All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2011: The Challenge for Graduates in a Changed World

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Enabling students with Special Educational Needs to progress to Further and Higher Education: Reality or Myth?
Geraldine Scanlon

Last modified: 2011-11-18


Despite recent developments in education policy and legislation in Ireland to ensure that pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are educated alongside their peers in mainstream education, the problem of establishing inclusive educational provision within and beyond compulsory education  remains problematic. Specifically, while the notion of inclusion aspires to seek equality of opportunity for pupils with SEN, their participation rates in post compulsory education and training continues to remain at low levels. For example, only 4.2% of all new entrants to higher education indicated they they had one or more disabilites (HEA, 2009). Alarmingly, these particpation rates are well below the national particpation rates of 60% and lower than the entry rates of any soci-economic groups. The implementation report from the NCSE (2009) asserts that "Children with SEN will achieve outcomes for education which will facilitate them in transferring to the workplace, progressing to further education and life-long learning, participanting meaningfully in economic, social and cultural activity and, in effect, in living fulfilled lives independently in the community"(p.12). In addtion, the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education has set a number of targets relating to participation rates for people with disabilities in higher education, with plans to double the numbers of people with sensory, physical and multiple disabilites in higher education by 2013. Within this context, the current research, which was comisssioned by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) sought to explore the access and progression routes of students with SEN moving from compulsory to Further and Higher education FE/HE. Specifically within this remit, the current paper will discuss the support structures that currently exist within schools and the wider community  that may enable or deter the access and progression of students with SEN to FE/HE.