Inclusion Now Articles Issue 21
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Building Relationships at Seaview Primary School
Is Inequality in Education the Elephant in the Room?
Another 'Flipping' Accreditation?
Government Backtracks on UN Convention
Inclusion at Netherfield Primary
Thrown Over the Fence - Experiences of Transition
How Inclusive is the English Education System?
The Inclusion Assistant
Sue is back to show everyone her new uniform. She's been at
comprehensive school for two days now and is full of enthusiasm that she wants
to share with her friends. Staff gather round in the airy entrance hall to
tell her how smart she looks. Sue beams in response. Two years ago, when Seaview
Primary school opened, Sue was a troubled child, disruptive, bullying others,
emotionally volatile and on the verge of exclusion.
Colin also appears, smiling shyly as he describes how he's been in school for two whole days without any problems. Last year Colin had problems most days, and stretched the support resources of the school almost to the limit, but he and they survived to make a fresh start.
That these two young people have managed to remain and even thrive in mainstream education is a tribute to the efforts they have made to face up to and resolve some of the issues facing them, take responsibility for their behaviour and adapt. It is also due to the work of Seaview School in establishing itself as a place where all young people are valued and, more specifically, where positive relationships are consciously built and maintained.
Seaview Primary school opened in 2006, the amalgamation of one Junior and two Infant schools into a new building in Horsley Hill, a close-knit but deprived community in South Shields. The children, particularly in the Junior school, were regarded by the staff as challenging. The school cohort, staff and children remained stable, meaning that three sets of practice, three sets of rules and three cultures had to be brought together. That responsibility fell to Jane Cunningham, the Headteacher and the only member of staff entirely new to the school.
From the start Jane took bold decisions. She decided that the first year of the school would be about establishing culture and ethos, the way that people would be with each other. She had already asked me, in my role as Behaviour Development Officer for the Local Authority, to come into the school to help by training staff and working with pupils. We shared an unease at the limitations of behaviour management systems we had previously worked with, Jane as the head of a neighbouring Primary school and myself as a senior teacher in a number of Special schools. What we did not have initially was a clear alternative to put in their place.
We began by taking practical steps and sending positive messages. The rules of the new school were written by the pupils, each class submitting suggestions before a committee of pupils and staff made the final decision. Each class was given training in using positive praise to raise self esteem and improve the atmosphere by giving at least as much attention to success as to difficulty. Year 6 buddies were trained to offer support to pupils and staff at playtimes and breaks. As pupils and staff milled around the new building, often in a state of confusion, their contribution in calmly supporting and managing the flow of people was invaluable. Year 5 pupils were trained as Peer Mediators, on duty at lunchtime to help to resolve minor disputes and difficulties among their peers. Staff were trained in Team Teach strategies to de-escalate difficult situations and manage their own feelings under stress.
A message was being sent that in Seaview school attention
would be paid to the good things happening around the school, that pupils
would be given responsibility and the skills to manage themselves, and that
difficulties would be resolved calmly and positively. But this was not enough
for Jane, or for me. We both had experience of working in schools where many
of the same strategies had been applied and yet the underlying culture had
not changed, where it was still taken for granted that some children could
not be managed, that aggression and shouting were acceptable management tools
for teachers. The problem was that the strategies and training addressed the
skills and behaviours of staff and children, but not directly the beliefs
and values that underpin them and determine how effectively they can be applied.
We needed something more.
It was a passing comment in a training session led by Inclusive Solutions that pointed to a way forward, 'Wouldn't it be a great thing,' said one of the trainers, 'if schools had a Relationship Policy rather than a Behaviour Policy?' Fortuitously, this came at a point when Jane was beginning to consider a Behaviour Policy for the new school. We began a discussion about doing something different.
Behaviour is a difficult concept in Education. To illustrate this, the next time you are with a group of school staff ask them to visualise a piece of behaviour they have observed in school during the last week. Then ask them to raise a hand if it was a positive piece of behaviour (I average 1 member of staff in a group of 20). Any discussion of behaviour in schools tends to have (bad) silently inserted. This tends to colour any discussion from the start and focus attention on what we do not want rather than what we do want.
We quickly realised that by focussing on relationships we could take a step back from dealing reactively with behaviours to creating an environment in which negative behaviours were less likely to occur and could be resolved positively when they did. The introduction to the policy stressed some key concepts and pieces of language:
The primary focus of classroom activity is the process of teaching and learning.
For this to be effective pupils need to be in a good learning state, calm, alert and safe.
A good learning state requires positive relationships, between teachers and pupils, pupils and other pupils and the wider school community.
The responsibility for creating, maintaining and repairing positive relationships in school is shared by all members of the school community.
This seemingly straightforward set of ideas implied a revolutionary concept, the idea that where negative behaviours occur it is the responsibility of everyone, but particularly the class teacher, to begin the process of repairing the relationships that have been damaged so that the teaching and learning process can continue. This involves having the personal resources to listen, engage and deal assertively and positively with young people in the classroom, the opposite of seeking to distance the young person by removing them to the corridor, the Head's office or even the Special Unit or school.
The Relationship Policy did not remove options, including exclusion, from the school, but placed them in a context where every other avenue of repair would be fully explored and exhausted before such actions were considered. The enemy of this approach was lack of personal resources. Young people needed encouragement to be calmly assertive in the face of provocation. Teachers needed to feel secure and calm when challenged, and to feel that they had options and strategies.
This led to another round of training, the introduction of assertive discipline strategies and restorative justice language and practice. Parents were canvassed for their views and included in the process. Jane also made the key appointment of a Relationship Manager, Alison Holmes, recruited specifically to provide support for pupils, staff and parents in adhering to the policy. Alison visits classrooms, works with pupils, talks to parents and supports staff in using strategies effectively to build positive relationships with all members of their class.
The hard work of the Relationship Policy is the consistent use of the language and strategies and not falling back into negative patterns under stress. I realised how deeply embedded the language had become in Jane's office 3 months after the policy was launched when a breathless child arrived and announced, 'Miss you've got to come, Jill's not in a good learning state!'
The cost of cultural change on this scale is constant vigilance, support and encouragement. Children used to being dominated through aggression and punishment need to adjust and not see a lack of anger as weakness. It takes courage for staff to abandon strategies that, however negative, have helped them feel in control in the past. The rewards are an atmosphere of calm purpose in class, the space to be human, to share moments of humour and adventure without the nagging fear that control will be lost, and improvements in the core activities of the school - teaching and learning.
SAT results improved substantially in the first year of the school's operation, a remarkable performance in a school undergoing the twin traumas of amalgamation and relocation. This improvement was sustained in the second year. In the two years since the school opened there have been no permanent exclusions, and short term exclusions are running at half the rate of the schools that came into Seaview. Jane Cunningham is still looking to the future. Claire Fawcett, a member of the teaching staff, has taken on a responsibility as Relationship Co-ordinator to support Jane and Alison in maintaining and developing the school's approach.
Perhaps the ultimate outcome is that pupils like Sue and Colin,
who many schools would struggle to include, are able to return to Seaview
confident of a warm welcome from friends who value them.
Behaviour Development Officer
Peter can be contacted by email: email@example.com
In January 2005 the Government promised that:
"By 2025, disabled people in Britain should have full opportunities and choices to improve their quality of life and will be respected and included as equal members of society"
This promise was the lynchpin of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit's "Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People" report. This was a truly groundbreaking report because it was the first Government report to set the experience of being a disabled person within the context of the Social Model of Disability. The report talked about the barriers disabled people face in our pursuit of housing, employment and control over how we want to live our lives. The report recommendations focused on the barrier removal rather than disabled people as the problem to be fixed.
However there is a fundamental flaw in the Strategy Unit's report. The report fails to include education and the barriers created by the current system that prevents disabled learners from participating, equally, alongside their non-disabled peers. The report, therefore, missed the opportunity to set out a list of recommendations that would end current inequalities for disabled learners in the education system.
I don't understand why the Government is so resistant to a bright light shining on our education system and how it does or doesn't respond to a diversity of learner's needs? Maybe because it fears the consequence of real debate that identifies the truth behind the inadequacy of league tables and endless testing of learners? The truth being that many disabled learners are pushed to the margins of the education system by a bureaucratic, 'best value' driven, falsely held, belief that the inclusion of disabled learners in a mainstream system will negatively impact on the achievement of others.
Inclusive education IS an equality issue - not only does it benefit disabled children, but all children because they learn about the strength of diversity and equality, lose their fear of difference, feel safe being treated as an individual, develop empathy for others, and learn many life skills and strategies, such as peer mentoring, mediation, emotional intelligence, building circles of friends, person-centered planning and other tools of inclusion. Teachers benefit too through being employed in a system which treats them well and rewards their real skills rather than simply test scores. Parents would benefit because they would no longer have to fight for their child to be treated equally, or for the resources they need.
The Government may be ignoring the issue but there have been a number of recent official reports that do address, in varying degrees, the systemic failures within the education system to properly meet the needs of disabled learners. And the messages have been consistent, be it the 2006 OFSTED 'Inclusion: Does it matter where pupils are taught?' report or the Education and Skills Select Committee 'Special Needs' report (in the same year) that the current system is failing disabled learners, particularly those with additional learning support needs. These reports and others call for, amongst other things, an end to postcode lottery funding for schools to support learners and for better and more frequent training for teaching and support staff working in schools, colleges and other education settings.
A number of the possible solutions to the current inequalities already exist. The 2005 Disability Discrimination Act created a new public sector duty to promote disability equality. The Duty applies to ALL public bodies including all education settings. This means that schools, colleges, universities etc have to have in place a plan for promoting disability equality (Disability Equality Scheme). The Duty has the real potential to drive the equality agenda forward, however there is still no national effective monitoring process and without this it will be difficult to encourage those education establishments who have yet to realise the important role they play in securing an equal future for all learners.
There is also a solution on the political horizon - the Single
Equalities Bill, which is before parliament this autumn, could have the potential
to address educational inequalities for all learners. However all the signs
are that, as with the single equalities consultation last year, education
fails to get a mention. It is extraordinary that the Government, once again,
has chosen to miss the opportunity to incorporate changes to the education
system so as to bring about equality of educational opportunity.
In a Bill that has as its purpose the bringing together of all the existing equality strands it seems a ludicrous omission. We need the Bill to look at the education system to root out inequality otherwise discrimination and low expectations and attainment will continue.
The Education and Skills Bill, shortly to become law, also fails to address educational inequality for disabled learners and instead will force young people to stay in education until they are 18 years whether their experience of the education system has been positive and empowering or negative and unwelcoming. ALLFIE is very concerned that rather than the Government seeing this as an opportunity to develop its equality agenda for disabled people, it will rachet up the focus on work-focused learning that is geared towards the needs of business and the promotion of City Academies, rather than society and citizenship.
Access to inclusive education with all necessary supports must be acknowledged as a fundamental pillar of equality and citizenship for all, in the same way that it has been long understood, by disabled people and our allies, that independent living and choice and control over our lives is achievable if we have been included in our communities, and felt valued from the beginning of our lives - inclusive education is one of the founding pillars of independent living.
ALLFIE wants to see single equalities legislation that outlines specific measures to counter-act discrimination in education that conform with the provisions of the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD clearly states that Governments:
'must not exclude persons with disabilities from the general education system on the basis of disability' and that 'reasonable accommodations (support for learning and participation) are provided'.
This commitment is clear and unequivocal, and provides the
driver for education providers and stakeholders to rise to the challenge of
delivering on and participating in an education system for ALL that truly
welcomes diversity and encourages participation and fosters a sense of belonging.
Bring on the Challenge!
Qualifications are soon to be awarded by anyone and everyone.
Simone Aspis asks:
Will this support inclusive education for all students?
Fancy a nicely framed McDonald's 'Hamburger Flipping', Remploy's 'Office Skills' or even a fantastic Scope Special School 'Life Skills' Diploma hanging on your bedroom wall? No longer fiction as the new qualification regulator OfQual will be able to accredit institutions to issue their own qualifications under the Education and Skills Act 2008.
Nothing new supporters may say, as there have always been trade and professional bodies who have accredited educational institutions and employers to accredit students learning, and this is the natural extension for a wider range of qualifications being awarded by a wider range of institutions.
On the face of it, I imagine there would be severe disapproval
of such a move, especially if the qualifications are being awarded by institutions
which don't capture the public's trust. With McDonald's track record in the
libel courts on alleged claims of exploitation of children, workers and environment,
will their qualifications get the trust of others, and not just the students
themselves who if they do not sing the learning course's praises are likely
to see themselves out of a job?
During the pilots OfQual found, not unsurprisingly, that the most difficult requirement for the proposed accrediting bodies to fulfil is for employers like McDonalds to demonstrate external authenticity. Put simply in plain English, will these qualifications have currency and therefore recognise students learning achievements or like the McJob, will they come with the McQualification tag and stigma?
If we take this one step further what will a Remploy and Scope School certificate say about a disabled students' learning achievements? Opportunities are limited by the type and grade of certificate awarded, and now this will be reduced further as employers and educational institutions will see a certificate with an 'I have been educated in a 'thicko' educational institution' and have failed in mainstream. However, it does not need to be the case, because surely we would want students' learning to be recognised and accredited regardless of where it and the assessment took place.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a good example where all participants attainments will be different but are equally recognised. It's one award which makes no differentiation between academic and vocational skills or level of attainment and what was actually attained. So as a result all participants attainments will be recognised on completion of the awards which is based on length of commitment and personal achievement.
I believe one universal assessment system like the Duke of
Edinburgh Award could be introduced into the formal education system , but
the Government would have to take a brave step, by removing all the existing
qualifications which create a belief that some people's brains are worth more
UK Government puts Human Rights for Disabled People in jeopardy by refusing to ratify Article 24: Inclusive Education.
Having played a leading role in negotiating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in New York, over five years, the UK Government are now well out of step with the rest of the world.
Already 37 countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). None have registered a reservation against Article 24, which requires them to develop an inclusive education system, where all disabled children can attend mainstream school with reasonable accommodations and the support necessary for them to achieve their potential both socially and academically. Countries such as China and India have ratified and are working towards the development of inclusive education: India by 2020.
The Convention allows for the progressive realisation of social and economic objectives. This was primarily for developing countries, but also applies to those developed countries that do not currently conform to the convention to allow them to restructure over time to conform with the principles of the Convention.
Article 46 of the Convention says that state parties cannot make reservations which conflict with the objects and purpose of the Convention.
The principles of the present Convention are:
1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons;
3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
5. Equality of opportunity;
7. Equality between men and women;
8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
In addition the general obligations include:
"To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities"
The UK Government are considering reservations that the general education system includes segregated provision and the right to place children in residential schools. Both of these proposals contradict the general obligations of the Convention.
Recent legal advice from international law experts suggests
that the UK Government cannot make such a reservation without breaching Article
Everyone should now write to their MP getting them to put pressure on the Government to ratify the Convention without reservation and safeguard the human rights of disabled people and their families.
I can't remember much about nursery school because I was too small. I am just about to move into Comprehensive School. When I first started nursery I was scared because it was new to me and I didn't know anybody. When I settled in I really liked it because I felt part of the school and I could get nearly everywhere. I was included in everything, in all the lessons and all the activities the other children did and I felt very happy.
When I was 5, I moved into the Infant School next door. It was fun. I went out on visits with my class and with the school. I did what all the other children did and it never was different to the others. In the Infant School there was one bit of the school that I couldn't access so they built a big ramp for me. I opened the ramp by cutting a ribbon and driving my wheelchair up it.
When I was 7, I moved down the road to the Junior School. All the schools were old buildings and not built for people in wheelchairs but I could still get around. All the children made me very welcome and made me feel part of the school. They were always very interested if I had a new piece of equipment and got excited. The teachers were always happy to see me and were patient to listen to me even though it was difficult to understand me.
One of the teachers, who is in charge of the school allotment, got her father to make a raised bed so it was possible to get my wheelchair in the allotment and take part. When my class went swimming a teaching assistant took me in her car so I could go swimming too.
Once, my class made an iron man with copper wire and foil and I made an iron man on the computer. Another time I made a fantasy fish. Everyone else made one. It was made of felt and I had to sew. My classroom assistant helped me and we used some blu tac on the end of the needle to help push the needle in and then pull it out. We called it our 'push me/ pull me needle'.
I like Break Dancing, and on Red Nose Day the staff made it possible for me to do a Break Dance in front of the whole school.
It was decided to build a new school which would be accessible and all together with the nursery, the infant school and the junior school. Before it was built the architect came to ask me if I would tell him what was good and what was bad about the old school. They asked for my advice.
Being in a portacabin for a year was exciting but hard because
it was so hot and very small. Last September we moved into the new school
building and became Netherfield Primary School. It was much easier because
the corridors were wider and everywhere was accessible. After a couple of
weeks the head teacher asked me to go round the school and write a report
about my thoughts of the school as it is now.
We are doing lots of interesting things now we have finished SATS and I am especially looking forward to going to High Ash in a few weeks. All Year 6 children go away for a week to the Peak District and that means me as well. We will learn stuff and do well with all year 6 children.
A lot of our learning now is about getting ready for secondary
school. I have been visiting the school I will be going to in September and
I am a little nervous about it. They are very nice when I go and I noticed
in the library they had a magazine called Cool Kids. This is a local magazine
done for disabled children and I get it at home. I will always have good and
happy memories of this time and in being included in Primary because it was
so enjoyable and I don't want to leave. I hope my senior school will be able
to help me and will include me in the same way.
Glenys - A parent's Perspective
My experiences as a parent are different to those of Brandon and may be of interest to others.
When Brandon was 2 years old we began looking at appropriate nursery education with a view to continuing at the same place for formal education. It was not easy. Several places were initially willing to accept him but as the starting date grew nearer problems arose as to why he could not attend. We almost despaired.
Then we approached a local school with a nursery attached. This was immediately welcoming. The first thing I was told after I had described the requirements of Brandon was that the school had very little experience of this type of disability but if I was willing they were willing to have a go. At last I had found somewhere who didn't know all the answers!
Of course I was anxious and this has remained in the back of my mind all along. It was obvious from the reactions of some of the staff that having Brandon in their class caused some stress but it did not deter the nursery, nor the school, from having a go.
The first bit of ingenuity I became aware of was one play time when I was at the school and I saw Brandon out in the playground. The nursery had bought a piece of artificial lawn, about 2 metres square and it was spread on the ground. Brandon was on the lawn with several of the boys from his group. They were all play fighting, including Brandon.
Other small incidents I became aware of as Brandon moved through nursery, into the Infants school and later into the Junior school. The route the children in Brandon's group took to visit the library was changed because Brandon's wheelchair would not be able to get up the steps. The cloakroom was changed because his wheel chair could not get round. This was changed for all of his group, not just him. He was always included in the same things as the other children without any fuss being made.
By the time Brandon moved to the Junior school he was well established with staff and peer group and this meant he had an extended relationship with the local community. He felt safe.
Brandon was totally included in everything everyone else did. The staff made sure he did not miss out on his education and helped with the social integration of Brandon. His peers helped with the social integration and with other aspects of his education. It worked so well that several of the mothers who attended child care courses undertook placements working with disabled children because they knew Brandon.
Brandon joined a local Youth Club. It was nothing to do with the school, except that a number of pupils attended. Almost every week Brandon played on the Play Station games at club, sometimes on his own but more often than not with someone else. I always sat in the coffee bar so that I was available if required but so that Brandon could get on with being a boy without my interference. Sometimes I put my head round the door to check on what was happening. Brandon's motor skills are very limited and often he would press the wrong button on the controls and cause havoc with the game. His partner never even spoke, but would lean across Brandon and press the appropriate button and the game resumed.
On another occasion the boys at the youth club had organised their own snooker tournament. Brandon had occasionally been into the snooker room but I had no idea he ever played snooker. I was told he was part of the tournament. I knew he could not manage a snooker cue so was intrigued as to how he played. When I sneaked a look I was amazed. When it was Brandon's turn he did not use a cue. He used his hand to move the ball. Nobody objected or commented. When the ball was in the middle of the table and Brandon could not reach it one of the boys picked the ball up and placed it within reach for him. It was just accepted by all.
There are many little anecdotes I could relate but these give an idea of how inclusion can work. There have been occasions when things haven't worked but as soon as these became obvious and were expressed, they were dealt with. One thing that Brandon has learned from this experience is his own self worth. He has been given respect and this has given him confidence to tackle anything life has had to offer. Now we are about to commence the next part of Brandon's educational journey I am feeling apprehensive. I am hopeful that he may get a similar acceptance at this school. Whatever is dealt him now I am thankful he has had such a good grounding in his primary education because he now has the confidence to speak up when he sees anything he feels is unjust and this must be a good thing.
Young Campaigner's Success
"£150,000 Revamp, Thanks to Young Brandon"
"Shoppers and traders have 11-year-old Brandon Aughton to thank for a £150,000 revamp of Netherfield town centre.
Brandon, who has cerebral palsy, had been struggling to negotiate the streets with his wheelchair. So he urged Notts County Council to take action.
And local councillors James O'Riordan and John Clarke were so impressed by Brandon's arguments that they took his funding request forward.
Streets have been re-paved, lighting improved, and dropped
crossings installed; cycle stands have been replaced and access to some shops
has been improved."
Taken from Nottingham Evening Post August 2008
I'm 18 years old and have been in the Social Service's transition process since I was 14. It's just a pity nobody told me!! In fact, until I became I member of Equality 2025 I was unfamiliar with the term and hadn't realised that I was within a prescribed process that has such important implications for me.
I, like many young people and their families, thought that the early transition meetings were part of my yearly Statementing Review. Thus I was a passive observer on what I thought was an assessment. It is only now that I fully understand what is going on in my own transition process. Any real inroads I have made, has been down to "self help" rather than the "process" itself.
For me the two major failures have been the lack of both planning and information. I feel let down by the services as there has been little or no communication between the involved departments; it is very fragmented, decisions made last minute and no real focus on what my needs are. The approach seemed nothing more than a narrow bureaucratic process, when it should be holistic. On reflection it felt like merely being "thrown over the fence" from Children's Services to Adult Services.
It is the lack of information where the service really fails
- for young people to be in a process and not be aware of it - is surely a
Adulthood is defined in terms of identity, choice and control. However, the concept of Adult Identity is rarely addressed within the transition process. In the last six months I have been battling with Social Services to recognise my need for a Personal Assistant model defined in my terms, instead of accepting what they give me. My PA model is so key to how my adult identity evolves and yet there is complete ignorance from Social Services about what I'm talking about.
Let me give you some actual detail, of what I regard as failure of my Transition Process. I'm a power wheelchair user with a muscle weakness from the neck down and, as such, I require high usage of PA services.
In September this year I started University. In May I had a Transition Meeting. There was no documentation or reportage of agreed actions, and since that time there has been no written communication from Social Services.
Social Services delayed my application to the Independent Living Fund & consequently I started University with no PA in place and no funds to pay for personal care. I am now in my third month at University and still haven't had my ILF processed. Currently, I am using my Student Loan to fund my PA care package. I find I'm minimising my use of PA hours in order to keep my costs down until my funding comes through.
No one in Social Services gave me any information about my responsibilities regarding employing a PA, such as Time Sheets, Tax & National Insurance, PAYE Records, Bank Statements, Receipts, & PA Insurance etc. Instead they referred a Payroll Agency to me, without discussion, and incorrectly assumed the agency would give me information. However, Social Services had withdrawn the Agencies "information remit" a year earlier and therefore no information was forthcoming. My first meeting with DP services is scheduled next week, some three months late. I have been reluctantly drip fed information from various sources. Only now, through self help, am I close to having a near complete picture of my PA responsibilities.
Not only have Social Services reduced my Transition Process to, merely, a bureaucratic function, stripped down & reduced to its minimum, but they have failed even to carry this out effectively. In short they have hindered the process.
Going to University should be a new and exciting experience, not one of anxiety and worry about PA provisions. I'm sure many disabled young students might find these barriers too difficult to navigate and just pack in the course.
I recently asked 25 disabled teenagers ranging from 15 to 21 years of age if they have heard or know what the concept of "Transition to Adulthood" is. Only 2 replied positively. There is a lot at stake, such as: adult identity, employment, independence, relationships, education and quality of life, and it is so important to get it right as we only get one chance at it. One of the ways we can improve the process and outcomes of transition is to explore ways whereby we can move towards an "Effective Youth Led Approach".
Finally, can I mention that as a member of Equality 2025 for
the North West region, I am interested in linking up with organisations involved
in Transition. Can I urge you to get in touch with Equality 2025 to ensure
that your views are heard by government Transition to Adulthood is a core
issue on the EQ2025 agenda.
Edited version of a research article from the Policy Research Unit at York University.
How Inclusive is the English Education System - What do
Government Statistics tell us about the last 15 years?
New Labour came to power in 1997 supporting the development of inclusive education in the Green Paper Excellence for All Children (1997), The Action Plan(1998) and the SEN and Disability Act 2001. However, they also split off young people with challenging behaviour into separate Behaviour Policies and set up Pupil Referral Units where children had to be off the roll of their school and later educated full time if their behaviour required it. In early 2003 the Government signalled a change of policy with the Special School Working Group which has led to the building of new and larger special schools replacing smaller schools.
In addition, the emphasis laid on developing inclusive education in the first 5 years of Government has reverted to a 'parental choice model' that fits in with the increasing marketisation of schools with the setting up of Academies and more Foundation schools. This is reflected in 'Removing Barriers to Achievement', the Governments current 5 year strategy for SEN and their lack of response to the attacks on inclusive education launched by the Conservatives and Baroness Warnock. All of this confused thinking is reflected in the DCSF's wish to reserve on Article 24 (Inclusive Education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
If we look at selected Government statistics over the last
15 years they reveal some surprising results.
If we add together the special school population with those in pupil referral Units and the increasing number of children with Local Authority Statements placed in independent private schools (8,050 in 2008) we find the numbers have risen more or less year on year from 1994 to give a figure of 113,500 in 2008.
The number of special schools has declined from 1310 to 1065
but the roll has only declined from 98,973 to 89,350. At the same time the
numbers in Pupil Referral Units has gone from 5,043 in 1996 to 16,100 in 2008.
The number of students with a statement of special educational needs having
their fees paid by local authority to attend independent schools has risen
from 5,458 in 1994 to 8,050 in 2008.
The number of those with a statement of special educational needs rose up until 2001. This was also the high point of inclusion with 61.1% having their needs met in mainstream.
In 2001 a new Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs was introduced largely inspired by the rise in statements. This moved from the old 5 stages of SEN (Stage1,2,3 in school, 4 Assessment and 5 issuing a statement) to a new 3 stage system. This deleted stage 1, as it was felt this was replaced by the differentiation of the literacy and numeracy strategies. The new stages were School Action, School Action plus and Statements.
This is reflected in the decline of statements and following a sharp fall from 2001 to 2003 of non-statemented special needs. However, since 2003 there has been a steady increase to 1,390,670 in 2008 on School Action and school Action Plus. This means if we add in those with statements in 2008 1,614,280 pupils were covered by the SEN Code of Practice. This figure is 19.9% of pupils compared to 17.9% of pupils in 1996. This is despite the tightening up of the Code of Practice.
So overall the numbers in separate educational provision because of their impairment or behaviour has increased, but the numbers in mainstream getting support because they have special educational needs have also gone up dramatically since the revision of the Code of Practices since 2003.
The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) to cover schools in 2002 and the further Duty to Promote Disability Equality (2006) should give more support for inclusive education in schools, as most of those on the stages of Code of Practice would come under the DDA definition.
If the proportion of children in mainstream schools with different
types of impairments are examined they show a very mixed picture. Here those
supported by statements and those on School Action Plus are taken together
only 13.2% attend special schools.
The special school population has changed with many with moderate learning difficulty, sensory & physical impairments now in mainstream. Those with dyslexia, language and behaviour needs are predominantly in mainstream. There has been a large increase in those on the Autistic Continuum and a growing proportion (30%) are attending special school. Those labelled with Severe and Profound Difficulties are still predominantly in special schools. Overall mainstream schools are improving their capacity to accommodate a wider range of disabled pupils despite mixed messages from Government.
Statistics tables available as pdf on request.
In the early days of 'inclusion' disabled children were often only allowed into mainstream schools if they brought a "minder" with them in the form of a full time Learning Support Assistant (LSA). They generally took complete responsibility for the physical care, safety and to a large degree helping the child do their work by adapting it etc. The teachers took varying degrees of responsibility for planning their lessons so that the child was included. Some left all of that to the LSA, the SENCO, and any specialist advisory teachers.
Depending on the personality and understanding of the LSA and the child, they could act also as the child's "friend", spending all their time close by, or, they could act as facilitators of friendships, drawing children into collective activities and standing back when peer relationships started to form.
The good side of this was that parents were confident that children who had high level support needs would be cared for at school. The LSAs often became very skilled at meeting individual needs, including the use of specialist equipment, administering medication, implementing therapies such as physiotherapy or speech therapy (under the guidance of a qualified professional). They often learnt "emergency procedures" and when to recognise that they were needed. All together this made possible the integration of children with a range of impairments including those labelled as severe, complex or profound.
The difficulty is that it did not lead to the real inclusion of children, especially those with high-level support needs. Teachers did not necessarily include them in their lessons; if the LSA was away the child was told to stay at home; if the LSA/child relationship was not good, they both became very unhappy; it was exhausting and isolating for the LSA and there was a very high turnover of staff.
The most common criticism was that the LSA became a barrier to the child becoming part of their peer group. It singled them out and made them feel "different".
When the Government brought in a new scheme within schools
to replace LSAs with TAs (Teacher's Assistants) they cited this difficulty
as the justification for removing the individual support from the child and
expecting the support to be more generally provided within the classroom by
Many families within the Alliance knew the new scheme could not work for young people with high level support needs in school. Their children needed individualised support trained in the social model of disability. Their children agreed.
Disabled people have, through political struggle, created a workable model of support which releases us from the confines of institutions and the care industry into the mainstream world. This consists of self directed assistance through Direct Payments and Personal Assistants (PAs).
It is often not understood by the non-disabled world how tiring it is to have to keep training new people to meet your basic needs, or how insecure we feel when we do not have reliable and familiar helpers, or how vulnerable to abuse we are when we have no say over who provides intimate care. The skill to manage PAs is one which needs to be learnt. It is a life skill of utmost importance for disabled people.
In 2003 The Alliance received a grant from the DFES to write and trial a training pack for 'Inclusion Assistants' for schools and LEAs. This was a slow process but the final pack was launched inn 2007. It is unique because it is written from the perspective of disabled children and was guided by them. It takes a rights based approach to support and facilitation. The pack includes a DVD of young people with high level support needs talking about their experiences of being 'helped' in school and saying what they really need.
We decided that because of the transformative content of the pack, anyone using it needed to be trained in its use by ourselves. This made us focus not on selling the pack or working directly with trainee Assistants but with their trainers and managers.
Our first course was put on at the Institute of Education
and was very well received by the participants who ranged from advisory teachers
in inclusive schools to University based lecturers.
As is usual with these things, the participants had many ideas as to the application of the information in the pack than we originally anticipated. This is good. The new role of the 'Inclusion Assistant' also has implications for the workforce remodelling programmes and to reconsider pay and qualifications for non teaching staffing schools.
We intend to run at least two courses a year. Please sign
up early for the next one (see training page)
and we will look forward to seeing you there.
Micheline Mason and Christine Burke
Bercow gives a helping hand to those
with Speech, Language and Communication Impairments
In September 2007 John Bercow was asked to lead an independent review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). The Review's final report has now been published.
The Bercow Review identified five key themes - issues that need to be addressed for real change and improvement to happen:
Communication is crucial;
Early identification and intervention are essential;
A continuum of services designed around the family is needed;
Joint working is critical; and
The current system is characterised by high variability and a lack of equity.
Setting up a National Council and Champion and information to all parents.
Joined up early identification.
Removing barriers in the National Curriculum.
Extra effort to develop inclusive provision.
Training for children's workforce based on a gaps analysis.
For more information go to: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/bercowreview/docs/7771-DCSF-BERCOW.PD
Linda Lascelles, CEO at Afasic hopes that 'there will be an
ongoing commitment to ensuring that the voices of children and young people
with speech, language and communication impairments and their families are
central to the development and evaluation of new and improved services'.
I want to talk about a lot of the kids in this area, close to us, who can't talk. This is because I know what it's like to be in a world where nobody thinks you have thoughts, let alone a way to express them.
There is a dilemma. Most mainstream schools do not have appropriate help for us who can't talk. There seems to be a block on enabling appropriate help to happen. Also, some parents can only see a space for themselves, if their children are taken away in a bus to a special desert. This dilemma has gone on for too long. It is eighteen years since I was 5, fifteen years since I have had a communication system that people around here have known about. What are we doing?
There are still children in those deserts with no way to express themselves. I also know that there are skilled facilitators who can't get work, as nobody is prepared to employ them for their skills. What are we doing?
We are too kind, too excusing of people's busyness. This is imprisonment, it is violence. I don't want to be 'understanding' any more. There are so many good will projects, but they are nothing while those kids still rot.
What are people scared of? Are they scared of listening in case they don't like what we might say? I have written a lot about time and communication. I think those thoughts and writings are still important, but there is a terror that enables millions of pounds, and huge resources, to go into building more special deserts.
I want to ask the people who are here, to make a commitment with me to stop this, before another generation goes through school. To challenge what is happening in this area. I want the present generation of non disabled kids to grow up with us. Non-disabled kids need us, to make their world safe, as much as we need them. We need to be together. We know all that.
What is in the way? I think people are just so scared of human
feeling for each other. We are not to be purchased, we are not to be sold;
we are not commodities. I want to make a commitment to those kids. Who wants
to do this with me? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk given at Inclusion Summer Institute, June 2008, Nottingham
An update from Maresa:
"We have started a group including 3 young people who can't talk between 14-18 (currently in special schools) and 7 non-disabled young people between 5-16 in mainstream schools. We have met 3 times and have invented games to enable those who can't talk to be assisted by the non-disabled young people, and we've had a lot of fun so far. The plan is to meet about once a month through the winter."