Too few young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities progress from school to complete programmes of learning in post-16 settings. A recent longitudinal study reported that an estimated 30% of young people who had a statement of special educational needs when they were in Year 11, and 22% of young people with a declared disability, were not in any form of education, employment or training when they reached age 18 in 2009 compared with 13% of their peers. Current figures from the Labour Force Survey show for quarter 1 of 2011 that 41% of men and 43% of women designated longer-term disabled were economically inactive.
Between October 2010 and March 2011, inspectors visited 32 providers to evaluate the arrangements for transition from school and the quality of provision for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities up to the age of 25. They conducted 111 detailed case studies of learners in a range of settings including colleges, independent providers of work-based learning and local authority providers of adult and community learning. Inspectors observed discrete provision for groups of learners who were mainly studying programmes at foundation level (pre-GCSE). They also assessed the quality of additional support provided for individuals on a range of education and training courses up to level 3 (A-level equivalent), including full-time and part-time vocational programmes and apprenticeships. In addition inspectors held two focus groups with key stakeholders prior to the fieldwork and, during the period of the survey, two further focus groups at a national conference for teachers and other specialist staff working in the post-16 sector. They also met with representatives from national organisations, and conducted structured telephone interviews with senior managers in 13 local authorities and in nine colleges involved in projects for these learners.
Among the key findings were that local authorities’ arrangements to provide learners with a learning difficulty assessment as the basis for their transition to post-16 provision were not working effectively. In two thirds of the case studies where it should have been available, the providers had not received an assessment, and where they were received they were often lacking in specific detail or arrived late. The recommendations for further study at post-16, made in the learning difficulty assessments, were not sufficiently objective or based solely on need. Work-based learning provision was rarely considered as an option. Recent reductions in budgets for adult learning had further reduced the options available for adult learners.
Too little is known about the destinations of learners once they leave post-16 provision, particularly once they reach the age of 19 or 20. The providers visited were beginning to collect destination information, but funding agencies and local authorities did not have systematic procedures to collect this data to monitor the effectiveness of this provision in supporting progression.