Although it became law that the government must give all children an education over 50 years ago, life after school is still difficult for those with a disability. There are still lots of barriers to gaining employment, getting an apprenticeship or going to University.
As Teresa Fadden from Fox Hollies School said: “Sadly, when they leave us at 19, the world does nothing but diminish for our children. If they’re lucky now they’ll get three days a week at college and that has a massive impact on the families.”
I remember when I was at school, I had a careers advisor. All I wanted to do at the time was be an author, work in a library, be an archaeologist, or work in a Funeral directors. I thought of these jobs because I have always had an interest in writing stories and learning about history. I love it and feel very grateful that I have been involved in two history projects through my work now.
Most people are not so lucky. I feel that there are still big worries in many organisations about employing someone with a disability. I remember having an appointment at the Job Centre with a disability advisor and he basically said: “You’re too disabled to work. Noone will employ you.” I always worry about the future and being able to have a job. I hope in the future there will be more then 6% of people with a Learning Disability in a paid job, because that is much too low and doesn’t show what those people are capable of.
We spoke to the students in our four schools about their dreams and hopes for the future. Cameron from Victoria was possibly the most ambitious. He said: “I want to go to uni, because I feel I can push myself academically, especially with the barriers that disabled people face. To say: “Hey, I can do this” can inspire others to follow in my footsteps.”
Others we spoke to wanted to work in sales, childcare, or administration. Because of the lockdown and delays to the project, some of them have left school now and have gone on to college, or maybe to employment. It was sad to not be able to say goodbye to them and thank them for all their hard work on the project, but I hope they are getting on well.
I worry about our these young people and their future. I hope employers see past their disability and give them a chance to show what they can be capable of. I feel that life is a constant battle. You always have to prove yourself, prove that you are able. That’s why I like going on holidays and days out on my own – it gives me a sense of achievement.
We also spoke to former students, who have been out of school, and in many cases out of work for a long time now. Mark Coppage remembers that things went wrong after school: “I went to college, but I got picked on there and they didn’t do anything to help me. I had work experience in a canteen, but I lost all my confidence.”
Many people say that your school days are the best days of your life. This certainly does seem to be the case for many pupils at special schools. We mustn’t forget that all children have dreams and aspirations. I hope that no matter where their path in life takes them, this generation will be happy and more of them will be settled in a job.