Disabled FE A level student with attendance issues - need advice

(11 Posts)
Runningtokeepstill Wed 23-Mar-16 16:59:19

Who is supposed to look after the needs of disabled students at FE college. Really ds needs the equivalent of a SENCO but there doesn't appear to be one.

My ds, now 16, has a diagnosed physical condition that has lead to him developing chronic pain syndrome (which is deemed to have a MH aspect rather than just being "purely" physical).

Education has always been a struggle due to poor attendance. However, he had a reduced timetable at school and managed to get 5 GCSE's at C+ including Maths and English which has allowed him to apply for level 3 courses.

What he needs from FE college is the opportunity to study courses but be able to work independently at home on days when he cannot get in.

We have always been upfront about his condition and he was told that he'd be supported on his first course. But that didn't happen and the way they treated him and took him off the course seemed to me to contradict their own special needs policies. I've complained but the college then grossly misrepresented what happened lied and when I escalated the complaint they said they would "investigate" but 3 months on have not told me the result/replied to me in any way, I suspect because they hope I'll disappear if they ignore me for long enough!

Ds was given only one alternative with the college - to transfer to studying one AS course only which he had to start when it was half way through and then try to catch up. He did this and his course tutor is fine but his personal tutor seems to think her role in life is to keep sending stuff to me telling me how bad ds attendance is even though she knows his situation and that it is not within his control.

Today I got another attendance letter, basically a standard one ignoring his medical condition, with a copy of the college attendance leaflet. Said leaflet says to let them know if there is a situation where the student won't achieve 95% attendance. Well I already have, so I resent the "tick box" behaviour of asking me to discuss attendance with my son and the threat that they'll have to set targets which will have to be achieved. On the days he doesn't go in it's because he can't walk - no target setting will change this reality.

He's supposed to be choosing courses for next year. What can he do? I don't know if anyone will support him or let him on any of their courses. I'd like to think there was someone he could talk to at college who could look at course options where he could study partly at home. This doesn't seem to be unreasonable. He is motivated. What happens elsewhere? Does anyone, parent, student or FE teacher have experience of someone in this situation being able to study at college in this way?

Runningtokeepstill Thu 24-Mar-16 16:02:49

Got a phone call today suggesting that it might not be worthwhile him even applying for any courses next year as they cannot support him. Is this normal? Will all colleges say this?

lougle Thu 24-Mar-16 16:29:18

What you're essentially saying is that you want a taught course to be distance learning, which the college won't want to do. Generally, a course is proposed and ratified for the mode of learning.

Could you look for a distance learning A-level in the subjects he is interested in?

Runningtokeepstill Thu 24-Mar-16 17:45:31

There are a number of problems with distance learning. One is that as part of his recovery ds needs to be in contact with other young people. There is a big psychological element to what is going on with him and spending most of his time at home isn't helping.

Then I have to fund distance learning and related exams as it is classed as Home Ed and also for this reason I would not be entitled to claim child benefit and related benefits. I'd therefore need to be back in paid work and wouldn't be around to help ds with transport needs and with, increasingly, days when he cannot get out of bed unaided. Currently I don't think he's fit enough to be left every day.

But as he's not like this all the time he doesn't qualify for disability benefits and although, because it's not happening all the time, it should be treatable, locally the nhs won't treat under 18's with this condition at their specialist clinics. Nothing else seems to work as the individual services like CAMHS and physio have repeatedly said they cannot help as the problem straddles physical and mental illnesses. We're trying to get CAMHS on board again but not successfully so far.

So the nhs won't treat him and the local college won't educate him. I'm already paying for physio and psychological treatment. Now it seems I'm also expected to pay for his education and lose even more money.Great!

Meloncoley2 Wed 30-Mar-16 13:56:13

Have you looked at applying for a EHCP?

JJbum Wed 30-Mar-16 13:59:05

He should be covered by the Equalities Act and the college need to be make reasonable adjustments for him. Not sure what you can do when their attitude clearly sucks. Is there another college he could go to?

Runningtokeepstill Sun 03-Apr-16 09:46:43

Thanks for the replies. Been away for a few days so just catching up. I've been thinking about EHCP for a while melon but looking at the posts on the special needs boards they take ages to come through. The local authority's initial response when I asked about it (telephone conversation) was that he would not qualify, but I gather this is often a common knee jerk response from many LA's. We may have to start the EHCP ball rolling soon though as there seems to be little chance of help without one.

There are other colleges JJ but ds doesn't think he'd cope with travelling on public transport for an hour or so each way and I'm not sure I should commit to always taking him by car. The easiest one to get to is actually part of the same institution that he is currently enrolled with so there seems little point of expecting anything to be better there. Also I know someone whose dc has very similar health problems to my ds who went to that college and they ended up leaving half way through A levels due to lack of support. So overall we think slogging on with the nearest college might be the only option.

Flanks Wed 06-Apr-16 06:41:31

Hiya

As of 2014, the college is required by law to have a named person as senco. So ask them again!

It may be that the phone operator knows them by a different job title such as 'additional learning support' (ALS) or HLS.

ChopsticksandChilliCrab Wed 06-Apr-16 07:04:12

This sounds very hard OP. Presumably there are no school sixth forms in your area? I think he would get more support and care in a school setting. Is there a sixth form locally that does the subjects he wants to do? If so would they let him start again in Year 12 next September?

Runningtokeepstill Wed 06-Apr-16 09:01:40

Thanks. There is a learning support team but sadly they seem to have a view that they only have a role for students who need support in the classroom to access the curriculum. I gather they are grossly underfunded so are struggling with keeping on top of this and don't feel they have the capacity to do other things as well. I have a formal complaint in about this situation which has gone to the second stage and then college have just stopped responding. Technically they could be investigating but three and a half months on it seems unlikely and I'm going to have to make a big fuss, it appears, to get any answers from them.

I've sent a few emails in over the holidays to state that I want answers to the complaint and to speak with someone with experience of disability who can support my son in his choices for next year. I can then chase things up. It's interesting to know that they should have a SENCO type of person so I'll pursue this next week.

Unfortunately there are no school sixth forms, only college. There is a free school that might have got it's 6th form running but I'm not really a fan of free schools and I have the impression this one has a bit of a grammar school mentality which may not work well with ds's disability related poor attendance. If his old school had a 6th form it would have been a good choice - he only started there half way through year 10 but they supported him through GCSE's whereas his previous school had said they couldn't see him getting any and kept asking us to home educate.

Flanks Wed 06-Apr-16 10:48:27

I did not realise that this thread had been running a couple of weeks, will try to offer some thoughts.

You can apply for an EHCP as a parent, it requires no school/college consent and once you do so the council is obliged to follow the procedure.

EHCPs are granted for many many reasons. In the case of your son it sounds like it would be a valuable procedure, as it will require a named school/college, which you agree with, to provide appropriate and named support to ensure that he can access his provision within his legal rights.

Ask for your LA's SEN report, which will name the outstanding colleges in the area, then you will know which ones to look at more closely.

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