THE Department of Education and Children has submitted a plan to government planners for a special unit at the Isle of Man College for students aged 16 to 19 with profound and multiple learning difficulties.
If the plan is approved, Education Minister Peter Karran will seek Tynwald approval for the £1.92 million scheme in October.
And if approval is secured, it is hoped that work would soon start on the two-storey unit at the college, in Homefield Road, Douglas, so it could be open the following September.
Special educational needs adviser Sue Marriott said: ‘At present students with severe and complex learning difficulties do not have the option of full-time college places.
‘The new facility will provide a specialist environment for those students and improve accommodation for all students with special needs attending the college.’
The facilities, for 30 students, would include teaching areas, an IT area, a sensory garden, a multi-sensory room, physiotherapy and medical rooms, and a toilet and shower area. On the upper level would be a café run by students under staff supervision. Among the produce grown would be items sold in the allotment the students who currently access the college look after.
The unit, which would have its own separate entrance but would also be attached to the main college building, would be situated on the former college nursery playground.
Outside term-time, it is hoped that other agencies would make use of the facilities.
Isle of Man College principal Professor Ronald Barr said the unit would ‘bring about a significant improvement to the quality of life’ of the whole family – not just the students concerned.
At present there are special units at each of the island’s five secondary schools, providing inclusive education at secondary level for children with special needs. But DEC director of services Sally Brookes said the units did not have the space to meet the needs of students post-16.
The college provides a general studies programme for students with learning difficulties – which covers life skills and work skills based on individual’s needs. This would be reviewed and extended if the development goes ahead.
Students also have the option to access other courses offered by the courses, such as A-levels and degree level courses. The DEC’s submission states: ‘The department believes there should be equality of opportunity for these children, with access to Isle of Man College and the curriculum it offers, together with greater opportunity for integration and socialisation with their peers.’