No Let-up in Campaign to Reinstate College Course

Salisbury College has been warned to expect the “full wrath of the local learning disabled community” over the coming weeks and months as campaigners step-up their fight to get axed college courses reinstated. Members of the Learning Disability Support Group say they are “fed up of quietly being discriminated against” and are demanding the college reinstates around 115 disabled students whose Pathways courses were scrapped at the end of last term because of changes to the way funding is provided.

Unable to make the college bosses change their minds, the support group says the plan now is to look to Salisbury spearheading a national protest over education for students with learning disabilities.

Group chairman Faith Walker said the “door has now been closed” by the college on any form of negotiation.

Ms Walker said: “Perhaps, after our first flurry of protests, they thought we would go away quietly. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

She said the group had always intended to work with the college to find a way forward and preferred negotiation rather than confrontation.

“We have now been left with no alternative but to highlight the continued distress and unrest,” she said. “We are building a programme of meetings, protests, a petition and a public meeting and on a national level plan to go to Downing Street to protest at the inconsistencies and discrepancies in government policies in addressing education for students with learning disabilities.

“The Learning and Skills Council, we have been told by the college, redefined the criteria for achievement levels and in the light of this the college said it had no alternative but to change the educational grades, resulting in the exclusion of many of the students who, through no fault of their own, are unable to meet this educational level.

“The Learning and Skills Council is distancing itself from this problem by stating that the college is autonomous in making its own decisions about the courses it runs – but, in a letter to one of our members, it clearly states it supports the decision of the college.

“If the LSC did not threaten the college by withdrawing funding, why did the college exclude the students? However, if the LSC did threaten to withdraw funding, why won’t they admit it?”

Ms Walker added: “Clearly someone is avoiding the truth – and why are other colleges continuing to provide the very courses Salisbury College has closed?

“Salisbury College and the authorities who manage the public purse, along with those in a position to represent us, can now look forward to the full wrath of the learning disabled community who are fed up being quietly discriminated against in a very subtle but persistent way.”

The college said, when it announced it was scrapping the courses, that the changes were in line with government guidelines and courses could only be funded for learners able to achieve a qualification recognised by the Learning and Skills Council and this did not include Pathways.

The campaigners are planning a protest outside the college on Monday and are calling on students’ parents and carers to join them.