The Learners’ Single Point of Access (L-SPA) offers help and support to children and young people within Surrey who have a problem, concern or needs about their development or progress. L-SPA offers help to anyone to the age of 25.
What the L-SPA does
L-SPA assures they will give children and young people the right support or intervention at the right time so they can help you meet your learning developmental milestones. The L-SPA provides you access to information and advice from a team of professionals from education, health and social care; aiming to answer your call within 20 seconds. The L-SPA will not replace any existing referrals to services for children. If you have existing support or help from another service, the L-SPA will support and help alongside.
How to access the L-SPA
The L-SPA is a phone service that runs from 9am to 5am, Monday to Sunday all year round except on bank holidays. You can call the L-SPA on 0300 200 1015. Alternatively, you can go to their website and fill out a form as a parent, practitioner or as a child or young person. If you are not accessing any learning services other then L-SPA, the L-SPA can help you to get support from another service.
As young people with additional needs and disabilities, we would like more information on what study support is available in Surrey for all young people with additional needs and disabilities, so that we know what options are available to us when we make decisions about our education.
Following from your Action Card, we asked the Preparing For Adulthood Team at Surrey County Council what support colleges in Surrey offer. This is what we found out!
Nescot College offers a wide range of expert support, from specialised help with student finance to mentoring and professional counselling for personal, social or family problems.
All the services are free and available to anyone. To get this support you will be assessed at college after talking to your tutor.
When you join Nescot you can visit their website to apply for the support that applies to you. Or you can talk to your tutor or staff at Nescot and ask how to apply, or if they can help you apply.
For more information, visit their student services webpages:
Brooklands College offers help from staff such as, progression mentor, your tutor, the counsellor, a member of the safeguarding team. They can also give you ways to help yourself or they can signpost you to services that can offer help and support. When you join the Brooklands college you can visit their website and see how to apply for the support that applies for you. Or you can talk to you tutor or staff at Brooklands and ask how to apply or if they can help you apply.
For more information, check on Brookland’s webpages on student support:
East Surrey College
East Surrey College offers additional support that’s offered to students who have a learning difficulty or disability. If you have a statement of additional needs, a learning difficulty assessment or an EHCP, you will need to provide any of these to get support from the college. The college provide access to assistive technology for exams, dyslexia and dyscalculia and will provide or recommend strategies to enable you to make independent progress in learning. The college has specialist staff to support those with hearing or visual impairments, as well as speech and language needs. Students needing more support will often be allocated a specific Learning Support Assistant to work with them ensuring consistency throughout the college day. There is also an Autistic Spectrum Support Group every 2 weeks, where students can socialise and try out new activities.
For more information, check on East Surrey colleges webpages on support for students:
Farnborough College has dedicated additional learning support such as, learning support workers, specialist tutors and key workers. Staff at the college work to create a range of support programmes for specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia. The support offer can provide 1-1 support, study and assignment workshops, exam access arrangements and assistive technology and equipment support. The college also helps with language and communication needs, whether its producing speech, understanding and using language or having specific communication difficulties.
For more information, check on Farnborough’s webpages on additional learning support:
SEND Local Offer
The SEND local offer aims to bring together useful information between education, health and social care within their website. You can find information, advice, guidance and a range of local service’s who provide children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
For more information, check on SEND Local Offer webpages on the support they offer:
Alternative Provision is education outside school for pupils who don’t attend mainstream school for reasons which might include being excluded, behaviour concerns, mental health or illness. Examples of Alternative Provision include Pupil Referral Units, the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP), Short Stay Schools and Access to Education (A2E).
Surrey County Council are redesigning the strategy for Alternative Provision and the User Voice and Participation Team created two online surveys to get the views of children, young people, parents and carers. The surveys were open from 23rd October 2020 – 17th November 2020. We received responses from 65 children and young people and 78 parents and carers. Below are the main things that respondents told us they would like to see in Alternative Provision:
Additional Mental Health Support
38% of children and young people said that mental health was one of the main barriers that affected them staying in mainstream education. Parents and carers also expressed that mental health was a significant issue that they felt needed attention. Therefore, more mental health support is needed to help children and young people to remain in education. Children and young people need to be able to access support easily and in a timely manner to ensure that their mental health issues are addressed quickly, and their education is not affected.
This is what some of the respondents had to say:
‘I could benefit by having someone to talk to whenever I’m feeling down or nervous, someone who could help me when I’m stressed or struggling with work etc’ Young person
‘Someone in the room knowing about my mental health and actually taking the time to help me, without cutting corners’ Young person
‘Support from a doctor or mental health professional as needed’ Parent/Carer.
Additional Support for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
44% of parents and carers said that undiagnosed special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or lack of support for those with SEND was the main barrier to their child or young person remaining in mainstream education. A number of children and young people also said that they felt their additional needs were a barrier to remaining in education. We therefore need to ensure that children and young people with SEND are diagnosed in a timely manner and that enough support is put in place to help them manage their education. Many parents and carers recognise that the cause of this is often due to a lack of funding for schools which is an area that they feel needs to be addressed.
This is what some of the respondents had to say:
‘People to help with understanding additional need even if people can’t see them’ Young person.
‘Struggle on daily basis – waiting assessment for ADHD – find classrooms very distracting’ Young person.
‘Teachers need more training and support in managing children with additional needs who perhaps do not have an EHCP in place’ Parent/Carer.
Adaptable Teaching Styles & Understanding Needs
A number of respondents were frustrated at the ‘one size fits all’ approach that they feel is often in place in education. It is important that teaching staff have a good understanding of their students’ individual needs and can adapt their teaching styles so that nobody gets left behind.
This is what some of the respondents had to say:
‘Teachers educated in different styles of pupil engagement and schools being adaptable to support this’ Parent/Carer.
‘Tasks explained in different ways if the first way is too difficult to understand’ Young person.
When children and young people feel like they are falling behind in education, it can cause them a lot of anxiety and, due to class sizes, it is not always possible for the teacher to spend as much time as they need with individual pupils. Respondents from both surveys said that it would be beneficial to have more 1:1 support in place to help children and young people remain in education.
This is what some of the respondents had to say:
‘More 1 to 1 support earlier in schooling to prevent phobia from developing and placement to fail’ Young person.
‘Time out of the classroom and more 1-1 support’ Parent/Carer
Local Alternative Provision
Although some children and young people said that they would be happy to attend alternative provision that was in a different town, more than half said that travelling a long way was likely to affect their attendance. Similarly, over 70% of parents and carers felt that travelling a long distance would impact on their child or young person’s ability to attend e.g. due to anxiety, tiredness etc. We therefore need to ensure that we have enough Alternative Provision available across Surrey to avoid young people having to make unreasonable journeys.
This is what some of the respondents had to say:
‘The fact that I had to wake up every day and travel 2 hours a day to school and back was exhausting’ Young person.
‘This has happened to my son as he was travelling 45 minutes each way in a taxi. He is now unable to attend due to fatigue and anxiety and a reduced timetable is not an option due to the travelling time’ Parent/Carer.
Other things that respondents said they would like to see from Alternative Provision included:
Outdoor space – ‘‘I need space to run and climb when I feel stressed’ Young person.
Small classes and separate rooms that students can go to if they need some time out – ‘A comfortable setting, not just a classroom with different areas if I needed to be alone rather than surrounded by lots of people’ Young person.
Nice buildings – ‘They don’t have a great space to work from. They are teaching in rundown premises which need updating and, compared to local schools, that doesn’t seem fair’ Parent/Carer.
Kind teachers – ‘Good fun teachers that are more of a friend but can be professional when they need to be’ Young person.
If you would like to read more about the results of the surveys, please see the full reports below:
This personal account was written by a young person and they have shared it with the User Voice and Participation Team. This young person wishes to remain anonymous.
“Mainstream education was difficult for me because of the bullying I received from other students. Before other students found out my mum had a disability I was like any other person in the school, I had lots of friends in and out of school, but this all changed overnight. There was a boy in my class who was known for bullying students, I really don’t know how he found out about my mum’s disability but he started to walk past me and pretend he was on crutches, other people then started to do the same.
I would go into school, have form time and then walk to lesson, every time there would be a group of young people pretending to walk on crutches and laughing to each other. This then progressed to them finding out my father had died, they then started to make fun of this. I tried to deal with it by taking it as a joke, hoping they would stop, but I could not take anymore by Christmas. I spoke to my head of house about it and I felt it was not taken seriously. This response had a detrimental effect on my mental health, and I started to make up excuses not to go to school, the school would send work home for me to complete, which I was doing (Year 8).
At the beginning of Year 9 my mum and myself were asked to go to a meeting at school, we were told the main instigator of the bullying had moved to the other side of the year and the rest of his group had been expelled. I agreed to go back to school however because of my trauma, I now found it hard to be around lots of people, so I was put in isolation. This was the worst thing that could have happened because the bully then ended up in the same classroom as me.
My anxiety then went through the roof and I then refused to return to school. I felt the school were not very understanding of my issues and threatened to arrest my mum for letting me stay home.
The school did not send any work back home to me as I was not de-rolled and my mum was still being threatened. This added a lot of anxiety to what I was already feeling, in Year 9 I still managed to get out over the weekend, but this stopped quickly by Christmas as I was beaten up by the bully and his group of friends in town.
I then stopped going out for a year and a half. I was struggling with my mental health and I was referred to CAMHS.
At the beginning of Year 11 the school contacted my mum and suggested that I went to Access to Education (A2E), I was anxious about this as I had not seen anyone for a number of months.
A2E came over to my house to meet me, I was nervous, but they started a conversation about football and that put me at ease. They explained I would only be with one other person and this gave me the courage to give it a go. They eased me by letting me do the first week’s lessons online. The following week I was picked up by one of the workers and taken to the centre, she kept me calm by talking about football.
A2E supported me in that when I was having a bad day, I could do my lessons online at home and this helped a lot. A2E was more informal than school, I was allowed to call the teachers by their first name which made a difference. They mixed the day up with lessons and then we had a fun activity. There was no PE which I feel could have benefitted me but in general I felt safe and was able to learn without feeling anxious.
A positive experience was when I attended A2E another young person from my school came to the centre and he had the same experience with the same people. We supported one another through our time there and it confirmed my experience at school was unmanageable, it also began to help with my recovery.
If I could add anything to A2E I would want to include physical activities where possible. What made A2E the ideal alternative provision was the attitude of the workers involved. Their approach made A2E the best provision for me at the time, I cannot think of anything else other than to include PE, that could have made my experience better. Overall, I think there should be more alternative learning provisions like A2E for young people as there are a lot of young people struggling with mainstream education.”
The evolution of personal mobility aids is very linked into the way society viewed, or was aware of, people with reduced mobility. If we look back to the Middle Ages, for example, society didn’t feel responsible for people with reduced mobility or other disabilities. Many disabled people lived as outcasts in a society full of superstition.
One of the very first wheelchairs we know about is from the 5th century B.C. and is this blog’s featured image.
Depicted in this ‘wheelchair’ is Confucius, a famous ancient philosopher and teacher. It was a very rudimentary version of a wheelchair, but was a wheeled device used with the intent of helping people with reduced mobility, so is presented here as an example.
Walking sticks have probably been used for thousands of years. Ultimately, in a rudimentary form you can just pick up a branch and use it to help you walk. However, the time at which these were used more as mobility aids rather than like hiking sticks is unclear.
Mobility aids started to develop much more around the 15th century.
The oldest known use of a walking frame in England is depicted on a piece of clothing from the 14th century. It depicts either the young Virgin Mary, or Jesus, learning to walk using a three-wheeled frame.
In the 15th century, Queen Elizabeth of Spain set up a hospital where soldiers were provided with prosthetic and therapeutic devices, and they would also receive a pension. During her time as queen, institutions for children, blind, deaf and disabled people were also created. Her husband, King Felipe II, used a wheelchair which was quite elaborate for its time. It had arm and foot rests.
But it was only in about the 18th century that wheelchairs were invented that look like the ones we use today. This wheelchair had two large front wheels and a small rear wheel one on each side.
In the 19th century, wheelchairs were made mostly out of wood and wicker. They became popular in the USA, especially amongst veterans of the Civil War (and later on, WWI).
The first folding wheelchair was designed by a pair of engineers in 1932, after one of them had an accident with a landmine during WWI.
Though the first electrically driven wheelchair was created in 1924, the first electric wheelchair was invented after WWII. Lots more soldiers who suffered spinal cord damage in the war had survived, due to advances in technology and medical knowledge, which meant there was a greater demand for wheelchairs.
There had been many improvements to manual wheelchairs, but if you were quadriplegic, you were unable to use a manual wheelchair without the assistance of another person. So, thanks to support from the Canadian Government and other scientists, George Klein invented the electric wheelchair. This enabled people who did not have the energy or mobility to use a self-propelled wheelchair to have more independence.
In the 60s and 70s, mobility scooters and rollators appeared, and walkers similar to the ones used today came into development.
These came about for the first time in the late 60s. They were quite successful, and seen as alternatives to the electric wheelchair. They were designed for people who could walk, but who couldn’t travel long distances on foot because of problems in their knees or arthritis.
A walker is the most stable walking aid. It is made of a frame which you place in front of you and hold onto during movement. These have been used for a long time, but were usually wheeled. In the 70s, walkers more like the Zimmer frames we see used today were created. They were usually made of metal.
A rollator is a type of walker that has three or four wheels on it. It also usually has a built in seat, which allows the person using it to stop and rest when needed. Rollators often have a shopping basket attached.
It was invented by Swedish inventor and polio survivor, Aina Wifalk, in 1978.
Please note that this post has since been edited to update the blog the group’s new name: ATLAS (previously SYAS).
Recently I have been facilitating some of the virtual group meetings with the ATLAS members. As this week is anti-bullying week, the young people have been sharing their experiences with stigma and bullying as well as discussing ableist language and how they self-describe.
Overall, it is felt and experienced that stigma and bullying are still prevalent. ATLAS are telling us that we all need to be doing more to increase the visibility of additional needs and disabilities, as well as mental health (find out more on comorbid mental health with additional needs and disabilities), throughout society.
One of the repeating themes of discussion has been the importance of language in their experience as young people with additional needs and disabilities; how the language used to define and describe them has a direct impact on their lives.
What is stigma?
In this context, stigma is used to refer to the negative stereotypes and associations that society or individuals hold against a group of people. This results in prejudice and discrimination against the stigmatised group at social and/or structural levels.
In some cases, individuals from the stigmatised group can internalise this stigma, which affects how they view themselves and the expectations they have of themselves. This is known as self-stigma. An example of this which I have heard frequently and struggled with myself can be seen with dyslexia.
Due to the stigma around dyslexia, unfortunately you often hear people with dyslexia calling themselves words like stupid, or setting low expectations for themselves. They may be used to similar treatment from the people around them since diagnosis or had heard of the stigma before realising they were dyslexic themselves. Our member Ryan touches on this in his blog on dyslexia.
Stigma can lead to people being stereotyped, isolated and discriminated against. Ultimately this can have a variety of impacts on the targeted individuals, including avoiding diagnosis or treatment, and becoming the target of bullying.
There are many different types of bullying and many reasons why someone may be bullied. When it comes to young people being bullied for their additional needs and disabilities, ATLAS felt like this was predominantly because of two factors: being different and the stigma surrounding their additional needs and disabilities.
Stigma-based bullying is especially complex because it not only requires localised anti-bullying action but also a society-level approach to reduce stereotypes and prejudice on a larger scale.
An important part of tackling bullying aimed at people with additional needs and disabilities will be to address the widespread ableism and lack of disability awareness in our society.
Our role in ableism
An ableist society is defined by its assumption that people without additional needs or disabilities are the norm. The way that society, physical structures and policies are designed is inherently exclusionary and inaccessible. This results in the limitation and undervaluing of people with additional needs and/or disabilities.
The way ableism presents is complex and can impact people on a variety of fronts. This ranges from the texture of a pavement surface or the lack of braille on building signs, all the way up to public attitudes and the very language used to define us.
People who do not experience and/or are not knowledgeable about additional needs and disabilities may find it hard to see how others can be disadvantaged by design or realise the existence or extent of stigma.
I would like to recommend that if you are ever in doubt about the language you are or will be using, please ask the people described or impacted by that language.
The way in which words are used to describe people shows how society sees them and acts as a perceived measure of both their worth and overall contribution to that society. How we define ourselves reveals our internal existence and true lived experience.
When public speaker and anti-bullying activist Lizzie Velasquez was 17 years old, she discovered that she had been titled “The World’s Ugliest Women” due to her disability: a rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that prevents her from developing body fat.
In this powerful TED Talk she talks about the importance of self-description for everyone and asks: “what defines you?” (closed captions are available for this video).
The User Voice and Participation (UVP) Team believe that the voice of the service user should inform our practice. Our aim is not only to make sure that the voices of young people are heard but also to facilitate participation groups that embody the meaning of participation, as defined by the young people that we work alongside.
This process is ongoing and always will be. Through this process we hope to help young people grow as individuals. We should not just take feedback from young people, but also give back in ways defined by the young people themselves. Examples of this include helping them develop confidence, providing Makaton training or interview skills advice.
Previously, ATLAS was called SYAS (SEND Youth Advisors Surrey). Members worked to rename and rebrand the participation group so that it aligns more closely with how they self-describe.
As a group, not only will ATLAS be redefining itself, but the young people will also be creating a report of preferred terminology, due in the summer.
Due to recognition of the fact that people identify with different words in different ways, ATLAS have decided to use a traffic light system to indicate whether words should never be used (red), that some people may be okay with some words (amber) and words that are more widely accepted (green).
Watch this space for more news about ATLAS and how their participation will be changing to be more accessible! In the meantime I will leave you with one last thought from our young people about the language around additional needs and disabilities:
Socialise only with your household, or a maximum of 6 people
Get a test and self-isolate if you develop symptoms
Keep an eye on the local alert level, and make changes based on this
Use the NHS Test and Trace app
Be prepared for a different university experience!
Whether you’re a fresher, returning student, or a postgrad, you’re likely to have a few concerns about the upcoming academic year. This year’s going to be different in a lot of ways, especially in terms of student life. We want to remind you that you can still have a fulfilling and positive university experience even under these regulations; but we urge you to be responsible and follow guidance as much as you can. We know it’s not easy, but every person can make a difference and help keep the virus contained. We’ve put together this blog post, detailing the changes you’re likely to see, and the guidance you need to bear in mind – we hope you find it useful.
If you’re over 16 and due to start or continue further education this academic year, it’s important you can get back to college or training safely. Being back supports your progress towards higher education or employment, but it’s also a more fun way to learn and develop, as you get to be face-to-face with tutors and friends again. Having a routine is important for everyone and being back in college or training gives us a routine that’s good for our wellbeing.
The shielding advice from the Government ended on 1st August which means everyone can go back to college and training, including if they or a member of their household was shielding previously. If you need more advice or guidance on this, then please contact your GP or other relevant health professional.
Staying safe INSIDE college
We’ve learnt more about keeping places of education safer. Colleges have introduced measures to keep their students, staff and their families as safe as possible. These measures are based on Government guidelines and are appropriate to each individual college, its community and environment. Public health risks, and measures that need to be taken to reduce these, will be kept under constant review.
Stay safe OUTSIDE college
If you can, you should walk or cycle to college. As well as keeping public transport less crowded, it’s great for the environment and your health. If you do need to take the bus or train, check for changes to the services and allow plenty of time to get there. Remember that it’s now a legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport, unless you are exempt, and follow social distancing rules.
You are still expected to keep 2 metres between yourself and anybody who isn’t in your household or support bubble. From the 14th of September, any gathering of more than six people either inside or outside is illegal – unless it meets specific criteria set out by the Government. The controlled college environment in college means different rules apply there, but you must remember to follow the rule outside of college.
We understand this may all be frustrating, but it is so important to maintain this social distancing, as it is designed to keep the infection rate low. If this isn’t followed, then it’s likely stricter measures will have to be put in place as the infection rate rises. To keep everybody safe, follow the latest guidance.
Stay at home if you have symptoms
If you or anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus, including a new, continuous cough, high fever or change in sense of taste and smell, that person needs to stay at home, self-isolate for 10 days and follow the guidance at gov.uk/coronavirus. Everyone else in the household must self-isolate for 14 days and follow the same guidance.
You will also need to self-isolate if you have tested positive for coronavirus, or if have been advised to do so by the NHS Test-and-Trace service. If you need to self-isolate, inform your college as soon as you can. This is important for the NHS Test-and-Trace service to be effective, and to help you with continuing your learning at home.
Looking after your wellbeing
It’s completely normal to feel anxious about starting or going back to college, especially this year. If this is affecting you, please talk to friends or trusted adults about it. You can also talk to other young people and wellbeing professionals confidentially about this and anything else troubling you at www.kooth.com. Other resources you may find useful are:
the Mind website (www.mind.org.uk): Provides information about mental health, coping techniques, and support
SHOUT (www.giveusashout.org): A 24/7, confidential and free text line where you can share your worries and access support. The number to text is 85258.
The CYP Haven (www.cyphaven.net): A drop-in service for if you are in a mental health crisis. They also hold a variety of workshops.