NEARLY one in three young people with special educational needs at 16 are not in any form of education, employment or training two years later.
A shocking new report shows teenagers and their parents faced with a system that is “extremely complex and difficult to navigate”, with a baffling array of different providers including schools, further education colleges and specialist organisations.
And as young people fail to get the information they need to decide what’s right for them, many are losing hope, says the report by a committee of MPs.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: “The Government spent £640 million on special education for 16- to 25-year-olds in 2009-10, yet too many of these young people are falling through the gaps after they leave compulsory education, damaging their life chances and leaving a legacy of costs to the taxpayer.”
An end to the apparent postcode lottery suffered by young people with a statement of special educational needs is called for in the committee’s report, Oversight Of Special Education For Young People Aged 16-25.
Ms Hodge said the Department for Education “doesn’t know how much money is actually spent on supporting young people with special educational needs. The huge variation between local authorities in funding per student suggests that a postcode lottery is at work.”
Among those who gave evidence to the committee were Disability Alliance, the Young People’s Learning Agency and the Department for Education.
“Parents need to know what support their child is entitled to, how it can be accessed, and how well different options would meet their child’s needs,” added Ms Hodge.
“But three quarters of local authorities do not give parents any information at all about the respective performance of schools, FE colleges and specialist providers.”
The report also urges that the local authorities failing young people be identified and steps taken to make improvements. The Special Educational Needs Green Paper could pave the way for that reform.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “There are examples of excellent good practice in some areas and colleges and of individual support by some local authorities.
“We also know that too many disabled young people are not informed about all their choices on leaving school, may not receive the key worker support they need and are twice as likely to be not in work, education or training at 18.
“We hope local authorities and government now respond to the report’s recommendations to help disabled young people to achieve their potential.”
Ms Hodge added: “The Special Educational Needs Green Paper proposes that local authorities “communicate a clear local offer for families to clarify what support is available and from whom.
“We hope this proposal will lead to clear policies and statements setting out what support young people are entitled to, backed by the ability to access the right advice and support.”