Why don’t schools talk about the DSA?
3 minute read
One of the things I used to hear a lot from students in their needs assessment was ‘I wish I’d known about these things earlier’.
The suggestion was that a lot of the software and equipment that is available through the DSA funding would’ve been helpful for students doing their A-levels and other courses at school or college.
Which made me wonder, how many students are not at university and applying for this funding because they didn’t have access to these strategies earlier? Those attending a DSA needs assessment have managed to get to the point at which the funding is available, so have been accepted onto a higher education course, but how many fell at the wayside before getting to that point.
So, hearing students get genuinely enthused and excited about the things that they were going to be getting funded by the DSA was great in feeling like I was doing something of value, but always tinged with a little bit of uncertainty about whether that value is really going to the place that it is most needed.
I understand that things are much more complicated than just berating schools for not giving students access to the tools available for DSA funding. Higher education is a very different beast and some software and equipment really works best in helping to overcome the specific barriers that students face when studying in HE.
But… what I don’t understand is why schools don’t know more about the DSA funding so that they can advise their students to apply for it.
An example from sixth-form
I recently spoke with a sixth-form student who is just finishing their A-levels and getting ready to start their degree at university in September. Their school has fantastic pastoral support and the student has been seeing a school counsellor weekly for the last year or so. The student has found this support invaluable in helping manage some of the difficulties they have faced during that time.
When I asked if the school or counsellor had talked to the student about how they may get a similar type of support at university, the answer was no. Not at all.
And yet that student is about to move away from home and the support of their friends and family, and will be facing a load of new challenges; socially and academically. To not give the student some information about the wide range of support that they can access seems, well, remiss.
Is it the school’s responsibility?
The school, understandably, may feel the university should take responsibility for that. This isn’t wrong and university’s generally send lots of information to students about the support they provide. However, the thing that offers the most direct replacement to the support the student was getting at the school is DSA funded specialist mentoring. And that takes time to apply for and get in place. It also offers crucial support during the first few weeks of university life - as long as the student has applied for the funding in advance of starting.
All schools have lists of students receiving additional support, who maybe see a counsellor or have other types of pastoral care. They know the students who have access arrangements in place for their exams. Everyone of those students could be eligible for up to £25,000 of government funded support per year if they are going on to study in higher education. And that’s a lot of support to not be talking about.