional Needs ranging from Moderate to Severe and Complex.


This in part relates to the funding formula that colleges operate within where payment is related to course success and retention. In such cases courses that do not attract or retain enough learners to become financially viable are cut. Numbers from Addington over the past three years have varied: in 2013 it was 2; in 2014, 2 and in 2015, 0. This has been the situation last academic year in terms of courses offered through Berkshire College of Agriculture.


In relation to courses offered for students with more complex needs such provision was established at Ravenswood, in Wokingham as part of the Reading College offer. This was established in partnership with Addington Special School and was designed to meet the needs of our most dependent young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties; often compounded by additional health and sensory needs. This provision was established for six students at Ravenswood building as it was fully accessible and met the appropriate requirements for teaching with space for 1-2-1 personal care facilities. Unfortunately, the Ravenswood site is leased by the college from Norwood-Ravenswood who have recently served notice to this arrangement thereby forcing the closure. Reading College’s main campus is not able to provide similar accommodation that is required.


In 2016, it is anticipated that three Addington students need to transfer to the relocated Reading College provision that was based at Ravenswood (of whom two are Wokingham residents). Attempts have been made to identify suitable premises but with no success to date. The search is ongoing and is being taken further forward through both Wokingham Borough Council and our regional partners. Knowledge about the needs of primary age pupils currently at Addington indicates that the capacity that was provided at Ravenswood will be required, if not exceeded, in the medium to longer term.


In the meantime alternative providers have been sourced such as Newbury College in an effort to ensure opportunities are available to such students.


The availability of further education provision for students with Special Educational Needs is being addressed by the local authority through the EFA Post 16 Area Review from January –April 2016, and I believe you have had a conversation this morning about this, and directly through the Disability Strategy which is currently in draft form.


Supplementary Question

I am sure the Council are very clear and aware with regards to the rules, guidance and content of the Care Act.  The Care Act refers to prevention, wellbeing and working with people who use the services when making decisions about care and support.  Therefore how will the Council ensure they communicate fully with carers, like myself, to gain a balanced and more realistic point of view and not only consider the opinions of healthcare and other professionals?


Supplementary Answer

It is a very valid question and we do consider the Care Act of course.  With the draft strategy that is being put together at the moment we will be seeking your views as to how we can go forward and also the post-16 area review is absolutely key that we listen to parents and all of your views about we can best address these needs.   One part of the papers was about saying actually transport is a key element of getting our students to the colleges that already exist and fundamentally for children with additional needs and Special Educational Needs it is a key factor. 


So I take on board your comments and I hope that you will be able to take part in the Disability Strategy that is currently in draft form and we look forward to inviting you to take part.