Our whole experience of specialist education in Scotland has been lack of choice, and of Local Authorities more concerned with using their own resources than assessing need. We had to sell our home and move from one end of Lanarkshire to the other in order for our son Andrew’s school fees to be paid. Before that, his dad was working day and night shifts to find the money to fund his education. We find ourselves in a similar position now that Andrew is due to leave school and wants to go to college. Motherwell College is one of our local colleges, and described as a “Centre of Excellence”. We were told that Motherwell College did not allow young people with additional complex support needs to choose their own courses. Instead, Andrew’s only option was their Access 8 course, an 8 week course offering "taster sessions" of recreational courses. At the end of this he may have been offered 2 afternoons of similar recreational type activities. Andrew is a bright young man, and wants to continue to achieve and develop educationally. He can take part in recreational activities with his friends and family. Andrew wants to go to college to have a meaningful educational experience!
We then looked at other colleges around Scotland, and it became very clear that there was NOTHING available that could offer Andrew what he wanted and what he needs within Scotland. I then decided to do a bit of research, and have discovered that this has been the case for a number of years. Young people in Scotland used to regularly cross the border to England to access the specialist colleges that exist there. The Scottish Government reviewed this situation and looked at whether we should have our own specialist college in Scotland; the decision was made at that time that additional funding would be provided to local authorities instead. I do not see any evidence that this money has been used to provide an alternative to the specialist colleges. We have visited these colleges and there is just no comparison to the recreational course on offer at Motherwell. Andrew has applied to Beaumont College, which is a bit like Fame Academy! Andrew will have the opportunity to make films, music, dance productions, and continue developing his communication and IT skills. However, this means he will have to live away from home whilst he studies, and we are having to fundraise to pay the fees. Scotland should have their own specialist FURTHER education college, not pockets within colleges where young people and adults with additional support needs are "cared for", and offered life skills and recreational courses. Young people and adults with additional support needs deserve the same opportunities as others; please help our campaign to protect the future of all young people with additional support needs in Scotland - urge the Scottish Government to build our own specialist further education college in Scotland.