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.
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
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
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 [email protected].
To find out more about the support networks the LSDA will be setting
up, contact Sally Faraday at LSDA on 020 7297 9000.
(Email: [email protected])
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: [email protected].
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).