RNC welcomes new Children and Families Act
Following intense lobbying and a successful campaign with the Association of National Specialist Colleges (Natspec), The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) welcomed the launch of the Children & Families Act 2014 on 1 September.
The Act provides people with special educational needs (SEN) the opportunity to request the learning provision of their choice from a younger age, based on their personal needs and preferences. There have been various battles over funding for students to attend the College in the past; a student may not hear from their local authority until September, just days before the new term starts.
A Right not a Fight, the campaign RNC students are a part of, highlights the difference that the real choice offered by this new legislation could have made to their own learning journeys. Of the June demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament, Stella, a student who completed her studies at RNC in July 2014, said:
“It was good to be part of something wider. There were lots of people with similar funding battles from different specialist colleges around the country. You want your voice to be heard and the authorities to rethink education. There is still a journey ahead, but I have confidence that future students’ funding journeys will be better.”
The campaign will continue until young people with SEN no longer need to fight for an education which meets their needs.
Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans replace Learning Difficulty Assessments from September, ensuring a joined-up approach to education and future health and social needs. RNC and many other Independent Specialist Providers (ISPs) already model this approach, following a holistic approach to education which meets the full range of students’ needs and equips them for adulthood. At RNC, students are taught mobility and independent living skills as part of their timetables, to enable confidence in ability for each person; for example, by learning to cook a two course meal for guests to travelling confidently by train across the country. This could mean that a person who has learnt these skills is less reliant on the state into the future, particularly regarding social care and employment prospects.
“We welcome the Act but have major concerns about the implementation,” said Lucy Proctor, RNC Director of Communications. “There are already worrying signs that many local authorities will continue to stop young people from attending specialist providers away from their home area. This will mean that, for all the talk of choice in the Act, the wishes of many young people with a visual impairment may still be ignored.”
Young people from age 16 now have the right to ask to have an assessment for an EHC plan (which they can do at any time up to their 25th birthday), have their say about the content of their EHC plan, and name a particular institution in their EHC plan (amongst other rights). The College welcomes these changes to legislation and will continue to provide support to potential students considering RNC as their further education facility of choice.