Inclusion Now Articles Issue 13
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Celebrating the Chartermark for Inclusion - Rachel
Why Inclusion? - Update from one family in Halifax
Victory at the United Nations - Richard Rieser
Heading for Inclusion - Article by Nigel Utton, Headteacher
Taking Centre Stage- Reactions to the 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'
Challenging Warnock - Report from the launch of her new
Using Puppets to Engage, Motivate &
Make Learning Fun - Workshop
The East Midlands Alliance - ALLFIE groups
Sports Days - A parent tells two parallel tales
Night Out at the Albany - Club Review
In 2002, Greenwich LEA set up a Chartermark scheme to help schools become increasingly inclusive. This scheme not only enables schools to identify good practice, but also to collaborate with other schools to share experiences, strategies and ideas. The framework, which covers all aspects of education is monitored by the LEA with advice from SENJIT (Special Educational Needs Joint Initiative in Training). I was the Deputy Headteacher of Rachel McMillan Nursery School in the summer of 2004 when the school achieved this award (see Inclusion Now Summer 2003).
So, although the previous Headteacher Frances Marriott and myself had only just retired, we were invited to the Celebration Conference in April of this year to give a presentation about our inclusive philosophy, policies, and practices. We were asked to talk specifically about the early years and our ability to include children with severe and complex needs. Two other schools also gave presentations; one representing the primary sector and the other secondary education.
Frances and I explained how our work developed over the twelve years that we were at the school, sharing dreams and goals. We briefly described our school's various policies - S.E.N., Admissions, Equal Opportunities, Planning and Assessment - which all explicitly state our strong commitment to inclusion. We explained how this commitment underlies our work with all our children and the systems we have in place to make this work effectively. We emphasised that it is the shared belief and commitment of the whole school community that makes our inclusive ethos flourish. In the limited time available for the presentation, we decided to let the children's stories speak for themselves. We showed compelling photographs of the children working, playing and learning together.
Although children with statements of special educational needs are allocated a specific LSA, by sharing information and strategies to meet particular needs, all staff are enabled to be responsible for all the children's learning and continual development and progress.
Here are two examples of the many successful stories we were
able to share that day:
This is Kemal enjoying his bike riding and new walker, which enabled him to meet with his friends and explore the extensive outside area. Although Kemal is not as yet using words to communicate, his expressive facial reactions and Makaton signs let others know what he wants to do or where he wants to go. At nursery, he had many favourite activities, and friends. The other children learnt the Makaton signs with him, and continuously supported him in his play and learning. We worked very closely with his parents, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, and his speech and language therapist to devise an educational plan that was incorporated into the overall class plan covering all the areas of the foundation stage. His LSA worked closely with the class teacher as well as the other members of the class team to carry out the plan and to evaluate it daily. Kemal has now successfully transferred to his next school. He is continuing to be a very popular member of his class, and go miles beyond initial expectations.
This is Sara. Although Sara's cerebral palsy has greatly affected her mobility, speech and visual abilities, she has had the most wonderful experiences at nursery. Sara greatly educated her teachers, and all her classmates. Sara's first language is Lithuanian and her parents were initially unsure that the school could meet her needs. She settled very slowly at first, but soon began to love coming. She continued to surprise her parents, therapists, and teachers with her continual progress. Her eyesight improved as well because of the exciting stimulus of the classroom.
Again Sara's teacher and LSA worked together with her parents and all the professionals involved to have a care plan and individual education plan that could easily be integrated with the other foundation stage plans. When Sara carried out her physio exercise others joined in as well. Using the computer and picture cues not only helped Sara, but also other children with communication difficulties. We had a bit of bother over Sara's transfer because the school of her parent's first choice was physically unsuitable. This meant Sara had an extended time at Nursery, as well as an extended period of transition, which worked out very well in the end. Sara is a star in her new school as well.
There were loads more successful stories to tell, but we only
had a chance to share a few. However we think the audience were able to get
some idea of how our systems of planning, sharing information, evaluation
and assessment work to support all the children in the nursery. There were
animated discussions in the workshops, so we think we did make an impact on
the day. These stories are incredibly important to tell and share, especially
in today's climate of scepticism. We have learnt a lot over the years, and
the school continues to strive to meet all our neighbourhood children's needs
despite complexities and challenges. We must build on our knowledge and practice
to ensure the continual breaking down of barriers. We must not go backwards
and we applaud Greenwich's positive and proactive moves towards greater inclusion
and hope this continues to develop.
Zelda McCollum, Deputy Head (Retired)
Why did we move 100 miles seven and a half years ago from
Northumberland to Calderdale to do something that many people just did not
Why did we send our daughter to a small multi-ethnic school in the middle of Halifax and up-root our family?
Because we wanted to give Nadia strong community foundations that would steer her towards high school, to further education, to a life and hopefully a job in the future. For her independence, to hear her laugh with friends, for her to be confident as a young disabled person and for her own self-esteem and pride.
During Nadia's last term at Savile Park Primary School there was not a day that passed that I doubted that inclusion was not only right for Nadia but for our whole family. Watching her go to school in her electric wheelchair with four of her brothers and sisters and arriving at the school gates to be met by her friends made me feel deep inside a satisfaction and a knowledge that every battle, every push for her was worth it. To bring up my 6 children in an inclusive world - one of no prejudices; of strong values and an understanding that few children are ever privileged to believe in.
Nadia is now in her 2nd year of high school. She receives direct payments and has a team of fantastic young PA's. When she comes home and tells me about her friends at school and "who has fallen out with who" then I know that this is the education that is important!! She learns about the world, about relationships, about life - and that is without the teachers!!! Two weeks ago we had Nadia's two closest friends from primary school visit on the Sunday. Last week Nadia went into town (no PA in sight) with 3 friends who all came back for a sleep over. This weekend her best friend Sophie practically moved in and arrived on Saturday morning and did not leave until Sunday evening. That is what inclusion is about. Nadia's life revolves around friends, her family, school and holidays!!!
Academically she is managing to keep up with her classmates at this stage thanks to a brilliant and committed team of people at Ryburn Valley High School. Long may it last. The school listen to me and I value their belief in Nadia and for making something that could have been so easily an impossible task. Their openness to set up a Circle of Friends and to bring in Laura Chapman (a disability equality trainer) this term shows how they really want to make this work. Nadia is Ryburn Valley's first young person with such complex needs - the head teacher Mr Adam said to me during her first term that this was something they had never done before, that they would make mistakes BUT that they wanted it to work.
All I can say to anyone thinking about inclusion for their child into mainstream school is that it is not simple; that you may cry many tears as it can be a rocky road with huge boulders to climb - but it can be done. Inclusion is a way of life and you feel it inside you body the moment you wake up, when you go to sleep and even in your dreams. Go for it!!
I know we still have a long way to go and things are never
simple for us. In the meantime I would like to thank all those involved in
Nadia's education including the team from paediatric therapy at Laura Mitchell
Health Centre; the Sensory Support team; Marion Stanton for her belief in
Nadia; all staff and pupils at Ryburn High School and Savile Park Primary
School and to Calderdale LEA for giving Nadia the opportunity to attend a
mainstream school. Also, a big thanks to the Alliance for Inclusive Education
and Parents for Inclusion who have been a tremendous light and strength to
me personally and who give me a lead along the path of inclusion.
By Richard Rieser
The United Nations are holding a series of Ad Hoc meetings to develop a Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. I was privileged to be nominated to attend the 6th Ad Hoc Meeting in August 2005 representing the British Council of Disabled people. This was a particularly interesting session as they were dealing with the issue of education in Article 17 and the British Government were leading and speaking for the European Delegation of 25 countries.
The way the sessions work is there are informal sessions where the wording of draft articles covering rights in all aspects of life are debated by the representatives of 191 member countries and the chair, Ambassador Mc Kaye from New Zealand, tries to develop consensus. Each Article has a facilitator elected from state delegations. In the case of Article 17 this is Rosemary Keyes who is a disabled person supportive of inclusion. After the informal session Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPO's) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) are allowed to make comments in the formal sessions.
The International Disability Caucus represents organisations of disabled people and in particular the world organisations who are recognised by the UN. They had already wrongly formed the view on Article 17 that inclusion was a foregone conclusion and were going for choice on the basis of the World Blind Union, The World Federation of the Deaf and the World Deaf Blind Union, saying that there must be choice -
"providing blind, deaf, deaf-blind children and young persons with a right to choose education in their own groups and settings, where they shall be provided with the same level of support and standards" in other words special schools.
This dangerous clause was not allowed to be challenged on the ruling that this was an issue only for these impairment groups, which is not the case, as was proved once the debate started. Thailand sought to insert this clause in Article 17 but extended it to choice for all disabled pupils. If carried this would undercut the general recognition of inclusion in the Article. During the debate all the arguments we are familiar with in the UK were marshalled one size does not fit all blind and deaf children suffer by denial of access to Braille or Sign Language and that inclusion had failed them.
The problem with the proponents of this reactionary position was that they did not appreciate the important difference between integration - the placement of disabled children in an unchanged mainstream where they are likely to fail, and inclusion - where the system has to change to accommodate the needs of all learners.
During the debate the situation was retrieved as a number of DPO's and NGO's argued for inclusion - that there was no real choice and if choice was put forward then state parties would set up special schools. State parties Uganda, Norway, Jamaica, Peru, Mexico, the European Union led by the UK, South Africa, Namibia, New Zealand and Australia all supported that the system should be based on a principle of inclusive education. NGO's from India, BCODP, Inclusion International, CSIE, Panama, argued strongly for this.
There are two more meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee in January and August 2006 before the Convention will be put to the General Assembly and be adopted as a legal framework for the rights of disabled people around the world. Pressure needs to be maintained for inclusion with provision which meets the needs of all learners.
The New Draft Article 17 from the Facilitator 11th August
"1. State Parties recognise the right of all persons with disabilities to education. With a view to achieving this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, State Parties shall ensure an inclusive [system, including pre-school, primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational training] [at all levels] and life long learning directed to:
a) The full development of the human potential and sense of dignity and self worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity;
b) Enabling all persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society; and
c) The development of persons with disabilities' personality, talents, creativity as well as mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
2. In realising this right, States shall ensure:
a) that all persons with disabilities can access inclusive, quality, free primary and secondary education to the extent possible in the communities in which they live;
b) reasonable accommodation of the person's requirements;
c) the development of initial and continuing training which incorporates disability awareness, the use of appropriate communication means and modes, educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities, for all professionals and staff who work at all levels of education; and
d) persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education. In exceptional circumstances where the general education system can not adequately meet the support needs of persons with disabilities States Parties shall ensure that effective alternative support measures are provided, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.
e) that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on account of their disability, and that [children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary and secondary education on account of their disability].
3. State Parties shall enable person with disability to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, State Parties shall:
a) facilitate the learning of Braille, alternative script, orientation and mobility skills, peer support and mentoring ;
b) facilitate the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the Deaf community; and
c) ensure that the education of [children with disabilities] [children who are deaf, deaf/blind, and blind] is delivered in the most appropriate language and modes of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.
4) State Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure quality education to students with sensory disabilities by ensuring the employment of teachers who are fluent in sign language or Braille.
5) State Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities may access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity. To that end, State Parties shall render appropriate support to persons with disabilities."
I travelled across London recently on the tube and noticed what a scared bunch of people we have become. Everyone looking to see if the person coming on the train could possibly be about to blow us all up. The thought that young people can feel so alienated that they would go to such extreme lengths to try to destroy our society tells me that something needs to change. We have collectively got something wrong.
As parents of children with special needs many of you will be experts on what it is like to be excluded. Experiences ranging from the serious tones of professionals when your child's disabilities first became apparent, to the 'nice' way that the local school said 'I don't think we will be able to cope with John/Joanna's difficulties here - had you thought of the local special school?'
As Headteacher of a (mainstream) primary school I believe I play a powerful role in cutting through the alienation many of our young people feel. Our school system is the key place in our society where people of all races, physical need, intellectual ability, backgrounds, religions, sexual orientation and skin colours can be together. Inclusion is not just about a few children with learning, physical or behavioural difficulties being 'placed' in mainstream schools. It is about human beings learning to move on from the mistakes of the past and to learn to live well with each other. It is about creating a society where all people can find their own unique place and work to the benefit of all. If this work is not started at school - then what hope do we have as a society?
Our current education system has its roots firmly in the history of our country: we have a private sector which educates the children of the elite; we have a mainstream sector which, starved of adequate funds, does what it can to educate the masses - and we have a special school sector which separates off the children who do not fit. (For the history of why this happens read 'Incurably Human' by Micheline Mason.)
Those of us 'Heading for Inclusion' want that situation to change. Long term we have a vision of ALL CHILDREN having their learning needs met in their local school. Clearly that will not happen over night and local solutions will be found to move towards that situation - but yes - in twenty years time there need to be no more special schools and no more mainstream schools - we need to have inclusive educational establishments - children's centres (?) - into which all of our children can be welcomed together.
Schools that do not include children well are not good schools
I am deeply saddened when I hear stories of children who have poor experiences of inclusion: 'Megan' who has physical disabilities was told not to give out invitations to her birthday party because the Headteacher did not think it appropriate; 'Katrina' was kept apart from the other children in case the look of her body might scare them and 'Patrick' whose parents were told the school was full - only to hear that another child (without impairment) was given a place in the same class the next day. These tragic stories often come from schools with 'good reputations'.
No parent, who has heard such stories, would want their child to go to such a school. And yet, what would have happened if the civil rights movement in America had given up its call for desegregation because some schools were not doing it well? Your children have a right to education regardless of their particular needs. If your local school needs adapting for that to happen then so be it. If the culture of the school allows for your child not to be welcomed with open arms - then it will benefit all of the rest of the children if that culture is challenged and changed. If one child is left out - then none of us are really included.
There is no formula for inclusion
When 'Althea' joined our school at age 4 with Downs Syndrome we spent time listening to her, listening to her mum, listening to her brothers, talking to the class and the school - preparing us all for a time when 'Althea' would be joining us. All of the school staff learnt Makaton, as this was 'Althea's primary means of communication, the children in her class learnt Makaton and we engaged an assistant to help include her in the activities of the class. When 'Jamie' joined our school age 4 with Downs Syndrome he had good speech and his parents did not want him to learn Makaton so we did different things to ensure his full inclusion. Both children are successfully moving through the school, making friends - becoming a part of their local communities.
I have often heard teachers say 'I treat all the children in my class the same ' Be wary of those teachers. It is neither desirable nor possible to treat all children the same. When 'Mushtaq', a muslim with very little English from Egypt joined my class, I saw it as my job to make sure I adapted everything to make it accessible to him and to let him know he was welcome in our class. He was given buddies, he was given a display board in the classroom so he could show the children about the country he had come from, he learnt English, he made friends - he stopped the behaviour problems he had developed in the infant school the term before. We treated 'Mushtaq' very differently in one sense in that we did different things to ensure his inclusion and full participation -in another way he was treated the same - his needs were identified and met to the best of our ability.
At present Inclusion is a learning process. The problem is that those of us who lead the schools have only experienced a non-inclusive education system. That clouds our thinking and tends to make us work along tried, tested and unsuccessful lines. Those of us who are dedicated to inclusion find ourselves working differently: asking questions; looking for solutions; seeking advice; supporting each other - but most importantly - THINKING.
Nigel Utton is Headteacher of St Lawrence Primary School and
also Chair of 'Heading for inclusion', a group of Headteachers and senior
school leaders dedicated to the ideals of a fully inclusive mainstream education
system. To find out more about this group, contact him by email on:
or write to:
St Lawrence CE Primary School
Amery Hill, Alton Hampshire GU34 2BY
The steady showers on a September day did not dampen the enthusiasm
for hundreds of Londoners who flocked to Trafalgar Square for the much awaited
unveiling of the 'Alison Lapper Pregnant' statue. The exultant operatic voice
of Denise Leigh lifted the mood as the purple shroud on the fourth plinth
revealed the towering 12ft white marble sculpture by artist Marc Quinn. Alison
Lapper herself was there, calling the statue a "modern tribute to femininity,
disability and motherhood".
For weeks before and after the event, a heated public debate kept the statue as the focus for discussions on disability and art.
But, what exactly did some of our young people think? I asked four pupils from Hampstead School in London - two of them disabled - for their comments on 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'.
"Inspiring, thought-provoking, noble . . . yes, noble
. . . and also a bit repulsive because I don't like the shape of pregnant
women! I think it's good it's up there. We need something as strong as this
to inspire a debate around disability."
Atiha Gupta (17)
"I thought it was a good point to get across, like she's
saying 'I'm like everyone else, it doesn't make me any less of a person, I'm
a normal human being'. It was quite shocking to see - not her arms or legs
- but being naked. Why was she naked to make the point? That's when it came
into my mind that she's being open about herself really."
Annie Noya-Rey (17)
"Sad because lady didn't have hands. Worried because
people don't like disabled, other people. Good idea people seeing disabled.
Lady is happy having baby."
Christopher Ingleby (17) communicated via picture communication book
"It's alright. I think it's good to show what sort of
disability people have - not like the old English statues, but sort of modern.
It's not like a patriotic statue but it's nice to have something different
up there. I think it's alright!"
David Morse (13)
Interviews by Preethi Manuel
The re-structuring of the mainstream education system in order
to accommodate and welcome all children is definitely a long-term project.
It challenges years of fears, misinformation and prejudice against poor, black
or disabled people. Some teachers found it much easier than others to rise
to this challenge, and therefore inclusion is developing unevenly across the
country. This is only to be expected. Yet this unevenness is constantly blamed
on the nature or degree of the child's impairments, instead of the capacity
of their local schools to include them. Focussing on the wrong problem leads
to suggesting the wrong solutions. The latest of these has been the high-profile
media coverage of Baroness Warnock's paper 'Special Educational Needs - A
New Look', in which she argues that the concept of full inclusion was a mistake,
and that certain children will always do better in small specialist schools
- what's new about that you may ask!
At the launch of her publication many parents and disabled people spoke out in favour of inclusion. They made the argument that everybody needs to learn the skills of living in the real world if they are not to be relegated to the sidelines of society. Kitty Gilbert, a young adult with Learning Difficulties stood up and spoke about her experience of inclusive education and the opportunities it had enabled her to grasp. It was a powerful speech and raised the biggest applause of the whole event. We were very proud of her.
"I was a bit nervous when I got up to talk but otherwise
I took it in my stride. I met up with some friends who to me to Russell Square,
parents of my friends who have Down's Syndrome, the same condition I have.
I found it interesting to listen to Micheline Mason who is also a friend who
is a wheelchair user and Lucy, my friend too. The education in special schools
is wrong, we disabled students have the right to go to mainstream schools
and have good education. We want our way to become important to thousands
of people around us. There are thousands of disabled people who have jobs
now. I'm a determined young woman working with children voluntarily in 2 nurseries
in Tooting and Earlsfield and I also work voluntary at Battersea Arts Centre.
My friend Tom Cameron is now an accomplished actor and knows lots of film
stars like Jude Law and Kate Winslet and he's got Down's Syndrome and I want
to be just like him in years to come. I and my fellow educated disabled friends
are the future and we want to be included in mainstream schools not special
Kitty Gilbert 16.8.2005
Warnock Gets it Wrong
Baroness Warnock is suggesting that young people with moderate learning difficulties, autism and emotional behavioural difficulties would be better off in new 'small' special schools of less than 200 pupils.
Government figures suggest that there are at least 331,120 such pupils currently receiving SEN support in school. If these were to be divided into schools of 200, we would need 16,500 new special schools at a cost of £1million each. This would add 60% to the Annual Education Budget. Did Mary do her sums before confusing everybody with her wild suggestions?
Inclusive schools could embrace the re-organisation of big
schools into small 'schools within a school'. This has been the thinking and
practice behind the Human Scale Education movement for many years.
For more information see: www.hse.org.uk
I have happy early memories of sitting at the dinner table, conversing with a talking Brown Sauce bottle, operated lovingly by my father. I believe this was my introduction to storytelling and puppetry.
In 1996 I gave birth to my son George. By the age of three he had a statement for 'Special Educational Needs'. In May 2000 he was diagnosed as autistic. Working at an inclusive child centred nursery and learning to meet George's needs challenged the way I worked, communicated and thought. As far back as I can remember I have used storytelling, drama and puppetry to engage, motivate and make learning fun. The puppet workshop I have developed looks at ways of using puppets, alongside different learning and communication styles to make activities accessible to all children. Using puppets comes naturally to me, and like my father I am able to pick up the strangest objects and make them work for me as a puppet. Many people find this hard to do. The workshop is planned to gradually build their confidence in using puppets.
Here are just a few examples and ideas explored in the workshop.
George finds writing, pen to paper very difficult. He is very reluctant to write and does not enjoy the activity. I used one of his passions, watching objects disappear, along side Henry Flash (a rather handsome tortoise puppet, which can recline his head into his shell) to engage and motivate George. George would choose one of his favourite words, such as 'dog'. We would share the writing of a word on a post-it note. When we started he would write one letter he found easier, such as 'o', as he got used to the game I increased the amount of letters he wrote. On completion of the word he would tap on Henry Flash's shell at which point Henry Flash would poke his head out and give task specific praise, (TSP) such as, "That's excellent writing George, What a fantastic 'o' you've written!" Henry Flash would then snatch the paper and disappear into his shell with it. To get it back, we had to write another word and repeat the process. From not wanting to write at all, George was requesting the game regularly. We now use Kyle a signing puppet, which has a rucksack full of star stickers. George is very fond of stars. Each word George writes he receives a sticker and TSP from Kyle. When he has written the required sentence he gets to do a short activity of his choice.
Justin chose not to talk at nursery, to either adults or peers. As soon as he arrived at the nursery gate in the morning with his mum, he would stop talking. I had a hedgehog puppet called Ernie. Justin showed great interest in the puppet and one day spoke to him. I then communicated to Justin via Ernie. After a while Justin started to talk to me. Once he felt comfortable he began to speak to other adults and when ready to his peers.
Toilet training was a nightmare for both George and myself. I was given loads of suggestions on how to support him, including cutting small holes in disposable nappies in strategic places. As a caring and conscientious parent I followed these strategies diligently. George was having none of it and it left us very frustrated with each other! I sat pondering the problem while George watched me as I blew up one of his inflatable toys, (I believe it was an extremely large inflatable shark.) Inflatable toys are still one of George's many passions. An idea was born, the idea being 'Toilet Tiger'. If George sat on the toilet I blew up Toilet Tiger for him. This got him sitting on the toilet, a real first step! One day as I blew Toilet Tiger up, George sat mirroring my blowing technique and pop, a wee stool hit the pan Eureka! It was the beginning of the end of toilet training!
All the puppets I use have individual personalities and roles. They Include:
Kyle - Signing puppet with a rucksack full of motivators inspired by the child/children I'm working with.
Hola - Signing puppet, who acts as a role model and communicates by eye pointing and hand pointing.
Kemi - A figure puppet, with moving mouth. I use her to start off introduction circles, and to bring focus to the group. She is good at giving out TSP and prepositional praise. This is where rather than centring on a child who is, for example not listening, Kemi will praise the children around the child for listening. As soon as the child listens they receive praise too.
O'Dowd - A crocodile that is supported by the children to get a tissue, to wipe his nose and put the tissue in the bin, as well as other self help skills. He brings hilarity when he eats the tissue, and puts the dirty tissue on my head. He has a wonderful way of putting things and often the children will model how he could say things.
Matilda - A beautiful chameleon, who is able to wrap herself around arms and stick her long tongue out. She's great for selecting items with her tongue.
Henry Flash (As described above!)
All are used additionally for turn taking activities and making
learning fun, fun, fun!
My teachers are the children I work with. My biggest inspiration is George.
Parent and Area Inclusion Outreach Worker
Sue Utley's puppet workshops are part of the Lambeth Early Years and Sure Start Training Programme and are open to parents and practitioners. To find out more contact Sue at:
or ring 020 7926 8609
The Alliance for Inclusive Education is a national network of supporters of educational and social change. Increasingly we have seen our role as providing fresh thinking and insight as we battle to build a different future for our children. As our membership has grown we have been asked to help set up regional groups in which people can start to come together to tackle local as well as national issues.
We have identified eight clusters of members round the UK and have set a goal to find organisers and hold a gathering in each of these regions by March 2006. On September 2nd we held the first meeting in Nottingham. It marked the beginning of the East Midlands Alliance and was a remarkable event.
People came from Nottingham County and City, Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent. There were young people, disabled people, parents and allies, the wonderful mix which is the hallmark of the Alliance and which leads to conversations which could not be had in any other forum. Brendan, a seven year old disabled boy told us how his classmates had elected him to represent them on the school council because he was so unafraid to tell adults what he thought. Adults often seem to find Brendan's speech difficult to understand, but his classmates do not seem to have this problem. They are delighted to translate for him as he reminds the head teacher that bad behaviour on the part of the children is usually learned from adults (with examples!). Derek Wilson, a partner in Inclusive Solutions and one time Educational Psychologist in Nottingham told us a recent story of a boy who couldn't learn anything unless he was on the move. This constant moving was seen as an almost insurmountable barrier to his inclusion in an ordinary class until his teacher had a brilliant idea. He fixed a set of exercise pedals underneath the boy's desk and now he can sit and pay attention whilst pedalling away at top speed under the desk.
Micheline, the current director of the national organisation gave a short presentation about the need for people who have been bitten with the inclusion bug to become and remain connected. This challenges their own and other people's isolation and discouragement. She also highlighted the importance of looking for local opportunities to move things forward in the right direction.
In the afternoon Derek led a session on identifying 'Burning Issues' and linking up with others who share the same interests. The result was the formation of an open 'Inclusion Think Tank' which would meet once a month to discuss the big questions with which people were trying to grapple. These included how to support young adults with high-level-support needs to live an inclusive life; how to welcome and involve more working-class families into the inclusion movement; how to include parents whose children have been excluded from school because of their behaviour and what is the meaning of 'care'? Geoff Gaisford offered to set up a local database of names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails and to initiate an e-list so everyone could easily be in contact. He said he would post people information if they did not have access to a computer. This will be an essential role in every regional group. Micheline urged people to get into the habit of recording their thinking and sending it to the national office for circulation, especially through this magazine. "You must never underestimate the importance of sharing these stories and insights", she said "They are like beams of light in a sea of darkness".
If you want to become part of the East Midlands Alliance, please contact Caroline Mackeith on: 0115 942 6809 or email her at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisers have been found for the other seven regional networks and some dates are already set. The groups will be open to Alliance members and all interested supporters of inclusive education.For more information of any of the Alliance groups, please e-mail:
If you do not have access to email please phone the office on:
020 7735 5277
Chapter One - The Special School (the experts)
We dreaded sports day. Darren used to be sitting in a wheelchair beside the track while children who could walk did a variety of races. There was a lot of noise and bustle, but Darren was looking upwards away from the races. We tried to interest him in what was going on, but couldn't.
Later there was a wheelchair race. Somebody would push Darren.
He was completely impassive and unaware that he was in a race. As we were
leaving, staff would come up and say "I bet he's tired". "He'll
sleep tonight." "Hasn't it been fun?"
We went home to involve him in something active.
Chapter Two - The Ordinary Primary School
The whole school was divided into 12 teams, with about fifteen children of different ages in each team. There were 12 different courses scattered about the field. All the teams moved around the courses throughout the afternoon.
Darren, as a member of one of the teams, cycled on his trike to each course. He took part in each race, sometimes on his trike, sometime crawling or climbing, and sometimes being helped to walk, the other team members egging him on and helping if necessary. At the end of the afternoon he was filthy and beaming. No-one suggested that it had tired him out, just that he had enjoyed himself.
One day a year but symptomatic of the difference of pace,
expectation and involvement in Special and Mainstream Schools.
I went for the second time to the Albany in Deptford to enjoy
the Beautiful Octopus Club with Zelda and Chloe, fellow Alliance members.
The atmosphere you could say was electric. What I like about it is that there
were non-disabled and disabled people enjoying themselves together and having
fun. There was a lot going on in all the rooms. From kickboxing to using the
internet, to a small cabaret which had a quieter atmosphere than the main
disco and show area. All the people taking part in the entertainment all had
a disability. It was a great night out.
Vice-Chair of the Alliance
For information about the next Beautiful Octopus Club: www.heartnsoul.co.uk or phone 020 8692 4446