It has become all too clear this term that learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who want to study further education are being badly let down.

The local government ombudsman warned in October that growing numbers are missing out on places at colleges, because of delays with local councils producing their education and health care plans.

Now Natspec, the membership association for SEND providers, has warned that more and more learners with special educational needs or disabilities are not now taking up FE places as the cost of travelling to and from lessons is too high.

Every single county council paid for their travel in full a little over a decade ago, but our investigation has shown two thirds are currently charging wildly variable fees.

The financial burden is worse for SEND learners, due the long distances they and their families often face to reach suitable colleges.

The government was wrong to ignore the Association of Colleges’ call last year for a review on travel costs, and it simply isn’t good enough that they’re still passing the buck to local authorities.

I know that councils have statutory responsibility, but the DfE admitted it has an overview and requires LAs to make “reasonable decisions”. It should take this role more seriously.

Paul Offord is deputy editor of FE Week

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