Right! Not a Fight!
A group of National Star College learners and staff have joined a national campaign calling for equality in education for young people with disabilities. They attended the launch of ‘A Right, not a Fight’ in London outside the Houses of Parliament. Due to a complicated funding system, those with disabilities are not free to choose which further education college they attend.
‘Before a young person can attend a specialist college such as National Star, they must be rejected from all other possible mainstream options,’ said Kathryn Rudd, Principal of National Star College, and Chair of the Association of National Specialist Colleges.
‘They are made to feel like second class citizens and their families often have huge fights to get their child funding. We believe that education should be a right, not a fight for a young person with disabilities and that they are entitled to the same right to choose as their able-bodied peers.’
Parents Pauline and Peter Freeman know first-hand what the difficulties can be. Their daughter Nicola has been at National Star College for two years. She was injured and had an acquired brain injury when she was just 17.
‘We believed that Nicola deserved, as every child does, the chance to make the most of her life,’ said Mr and Mrs Freeman. ‘We found three colleges that had experience of young people with Acquired Brain Injury and also looked at our local provision in county.’
‘With Nicola we visited all four colleges and she chose National Star College, we then endured a long wait while we waited for county to agree funding for Nicola to go.’
Among those who went to London were friends Josh Reeves and Oliver Rhodes. Both learners are passionate about having the right to make their own choices in their education.
‘I only found out if I would get my funding to come here just weeks before I was due to start,’ said Josh. ‘We want to make our own chooses about where to go to college just like anyone else.’
Alison Boulton, Chief Executive of Natspec, said: ‘Recent funding reforms have put power into the hands of local authorities, who assess needs, commission and fund places in different ways, leading to a postcode lottery for specialist education.’