I have been meaning to write this blog for some time now and I’m questioning why it has taken me so long. I think the reason is that it marks a very painful time for me. As a parent who has tried so hard to ‘level the playing field’ for Archie, I’ve realised that you just can’t sometimes and that’s hard.
As a reminder, my son Archie with 2As and 1C at A-Level set off to Manchester University in September to study Economics and Politics. Here is my blog about how we tried so hard to be prepared and here is my blog about how we were thwarted. In a nutshell, despite best efforts on our behalf to get Archie to university, ready to go with his software learnt and in place, he set off with a 2-day old computer and 2 hasty 3 hour sessions with a tutor who didn’t really understand the Reading programme herself. We were still hopeful. He had £7,000 of support from the government – computer, software, 6 training sessions and the equivalent of 2 hours learning support sessions a week. In addition, we’d been in touch with the Student Support Service (SSS) at Manchester, he’d chosen his modules so his reading list could be sourced electronically, they knew of his needs and he was prepared to work really hard.
Fast forward to mid-January and Archie has left university, his hopes and dreams of a degree in tatters. As he says, ‘higher education is just not for someone like me’ and instead he’s trying to work out what he wants to do, with the prospect of pub jobs on the horizon. Yes, he may end up as the Richard Branson of dyslexia fame, but equally here is a boy who really, really wanted to study Economics and Politics, is capable of doing so – and has been failed by the system.
Here’s what went wrong.
Incidentally, he had a go at a Politics essay, which took hours and hours and had no referencing and was delighted when he got 75% – having had a sizeable deduction for the lack of references.
I could go on but you get the drift. To their credit, when I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, Ms Rothwell, she did get some senior people ‘on it’ with the up-shot that Archie can try again in September and they’ll see if they can do better. But it shouldn’t have been like that.
Only 14% of those who have SEND get to university in the first place, and I’d be interested to know how many last.
Here are my suggestions of a way forward, of a way that ensures that those in our society who are capable of meeting the admissions criteria for university, but who have a disability, are able to access the curriculum, to show their ability and to be rewarded for their hard work and time with a decent degree.
I’m going to Westminster Higher Education Forum on 6th February and will see what I learn there, but will also try to feedback what Archie has experienced first-hand. Whilst Archie’s comment to this blog is ‘my advice is don’t bother trying to go to university’, I’d like to see a culture change in our society so that in 10 years time, the ‘Archie’s’ of this world will go on to higher education, as they deserve to.