College support urged for students with disabilities

Students with special needs should be given better supports on moving to college, but particularly on the transition to further education, researchers have recommended.

While there are targeted access programmes to increase numbers of students with disabilities and special needs at third level, they said there is no sector-wide approach in promoting access to further education. But even the DARE admissions system, which gives students with disabilities an extra chance at third-level access, was found to have some perceived barriers.

“This included difficulties with the requirement for a recent psycho-educational assessment for the student, such as limited availability of assessment professionals and additional costs, and a perception that the points reduction within the DARE scheme was insufficient to encourage students with special educational needs to apply for admission to higher education,” wrote the researchers.

The team from Trinity College Dublin’s school of education and University of Northampton’s centre for special needs education and research carried out the study for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

Guidance counsellors they spoke to in schools were not fully aware of supports in further and higher education, and suggested more training about what is available to students and the need for a single place to access relevant and updated information about colleges.

The authors recommended that targeted access initiatives like those in higher education should be set up for further education to better help students transfer. They said a specific pathway for students with special needs should be considered within existing schemes that allow access to institute of technology courses for further education graduates.

They also propose funding to develop partnerships between schools and colleges.

NCSE chief executive Teresa Griffin said the report will help inform its role in post-school provision for learners with special needs.


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