College fees

PUBLISHED: 12:14 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:31 06 May 2010

SIR, — Exactly one week after Oaklands College dropped the bombshell on parents of special needs students on the Essential Life Skills Course of a prohibitive increase in fees and perhaps coincidentally, after the story on the front page of the Herts Adve

SIR, - Exactly one week after Oaklands College dropped the bombshell on parents of special needs students on the Essential Life Skills Course of a prohibitive increase in fees and perhaps coincidentally, after the story on the front page of the Herts Advertiser (July 31), we received another letter from Mr Mark Dawe, principal at the college.

As a parent I appreciate that at this late stage the college has recognised the difficulties that such fees will cause for people with learning difficulties. However I cannot help reading between the lines in the careful wording and wonder whether their latest letter cleverly passes the educational buck to other agencies without addressing the real problem.

I can see why the college feels that its disastrous handling of this monumental increase in fees for a course in basic life skills for those most in need, might necessitate reconsideration but the wording of the letter, although conciliatory, is a little ambiguous.

I would like Mr Dawe to answer the following questions to help concerned parents really understand what he means in the following paragraph of his letter.

"Whilst this is obviously great news, there are still some formalities that will need to be undertaken...I have assigned a dedicated member of staff to deal with your casework.....This action will ensure that any queries you may have relating to the official forms or liaison with social workers or related agencies can be handled quickly and with the minimum disruption."

Regarding the "obviously great news", will they still be charging a total of £1,635 per year for students in 2009?

With which "formalities" do we carers need help and advice?

With what "forms" do we need help?

Do they perhaps relate to hardship funds or means tests?

Why "social workers or related agencies"?

This is an education issue and only relates to education budgets, does it not?

Does Oaklands also refer mainstream students to social services on educational matters?

Whether this 600 per cent increase in fees is implemented now or next year, it is still wrong and the problem clearly has not gone away.

Although it has been made much easier next year, for the College to defend this controversial decision by saying "we did warn you", it looks to me like they might be suggesting that social services and other "related agencies" step in and bail them out in what is an educational problem, before the next academic year.

The fact remains that my son, unlike his siblings, has this course or nothing. He cannot access paid work and would be unable to repay a loan. Access to continued learning for him and many like him is under threat if parents cannot, or will not, pay the £5,000 for this course.

MARIA BRADLEY,

Tavistock Avenue, St Albans.

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