Disabled People – Education and Training

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

Information in this section describes the range of educational and training opportunities for disabled children and adults, at school, in further education, in vocational training and in higher education.

School and pre-school education in England:

Children’s needs

A child up to the age of 18 has special educational needs if he or she has learning difficulties and needs special help. This help is known as special educational provision. A child has learning difficulties if he or she:

Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than most children of the same age, or

Has a disability which stops or hinders them from using educational facilities of a kind provided for children of the same age in schools within the local education authority’s area.

Special Educational Needs: a guide to parents

Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs

Both from Department of Education and Employment Publications Centre.

Tel: 0845 602 2260; Fax: 0845 603 3360; Email: dfee@prologcs.demon.co.uk or the Welsh Office Education Department. Tel: 02920 826 079

Addressing needs

Most children’s needs will be met by their mainstream school or nursery, sometimes with the help of an outside specialist. In a few cases the local education authority will have to make a statutory assessment based on specialist advice. They may then issue a statement of special educational needs which describes all the child’s needs and all the specialist help that he or she should be given.

Help available can cover many aspects, and may include special equipment, therapy (such as speech and language therapy or physiotherapy) or home-based learning schemes.

If you as a parent are not happy with any decision made about your child, you should talk to the school or the local education authority. You may also have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal in certain circumstances if you cannot agree with the decisions made by the local education authority. The local education authority should inform you of your rights to appeal. In Wales the Special Needs Advisory Project (SNAP) provides support for parents through the process of SEN assessment and if necessary a statement. Tel: 02920 384868

Voluntary organisations with educational services, schools or colleges include:

ACE (Aiding Communication in Education) / ASBAH (Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus) / Boys’ and Girls’ Welfare Society Central Offices / British Dyslexia Association / British Epilepsy Association / Chailey Heritage School / Dyslexia Institute / Foundation for Conductive Education / I CAN (Invalid Children’s Aid Nationwide) / Mencap / National Autistic Society / RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) / The Shaftesbury Society / SCOPE / SNAP.


Children’s needs

Education authorities must make appropriate arrangements to educate children and young people with special educational needs. If asked to do so, your authority must assess your child’s special educational needs and consider opening a Record of Needs, detailing them. If you are unhappy about the terms of the Record or the refusal of the Authority to open a Record, you can appeal to your local Appeals Committee.

Addressing needs

Most children with special needs go to mainstream schools. But for those who need a special environment or specialised facilities there are special schools (including some in the grant aided and independent sector) and special classes and departments associated with mainstream schools. The education authority should provide equipment and therapy required to meet a child’s educational needs. If a child’s disability prevents him or her getting to school, a visiting teacher may be able to help.

See also Disabled Children and Young People – Resources

A Parent’s Guide to Special Educational Needs. The Scottish Office Education Department.

Further and higher education

Further Education

Many young people with learning difficulties or disabilities continue their education after the age of 16 in a college. Colleges offer a wide range of vocational courses leading to work, GCSEs, GCE A levels and General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs) courses

Most colleges offer special courses or help for students with learning difficulties and / or disabilities

The Further Education Funding Councils for England And Wales pay colleges in the further education sector to run further education courses. They also have to make sure that there are places on those courses for young people and adults with learning difficulties and / or disabilities.

If you find there is no suitable provision in an FEFC-funded college, Funding Councils may be willing to pay for a place in an independent specialist college if it considers this is the best way to meet your needs. If you go to a specialist college, you might live at the college during term time.

Further Education For Young People with Learning Difficulties and / or Disabilities: The Role of the Further Education Funding Council. Tel: 02476 863000; Further Education Funding Council for Wales. Tel: 02920 781681

Disability statements from further education colleges contain details of the provision available at the college for people with learning difficulties and / or disabilities.

Higher Education

Extra help is available if you have a disability and wish to go into, or continue studying in, higher education.


If you intend to continue in full time education after school or FE college, teachers and career officers can advise you which university will be suitable. They can also find out about access, facilities and contacts for students with disabilities through ECCTIS, the database with up-to-date information on courses and vacancies in higher education.

England and Wales

The Charters for Further and Higher Education explain what you may expect from a college if you are a student with a learning difficulty or disability. You can get copies in Braille and on audio tape from the Department of Education and Employment Publications Centre. Tel: 0845 602 2260.

Bilingual English / Welsh versions of the Charters are available in Wales from the Welsh Office. Tel: 02920 826079. Individual colleges also publish their own charters


Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Tel: 02920 761861


The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC)

Publishes Access to Success, a guide containing advice for students with a disability on applying to and studying in higher education in Scotland. Tel: 0131 313 6500

You can get information on courses in further education in Scotland from the individual colleges.

Grants People with learning difficulties and disabilities have the same rights to grants from local education authorities and student loans as other students. Grants are usually only available for people in higher education. In addition you may be eligible for one or more of the disabled students’ allowances, if your disability makes it more expensive to take a course.The allowances are: the Non-medical Personal Helper Allowance, the Equipment Allowance and the General Allowance for other extra costs.You can also get an extra allowance if you have higher travel expenses for a course because of a disability. Sometimes you may be able to claim social security benefits. ‘Student Grants and Loans’: a brief guide to Higher Education Students’ Department for Education and Employment Publications Centre. Tel: 0845 602 2260

‘It’s your Choice’, from Careers and Occupational Centre, Moorfoot, Sheffield S1 4PQ, sets out the choices facing students at the end of year 11 and contains advice for young people with disabilities. Welsh language version Chi Biau’r Denis from Welsh Office. Tel: 02920 826 079.

In Scotland you can apply for assistance for advanced level courses from the Student Award Agency for Scotland. A Disabled Student’s Allowance is available with three elements: the basic grant; an equipment allowance; and a non-medical personal help allowance.

The Snowdon Award Scheme

May provide bursaries to help physically disabled students, preferably between 17-25 years of age, with additional costs of further education for students with a disability eg. Computers, carers, notetakers, readers, specialist equipment. Bursaries of up to £1,500 may be awarded for one or two years. Tel: 01403 211252

Apply to your local education authority.

In Scotland apply to your local authority for non-advanced courses. For advanced courses apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Tel: 0131 476 8212

Skill (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities)

A voluntary organisation which promotes equality in education, training and employment for disabled people. Phone the Information Service, Tel: 0800 328 5050 (voice) or 0800 068 2422 (text) Skill publishes a range of factsheets and publications, including:

Financial Assistance for Students with Disabilities in Higher EducationFinancial Assistance for students with Disabilities in Further EducationHigher Education and Disability: a guide

Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: a guide for staff

For a full list of publications and information sheets, contact:Skill, Chapter House, 18-20 Crucifix Lane, London SE1 3JW


Provide advice and support for blind and partially sighted students in further and higher education through a team of regional Student Support Service Advisers. It works with students at specialist and mainstream colleges. Services include guidance on choosing educational options and study skills to cope with course material.Tel: London & South East: 01733 370777 text 2379Central: 0121 631 3372North: 0151 255 0562South West: 01392 493643Scotland: 0131 313 1877

Open Learning open or distance learning gives you access to educational material and allows you to develop knowledge and skills at your own pace and at a time and place to suit your self. Your TEC / LEC may be able to make arrangements and tell you about grants.

The National Extension College

A non profit making educational charity providing 150 home study courses including GCSE, ‘A’ level, degrees, vocational and leisure interest courses. Disabled people or people caring for someone with a disability may be able to obtain bursaries to help with the cost of fees. For Guide to Courses ring Customer Service. Tel: 01223 316644

The Open University

Offers a full range of degree and other courses, combining home study with tuition and group discussion at local study centres. Some courses have a weekend or one-week residential school. Each student has a tutor. The wide range of services for disabled students includes: assistance at residential school, transcripts, cassette tapes, study weekends, specialised equipment. Tel: 01908 653745; Text: 01908 655978

Training and the Enterprise Councils (TECs) and Local Enterprise Companies (LECs)

Work-based training for young people, and work-based training for adults are the Government’s training programmes. Training and the Enterprise Councils (TECs) deliver them in England and Wales. Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) in Scotland deliver equivalent provision in Skillseekers and Training for Work.

Work-based training for young people offer broad based vocational training and work experience. All 16 and 17 year olds who are not in full-time education or employment are guaranteed a suitable training place.. This applies to those over 18 if entry has been delayed due to disability or a health problem.

Work-based training for adults helps long-term unemployed people, aged 25-63, find work and improve their work skills. Disabled people can join the programme immediately and have priority for suitable training places.

TECs and LECs can provide extra help such as special equipment, communication support, and adaptations to premises. Many TECs and LECs have a member of staff responsible for equal opportunities and service for people with special needs.

Contact the local Careers Service for work-based training for young people and your Jobcentre for Work-based training for adults and equivalent in Scotland.