Another disaster year in Bristol Send highlights failures to us with City of Bristol College. A cash cow grabbing establishment happy to take council cash without providing education.
Is the City of Bristol College good for Send? No
Does the City of Bristol College support autistic students? No
Is the Early College at City of Bristol College good for autistic or anxious students? No
Our academic year 2022/23 experience was a disaster, leading to more discrimination and unpicking by CAMHS. When they have time for an appointment. Because if you can’t get pushed out by your junior school, secondary school and specialist, well there’s always the City of Bristol College to come in for a late entry.
As we have moved through Bristol’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) offer, it has been one disaster after another. It’s a journey for us which has been going for around 13 years, the time I realised one of my children needed more support with their education.
But it was the year of 2016 when he was first turned down by Bristol City Council for an EHCP that things really went from bad to worse.
There has been no relief from a system which has been designed both locally and nationally to ensure that Send pupils are made as miserable as possible.
Underfunded Send reforms, a government that hates disabled people, children, refugees and poor people and a vindictive Local Authority in Bristol. This has caused hundreds of Bristol children at one point or another, if not consistently through the years an inability to access education.
Whilst some lament the cost of Send, they are not taking into consideration the fact that printing out a visual timetable or relaxing uniform policies simply might be enough for some children to remain in education. And that’s not a cost is it? But you have got to love the Behaviourists.
I have a child, now young person who is autistic. That young person struggles with extreme anxiety as a result of Bristol’s education and Send system. At home, tutors describe him as a ‘delight’. Someone who is ‘easy to teach because he wants to learn’.
And it’s not him. It really isn’t. Having won two Disability Discrimination claims – including one at an autism ‘specialist’ of all things – it is frankly baffling how much Bristol seems to hate its autistic population. Sometimes it feels like a deliberate cleanse.
The fact Bristol secondary mainstreams don’t want to open resource bases because they believe it will ‘impact on their results’ starts to show this as fact. Although the council refuses to reveal which Bristol schools don’t want resource bases for this reason.
So we were hopeful when we discovered that Send pupils pushed out of both mainstream and specialist education were able to attend ‘early college’ from the age of 14. A system allowing them to work on Maths and English GCSEs whilst pursuing a range of subjects through the BTEC system. A brilliant idea only ruined by the incompetence, cash-grabbing discriminatory behavior by the City of Bristol College itself. A post-16 education setting so useless there aren’t enough words to describe it.
But ‘cash cow’ is a good place to start. Content with rinsing the High Needs Block at Bristol City Council through my child’s EHCP, they were less keen on actually carrying it out full stop.
Despite initially being promised ‘lots and lots’ of transitioning into the college over the summer to the point he ‘would be come bored with it’ it transpired there would be none at all. Although the college charged the council £496.91 for doing that nothing
Not a great start and some emails were exchanged in those early days. However, things settled for a bit because my son really wanted to learn. The problem is he was lumped on a Level 1 course which was far too easy, lessons were at times chaotic and disruptive, equipment would not work, tutors changed with no warning and the left hand very much didn’t know what the right hand was doing. But that was OK because there was a whole EHCP with advice and provision that was funded by the council to the tune of over £12k.
It was £12,421.50 to be precise.
It would be deadly dull to go through every provision in Section F. I’ve spent enough years doing this at Sendist. But here are some of the things the college rinsed from Bristol City Council and never provided
£680 for no small group work
£1,600 to implement a hand gesture. In fairness, this did include checklists which he didn’t get. Printed handouts of lesson notes which he didn’t get. Specific writing frames which he didn’t get. Another RAG system which he didn’t get. Conversation starters which he didn’t get. Individual staff support which he didn’t get. This is what I mean by deadly dull.
£121.98 to explain his EHCP to him
£515 for a member of staff to spend an hour going through the EHCP
Unfortunately, come Easter of the academic year, as predicted by me, he became too anxious to attend and so I sent my first proper email on 17 April 2023, asking for Reasonable Adjustments. This went entirely ignored but that’s OK because the college had his funding anyway.
After going through more complaints systems than I can muster the energy to describe and entirely unsupported by Bristol City Council, I finally received the sorry not sorry email from the college on 13 June 2023. That’s two months to respond to an email. The college term finished at the end of June anyway.
It was nowhere even near the end of the struggle. The college at the time wouldn’t acknowledge his application to Level 2, they wouldn’t enter him for Maths or English functional skills and really, they were just horrible. Absolutely horrible. But they still had my child’s £12k.
He never returned after Easter but still managed to pass the Level 1 with merit. He was not allowed access to the rest of the course because the college would not enable it and refused to answer my email.
Why the college insisted he must start on a course he could pass with merit within 6 months instead of the Level 2 which he would have likely managed to stick out is baffling. But then it’s an easy way to milk funding off the council without providing the education.
And what of Bristol City Council during this time? Well during 2023, I’ve won two complaints with the Local Government Ombudsman. Our Sendist appeal for Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) has been agreed ahead of hearing. The funny people at the council had called The City of Bristol College as witnesses to prove the setting could meet my child’s needs. A ridiculous approach against someone who could bury the LA in enough evidence for a Disability Discrimination claim.
The only reason we have not pursued a claim of disability discrimination at this point is because when it comes to colleges, you have to go through County Court. It just gets more complicated and time consuming. Having been through Sendist for disability discrimination twice before with success, if this had been a third school I would have simply banged in a claim with all evidence and a skeleton argument for them to decide on paper.
As it is we decided to save our sanity against this disablist educational nightmare and write it off.
I did see a City of Bristol College stand at Bristol Pride in July. It announced that ‘everyone belongs’ at the college. This is a lie. Yet again if you’re disabled you’re not wanted. A message so often heard by Bristol kids they might as well make it official and stick it as a council strapline under a PR picture of a balloon and Bristol Harbour.
City of Bristol College? Disablist nightmare. Avoid.
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