FE colleges must pay more attention to independent living skills for young people with learning difficulties

Most further education (FE) colleges do not focus strongly enough on the independent living skills that young people with learning difficulties and disabilities will need for their future. A report published today by Estyn found that only a few colleges in Wales set realistic and long-term goals for these young people that include developing wider communication and employability skills.

The report, Learner progress in independent living skills learning areas in further education colleges, looks at how well FE colleges provide learning programmes for young people with a wide range of moderate to severe learning difficulties.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,

It is vital that FE colleges prepare young people with learning difficulties for life after they leave college and help to equip them with the skills that they need to live an independent life.

“Colleges should design sufficiently challenging learning programmes that have an appropriate balance between qualifications and other activities so that learning is purposeful and well-matched to the abilities of the young people.

“Today’s report highlights some success stories where colleges have made a real difference to individual learners’ lives by setting meaningful targets and taking a flexible approach to planning the curriculum.”

The report includes a case study from Grŵp Llandrillo Menai where staff re-evaluated the way that they set targets for individual learners. They introduced a six-week initial assessment at the start of courses to gain accurate and relevant information about learners’ abilities. They ensured that learners’ long-term goals were at the heart of learning plans. Inspectors found that since the changes were made, staff have been able to provide co-ordinated support for individuals’ progress both inside and outside of college. A number of learners have made notable achievements. For example, one young person who had difficulty socialising with peers is now attending a youth club and another who had problems ordering and eating lunch at college is now able to do this independently.

The report has five key recommendations for FE colleges to help improve their provision for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. These include identifying learners’ wider skills and abilities during initial assessments, ensuring individual learning plans take sufficient account of these, and designing programmes of learning that are more relevant and challenging. There are also recommendations for local authorities and the Welsh Government.

         Notes to Editors:

         About the report

  • In 2015-16, around 1,400 learners completed programmes of learning for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities at 12 colleges in Wales
  • The evidence of the report included visits to 11 out of the 12 independent living skills learning areas in FE colleges (information about the provision at The College Merthyr Tydfil was gathered during an inspection in 2016):
  • Bridgend College (including Weston House)
  • Cardiff and Vale College
  • Coleg Cambria
  • Coleg Ceredigion
  • Coleg Gwent
  • Coleg Sir Gar
  • Coleg y Cymoedd
  • Gower College
  • Grŵp Llandrillo Menai
  • NPTC Group of Colleges
  • Pembrokeshire College
  • FE colleges offer a range of courses and qualifications. In around half these are referred to collectively as independent living skills programmes, but in the other colleges these are grouped under programmes such as skills for life or foundation studies. For the purposes of the report these are considered collectively as all discrete programmes of learning for those with difficulties or disabilities.

Publication date

Friday, 16 June, 2017