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Press release: for release 26th February 2002



New research highlights lack of education provision for people with profound and complex learning difficulties

The findings of a three year action research project on the education provision for people with profound and complex learning difficulties are being published in a new resource pack to be launched on 26 February at a conference in London. The project, entitled Enhancing Quality of Life, was jointly initiated by Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, who managed the project, and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, who carried out the research. Margaret Hodge, Minister for Lifelong Learning, is speaking at the conference which is being organised by the Learning and Skills Development Agency.


The Enhancing Quality of Life project, funded by the Community Fund, was set up three years ago to address concerns that there were few options open to people with profound and complex learning difficulties once they had left school. These learners experience the most severe learning and communication difficulties and they may also have additional disabilities, for example, mobility impairments. The project findings challenge the lack of education provision for this group of people, revealing wide variations between services in different areas of the country. Recent changes in legislation (referred to by Margaret Hodge, below) mean that funding bodies, such as the Learning and Skills Council, should be making significant efforts to ensure that appropriate provision in both post-school education and social services, is being made. The project shows that, for learners with profound and complex learning difficulties, it is crucial that the different agencies work together and that tailored learning programmes must be designed for individual learners.


Margaret Hodge, keynote speaker at the conference on 26 February, said:
'This government has worked hard to support students with learning difficulties and introduced the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and the Learning and Skills Act 2000 to help make improvements in schools and colleges. This resource pack will complement the positive changes already made and will be a very useful and practical guide for all staff working with learners with profound and complex learning difficulties.'


The resource pack, aimed at professionals working with people who have profound and complex learning difficulties, seeks to stimulate development in this area. It provides guidance on how agencies can work together effectively and contains the following: a staff development guide and video; a guide for support managers; a briefing paper for policy makers; a literature review of existing research in this area; a 'quality of life manual' for monitoring review and evaluation.


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Key messages and recommendations

The research showed that there are wide regional variations in services for people with profound and complex learning difficulties. Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that there is universal access to a satisfactory level of service in all areas.
· People with profound and complex learning difficulties are likely to require services from a range of different agencies. The research showed how inter-agency collaboration, essential if the needs of this group of people are to answered effectively, often does not take place.


The project welcomes the Government's intention to establish inter-agency Learning Disability Partnership Boards in every LEA in England.
A list of "quality of life indicators" - a set of underlying principles - were drawn up by the project as a way of planning and monitoring services. Providers need clear guidelines on how they can design (or redesign) services in accordance with these principals.


Much funding for resources is short-term, thus contributing to the fragility and uncertainty of provision. This area of work needs to be effectively and securely resourced and welcomes moves for joint funding between Health and Social Services.
Liz Maudslay, Policy Director at Skill, who managed the project, said, "The progress made by learners at the four participating action research sites has shown how much can be achieved by learners with profound and complex learning difficulties. Skill and the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education are now looking forward to working with the LSDA to help other organisations make the best possible provision for these learners."


The Learning and Skills Development Agency will be taking the initiative forward by disseminating the project findings and helping organisations to put the findings into practice through a series of implementation projects.
Copies of the Enhancing quality of life resource pack are available from Skill at £25.00 each, contact Sue Beckford, 0207 450 0620 or email
sue@skill.org.uk. To find out more about the support networks the LSDA will be setting up, contact Sally Faraday at LSDA on 020 7297 9000.
(Email:
sfaraday@lsda.org.uk)


Ends


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Further media information from:


1. For further information about the research and for copies of the resource packs, contact Liz Victor, Marketing and Information Assistant, Skill. Tel: 0207 450 0620, Email:
lizv@skill.org.uk. Interviews with Liz Maudslay can be arranged through Skill.

2. Information about the conference on 26 February and the next stage of the project can be obtained from: Anne Nicholls, Communications Manager, LSDA. Tel: 020 7297 0917. Mobile: 07785 598269. Interviews can be arranged with Sally Faraday, project manager.



Notes to Editors

1 - Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities gives information and advice to thousands of disabled students every year on how to maximise their experiences in education (higher and further), volunteering, training, and employment. The Skill information service is open from Monday to Thursday, 1:30pm to 4:30pm, on 0800 328 5050 (voice) or 0800 068 2422 (text). Extensive information is publicly available on Skill's website: www.skill.org.uk. Skill also advises government policy makers and disseminates good practice through publications, conferences and professional networks. Skill is a registered charity with offices in London, Belfast and Edinburgh.

2 - The University of Cambridge Faculty of Education has a national and international reputation as a leading centre for study and research. It is a significant contributor to improving practice in partnership with schools, colleges and other organisations. Further information is available on the faculty website,
www.educ.cam.ac.uk.

3 - The Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) is a strategic national resource for the development of policy and practice in post-16 education and training. It was previously known as the Further Education Development Agency. The work of the LSDA covers research, policy advice, professional and organisational development, and curriculum support for all learning providers involved in post-16 education and training. These include those working in further education and sixth form colleges, school sixth forms, adult and community education, and work-based education and training. For further information see the web site www.lsagency.org.uk.

4 - The Enhancing Quality of Life project arose out of express concern both from practitioners and parents that there were often very few options available for people with profound and complex learning difficulties after leaving school. The first task was to carry out a national survey of the provision that was available for this group of people (Florian et al. 2000, University of Cambridge). The project team also selected four action research sites for further development work - a general FE college, a specialist FE college, an adult education centre and a community project.

5 - There is no statutory entitlement to post-school education provision for people with profound and complex learning difficulties, but there is legislation to ensure that funding bodies should be making significant efforts to make appropriate provision. Much of this legislation is very recent, e.g. Special Education Needs Code of Practice 2001, Learning and Skills Act 2000, Care Standards Act 2000.

6 - The Enhancing Quality of Life project was funded by the Community Fund (formerly known as the National Charities Lottery Board).


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