Elmwood’s most vulnerable students left floundering

Senior managers at Elmwood College have stated  that, after the coming academic year, there are “no guarantees” for the future of the Student Development Department, which serves students with special needs and complex and profound learning difficulties. In addition, the special needs students on  the  2 day per week Adult Programmes course have been informed that, because of funding cuts, the only way their course can continue to run is if they pay £50 per week for the next academic year. The course has in the past been offered free. It seems that the most vulnerable of Elmwood College’s student population has been completely disregarded in the scramble for a merger with the other Scottish land based colleges.

The disturbing factor amid the jubilation and self congratulation of the announcement of the merger is that the Student Development Department does not seem to figure in the plans. The department serves students with complex additional needs not only from local areas but from all over Scotland, and is widely regarded as a leading force in supported education.  Senior management have stated that “there are no guarantees” as to the future of the only college facility in Scotland which offers fulltime 5 days per week courses to students with profound and complex learning difficulties, a facility that is unique in that it also offers fully supported accommodation to students who don’t live close enough to travel to college every day.

The tag line on Elmwood’s website  reads “Delivering Skills for Life and Work” –  are we to presume that, after the merger, the plan is that “Skills for Life” be shelved in favour of “Skills for Work” and the more able students?

Elmwood Principal, Jim Crooks’ quote in the Courier read “Elmwood College is working to ensure our curriculum portfolio is aligned to Government priorities” Are we to understand then, that Government priorities are to allow students with severe learning difficulties to fall by the wayside if they can’t afford to pay £50 per week for their college course ? According to the Scottish Funding Council, they are unaware of any cuts or charges for courses aimed at people with learning difficulties.

The merger of the four colleges has been hailed as wonderful news and we are told it will bring a turnover of around £77 Million a year, according to a Courier article of 16th May 2012.  Since the combined income of the four colleges for the year ending 2011 was over £77 Million, we wonder what sort of news this is.

We also find in a Courier report on June 2nd 2012 that the merger will mean a difference of nearly £700,000 , because the merger puts the combined four colleges into the higher education rather than the further education funding bracket.  Fortunate, we suppose, that arithmetic is not a land based subject (or maybe something is not being said?).