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

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.”


  • Well said Barbara Thorn. The most needy always get offered the least. It's a disgrace.

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • Seem to remember an article a couple of weeks ago when this was announced saying that 5 days a week was not a viable business case for ONE. Now they are attempting to justify the change in other ways. Another point : a lot of the students will have statements in place stating 5 days per week. This is a legal requirement so how can they stay within the statement if they are only doing 3 days?

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • This building was funded by tax payers so they must treat everybody the same even it's may affect they exam targets. This is discrimination so the Law must look at if any laws have been broken at the same time sack the people that made this statement at this 6th form place.

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    a west

    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • In response to dbr and royg, if the students have statements that stipulate 5 days a week then One could find itself in a lot of trouble. I am certain that when they were in compulsory education these students would have attended school five days a week. If they are finding 5 days a week "too tiring", perhaps One should be looking at the way it runs its courses. One final thing, most colleges try and run courses whereby students are not in college for five days a week, more like two and a half days a week! The benefit to the students is debatable.

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • Sue Edwards and Barbara Thorn should be applauded for campaigning to get this appalling decision reversed. I notice resounding silence from Suffolk County Council leaders have not yet commented on the situation – they are ultimately responsible for both the education of these young people but also, because of their vulnerability, SCC have a significant ‘duty of care’ to them - perhaps SCC supremoes should focus their efforts on the issues that really matter rather than petty leadership squabbles. I am also gobsmacked at the ineptitude of the One ‘management’ – no consultation with parents, no apparent plan for how to support the young people for the remaining two days of the week – coupled with a pile ( the most appropriate word, I think ) of management gobbledygook e.g. “this has proved unsustainable as a business model and is not educationally appropriate for this group of students” – if that’s not the case then provide something that is appropriate and provide it for the whole week! As other have commented before Suffolk One we had well-loved schools like Belstead, Thomas Wolsey and Beacon Hill providing excellent support and a safe environment for these young people with disabilities – like my daughter who is now 31 – we seem to be going backwards! Keep up the pressure on One – don’t let them off the hook

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • the state of some of the students [ do you mean scruffy, looking like dippos etc ?]

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • the state of some of the students [ do you mean scruffy, looking like dippos etc ?]

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • Has anyone seen the state of some of the students going in to the other courses, the state they are in you would wonder if they will make it through the day let alone a week. Ms Thorn deserves a round of applause for pointing out this blatant discrimination.

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • I bet a lot of these pupils were getting 5 days help at previous schools and ONE has taken them away with false promises probaly to try and get extra funding from the government and it makes them look good. Special needs children need 5 days schooling and they deserve 5 days schooling at the expense of other projects. We need to support these children more to help them move into independence in adulthood. Put yourself in the parents shoes Mr Whittaker and put your hand on your heart and tell everyone 3 days is enough. It isnt.

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    Friday, March 28, 2014

  • Sounds like a penny pinching measure to me. If these young people are to go on to contribute to society they need the extra time an attention. If they supposedly can't handle a 5 day week then they have an added disadvantage in trying to access employment opportunities whilst trying to compete with more able students. Why stop at three days? Next year, down to two and 5 years down the line why bother educating them at all. A bad decision.

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    Sentinel Red

    Friday, March 28, 2014

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