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Ipswich: Mencap blasts sixth form One for claiming five-day school week is too ‘tiring’ for children with learning disabilities

PUBLISHED: 14:54 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:54 28 March 2014

Announcing the decision, One principal Alan Whittaker said Monday-to-Friday foundation courses have proved unsustainable as a business model and not educationally appropriate for this group of students.

Announcing the decision, One principal Alan Whittaker said Monday-to-Friday foundation courses have proved unsustainable as a business model and not educationally appropriate for this group of students.

Campaigners have blasted an Ipswich sixth form after it slashed teaching time for students with learning disabilities because a five-day school week was “tiring”.

One, formerly known as Suffolk One, has come under fire after announcing plans to cut foundation learning courses – designed for pupils with profound or moderate learning difficulties – from five days a week to three.

Angry parents have slammed the “bombshell” news, saying the radical shake-up will unfairly penalise vulnerable children and “plunge families into poverty” when it comes into effect in September.

And the heated row yesterday intensified when the chair of Ipswich Mencap branded claims from One that students with learning difficulties cannot cope with a Monday-to-Friday education as they get too tired as “a load of codswallop”.

Vulnerable children thrive on stimulation and not discrimination, said Ipswich Mencap chair Barbara Thorn, who said One needed to “move with the times”.

The sixth form declined to comment, but has previously defended the decision by insisting it will now match other post-16 colleges in providing foundation learning over three days and says students with learning disabilities will still have a full-time education of more than 540 hours of teaching and support.

The latest criticism follows a letter sent to the Star backed by more than 50 parents who condemned the overhaul.

The Scrivener Drive sixth form has dismissed fears any of the 11 foundation learning courses, such as English, maths or independence skills, will be axed.

But it emerged yesterday that, in explaining the changes to parents in a letter on February 4, One said: “Learning experience and outcomes are not necessarily enhanced by being in class for a greater length of time.

“In common with those on Level 2 and 3 programmes young people on foundation learning programmes find studying for extended periods tiring.”

However Mrs Thorn said she was “disgusted”, saying: “One (says) that all children with additional needs get tired more quickly than the average child and that five days is too demanding for them. This to me is a generalisation and just an excuse to find a way out of providing a service.

“What a load of codswallop. These children thrive on stimulation not discrimination. One needs to move with the times (because) sitting at home doing nothing is certainly not healthy and in their best interests.

“If they are prepared to offer support for three days then what is the difference in offering support for five?”

She added: “A child/young adult with learning disabilities learns at a very different pace to the average child. Continuity plays a big part in learning, especially those with autism. This is why it is important that the five days remain.

“For a child leaving school and moving to further education is a big step but for a child who has additional needs it can take months of preparations.

“Ipswich Mencap will be supporting parents in any way possible to ensure that each child/young adult is treated fairly. We will also be backing any fight to try to retain this course for the future.”

Announcing the decision, One principal Alan Whittaker said Monday-to-Friday foundation courses have “proved unsustainable as a business model” and not “educationally appropriate for this group of students”.

He added: “I remain fully confident that the standard of provision for foundation learning students will continue to result in excellent student outcomes.”

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