RNC students ROAR about their rights

RNC Principal Sheila Tallon and Hereford MP Jesse Norman join our students outside Westminster, some are holding up placards saying ‘A Right Not a Fight’. Todd is sitting on the floor with a guitar, next to Imi who is holding a ukulele

For the last six months RNC students have been heavily involved in the Right Not a Fight Campaign. They, along with students across England, having been making their voices heard about how hard it is for students with issues such as a visual impairment to get the education they need.

 

Join in the Twitter conversation about the campaign using #RightNotAFight and tweet to @RNC_Official

 

The Katy Perry song Roar has been adopted as the anthem of the campaign. The students feel that the lyrics articulate the way they have been made to feel by the education system. In the autumn students from specialist colleges across the country will be recording their own version of Roar as part of the campaign. In the meantime, some of our students decided to mark the end of term by getting stuck in making their own version:

 

Although our students have already got their own place at a specialist college, they are still passionate about the campaign. Most of them have had to fight to get here and they want to make sure that the next generation of students with a visual impairment received the support they deserve. Their experiences include:

  • Having to wait until the last minute to know whether their local authority will fund them to attend RNC – some students even miss the start of term or have to start in January because they have not been told a decision
  • Having to be rejected by local mainstream colleges before they were allowed to even apply to RNC
  • Being excluded from sports, social activities and school trips because of their visual impairment
  • Struggling to keep up in class because materials were not provided in a format which they can use
  • Feeling isolated from other students and constantly made to feel ‘other’
  • Falling behind their peers after being pushed in to the wrong college or a course that is not suitable for them
  • Having things done for them rather than having the opportunity to try for themselves
  • A lack of expert support leaving them without the skills they need to live and work independently as an adult

 

These battles can last for years and cause enormous stress for both the student and their family. It can have a huge impact on the emotional wellbeing of the student, and destroy their self-confidence.

 

Students can feel that they have to fail before they ever have a chance to succeed. More than anything, it means that young people with a visual impairment often receive a second class education because of their disability. This is discrimination, pure and simple.

 

So why does this happen? We don’t know. The arguments made rarely stand up. Some local authorities do not want to allow a student to leave their home area to access specialist education, yet their sighted peers may do just this to access a course in a niche field of study. Some argue that a specialist residential placement is too expensive. This fails to take in to account the additional costs of providing transport to and from college and additional staff in the classroom if the student attends a local mainstream college. It also fails to take in to account the savings the state will make in future years if a student is able to live and work independently having received specialist support in these areas.

 

Most importantly, what all of these arguments fail to take in to account is the wishes of the individual student. Some young people with a visual impairment will thrive in a mainstream setting. Others find that a period of time spent in a specialist environment is life changing and opens the door to a future they thought they could never have.

 

As one of our current student bloggers, Imi, recently wrote:

“This year has been the only academic year I feel I can look back on and smile… College is the first place I’ve been accepted as just being me and where I learnt a bit about how people work, myself included. It’s where I finally got the medical treatment I so desperately needed and where I learnt that I love to learn.”

Read more of Imi’s blog, entitled the Upsidedown Chronicles

 

Although new legislation, the Children and Families Act, is meant to make sure that young people with a visual impairment have a say in their own education, too much is still left open to interpretation by individual local authorities. Some examples of good practice are already emerging and offering signs of real hope, but other authorities are already making it clear that they intend to continue to do all that they can to block referrals to specialist colleges.

 

The right to access appropriate education should not be a postcode lottery, and it should not be a fight. Our students are calling on the government to learn from their experiences and to make sure that the new Act really does make a difference.

 

Hear them Roar!

 

If you are interested in studying at RNC, please call our student enquiries line on 01432 376 621 or email info@rnc.ac.uk

 

Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC