As a coalition of Scotland’s leading third sector and independent children’s service providers, we have followed with interest the ongoing debate over proposals to widen access to university for those from so-called “under-represented” socio-economic groups.
While we welcome the provision in the Post-16 Education Bill for “widening access” agreements for these groups, there is a clear need to define the “socio-economic groups” mentioned and for this to include children and young people with complex needs, including learning difficulties such as autism, ADHD and those who have been in care.
Children and young people with these needs face additional barriers to entering higher education, and addressing these obstacles through highlighting this group as an under-represented socio-economic group, as well as defining such groups more generally, would be a welcome addition to the bill and indeed greatly strengthen it.
Awareness and support in accessing these opportunities is also needed as early as possible for those children with complex needs, including financial support and encouragement.
There are many widening access projects which are currently in place from universities and colleges, and it would be beneficial to reflect on how (and if in fact they do) they engage with children with these needs.
The Post-16 Education Bill provides an excellent opportunity to ensure the widening of access to those who don’t necessarily just come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, but also for those with complex needs who face considerable challenges to entering higher education.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
Spark of Genius
Who Cares? Scotland
Falkland House School