The Edge Foundation visited the school, sixth form and hospital in March 2020 to gain insight into their practice and to speak to the teachers, young people and hospital staff.
Pupils with SEND face many barriers to their education, from resources or spaces being inaccessible to a lack of teaching differentiation to support their learning. Beyond school, these difficulties continue with many struggling to move into training, employment, as well as facing difficulties sustaining meaningful work.
In 2019 approximately half of disabled people were in employment (52%) compared with just over four out of five non-disabled people (82%) (ONS, 2019). Additionally, people with disabilities who are in employment are more likely to be in part-time positions and in elementary roles compared to their peers without a disability.
The impact of Covid-19 has had severe repercussions on a whole generation of young people, in terms of disruption to their education and lack or loss of jobs and training opportunities. The effects of lockdown have already widened the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils, with those who need the most support less likely to be able to access their education and work placement opportunities.
Prior to the pandemic, the Youth Census Survey (Youth Employment UK, 2020) highlighted that young people with additional needs faced additional barriers in receiving information, advice and guidance in terms of career support. This lack of awareness and information unsurprisingly leads to a lack of confidence amongst young people, with 23% of those with additional needs being ‘not very confident’ or ‘not very confident at all’ in being able to move into meaningful employment.
Being in employment is clearly beneficial for society and the individual. Employment provides financial security as well as offers health and social advantages. However, there are also considerable benefits for workplaces to employ people with disabilities, and these are often not recognised. Benefits include increased diversity of the workforce which brings in, for example, more creativity and attention to detail, as well as a diverse set of unique yet equally valid skills and perspectives. It also leads to the workforce as a whole becoming more inclusive and less ignorant and fearful of differences.
St Martins School and Sixth Form, along with their partnership with DFN Project SEARCH at Derby Hospital, aim to breakdown some of these barriers and help young people with disabilities transition into the world of work, to ensure their backgrounds do not further disadvantage their life chances.