Inclusion Now Articles Issue 26
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One week before the General Election, Jonathan Bartley had taken his son to a hospital appointment. They were approached by a Conservative party official who gave them the opportunity to meet David Cameron, there on his campaign trail. Mr Bartley voiced his concern about Tory plans to "end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools" and the intereview was run in newspapers and on TV around the world. We caught up with Jonathan a few days later:
Your recent media coverage prompted many vitriolic responses
on the various news websites and forums. Were you surprised by the level of
adverse, as well as positive reactions?
There were two sets of reactions. The first came from the political and media establishment who quite often can't think outside the party political box. Fortunately I knew what to expect, having worked in Parliament myself for four years, and being a not infrequent commentator for newspapers, radio and TV. Some accused me of party political motives, of setting up the confrontation with David Cameron (even though I had been invited by a Conservative party staff member to meet him) and even of abusing my son Samuel. Fortunately I have a lot of allies around me who are crucial at such times.
The other - and far more important - set of reactions came from parents of disabled children, and most crucially disabled people themselves. There were two distinct messages that came across. The first were those who had, or were currently experiencing, very similar struggles to our own, in getting inclusive education. I was surprised at how many there were. The second set of messages came from parents who were frightened and often hurt, having been let down by the lack of inclusion in mainstream schools. Many felt there was no option but segregated schools, and were afraid that this option would be taken away and they would have nowhere left to turn. This I think brought home to me in a new way quite how much work needs to be done to make our mainstream schools truly inclusive environments in which all parents will feel their children are safe and supported.
Why was a mainstream school placement so important to your
Inclusion for us was vital for so many reasons. There were the specific points about this being Samuel's local community. It was about Samuel being educated with his friends, and with his two sisters. He had travelled to the school every day to pick up his sisters, believing he would go there. He already attended school events. The school is attached to the church we attend where Samuel attends the Sunday School which my wife and I also take. I was a governor at the school for four years. Samuel would effectively be separated and segregated from all this if he was sent to another school.
But there were also the broader points about parents making a stand and helping to bring about change that would benefit others in the future. We realised that, although there would potentially be a huge cost, unless more parents pushed harder for inclusion then nothing would change.
You had to spend thousands of pounds going to a tribunal.
Did you have any idea that you would have to take that route?
No. We believed at first that everything would be straightforward. The school knew for several years of our intention that Samuel would go there with his sisters. It was only when, at the last minute we were told that he couldn't, that we started to explore what we would need to do. Initially we tried mediation both with the school and the local authority, but found ourselves continually bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape. No one seemed to want to listen or hear what we were saying. Reluctantly we started to find out about the tribunal process. We also started to meet some allies who would help us. I had to pay too for legal advice, some of which was helpful, some of which was clearly a waste of money, but it is hard to know what you need when you are feeling your way! Eventually I ended up representing our own case at the tribunal, using the legal advice that we had been given.
You eventually won your appeal. What difference do you
think that outcome has made to your son's life? What might his life have looked
like had you lost?
It has meant that Samuel can travel to school and back each day with his sisters as part of our family, where he would have been put on a bus and taken several miles away. It means he can easily take part in after school clubs and activities which would have been much harder. It means that his friend's birthday parties and events are far more accessible and local. He would have had to make new friends and travel great distances to see them. It means that we have been able to be involved in his school life much more actively, where it would have been a real challenge elsewhere. It means his life is not split between two communities.
How does Samuel find mainstream school?
Samuel enjoys it sometimes, but finds it challenging at others. Quite often he would rather be at home playing on the Wii or watching CBeebies, but I suspect that would be the case with any school!
Some people say that disabled children need special schools
because of the bullying that they have to endure in mainstream. What would
be your answer to this?
We can't give into the bullies! The answer is not to accept the bullying and let the bullies win, but challenge the bullying, discover why it takes place, and what needs to be done to stop it. A study by Stonewall last year showed widespread bullying of LGBT children in the UK - indeed as much as 60% (70% in faith schools) of children said they had experienced it. But it would be outrageous to suggest that gay children should be moved out of mainstream education because of it. It is equally outrageous to say that disabled children should therefore be excluded.
How do you see your role as a parent of a disabled child?
I think I see it primarily as any father would, but in addition perhaps as an ally and advocate. Also I think there is a degree of facilitator - to enable and empower him to play a full part in the things he wants to do, and also to discover what those things are and develop his identity and understand himself more fully.
What did Samuel think about meeting David Cameron?
He wasn't that impressed, as people might have seen from the photos, but Samuel normally takes a while to warm up to people! He hasn't expressed any strong feelings about the encounter one way of the other.
What would you like to say to other schools who may be
thinking about including a disabled child for the first time? What are the
key things they should consider?
There seems to a preoccupation in many schools about having the right equipment and resources. These are important, but the most important thing for us is the culture of inclusion and the willingness to think creatively about how it can happen. Schools need to make a commitment to inclusion which means an active process of looking at how to facilitate it and make it happen.
All three main parties seem committed to giving families 'choice' of educational setting. But does this offer of 'choice' simply skirt the real issues in your opinion? Should there even be a 'choice'?
I think it is very important to be realistic politically when engaging with the parties and speak their language. I think you need to meet them on their terms, as well as challenging their agendas at the right time. They aren't going to give up their commitment to choice, so my position has always been: "well, if you want to offer real choice, then every parent and child have to be offered a mainstream education which works". At present thousands clearly do not have that choice, and until a proper commitment is made to inclusion they won't have it.
You said in your article that 'the move towards inclusion
has been half-hearted'. What would you like to see done differently by the
I think ALLFIE's manifesto* is an excellent basis. A look at the Green party manifesto also shows how a commitment can be made to pursuing inclusion as the goal to aim for. That is what is lacking in the three main party manifestos.
More than anything it is a question of values. Either a party is committed to the idea of inclusion, and that every disabled child has a right to an inclusive education, or they aren't. Once that commitment is made, then the question becomes: "so how do we make inclusion work." As we all know, the answers to that question will vary from school to school. But we need such thing as commitment to inclusion training for all teachers, we need all schools to be made fully accessible, and we need the necessary resources to be made available. We also need parents more fully empowered to call schools to account where they are not being inclusive.
See the ALLFIE Manifesto at www.allfie.org.uk or contact the
office for a copy.
Inclusion - A School Governor's Perspective
When my wife and I were looking at schools for our sons, one of our most important criteria was that the school must be positive about inclusion. Thus we chose Queenswell Infant school which not only said that it was inclusive, it also felt inclusive when we visited.
During my son's first year, he came home and asked me to become a Parent Governor. I asked two parents to nominate me and was elected as a Parent Governor for a term of four years. In the first Governors meeting we had to agree to take on extra responsibilities and I volunteered to be the Link Governor with Responsibility for SEN (Special Educational Needs), on the proviso that we could change the title to Link Governor with Responsibility for Inclusion.
Last year, in order to create more opportunities for other parents to become Governors, I resigned from my role as Parent Governor and was nominated as a Local Authority Governor.
As a Link Governor, I meet termly with the Inclusion Manager and act as a critical friend listening to the plans for the forthcoming year, asking relevant questions and making suggestions.
Queenswell has been identified by Ofsted as having Outstanding Inclusive Practices and the School is currently undergoing Accreditation for the Inclusion Quality Mark.
On one visit I was introduced to a young boy with a diagnosis
of autism. As a result of excellent support, he was able to sit quietly with
his class and to play appropriately with his peers - he was also able to tell
me a joke. Inclusion supports learning and allows everyone to learn from each
other, dispelling myths and challenging stereotypes - Changing the World around
us to the benefit of us all.
In the Autumn of 2009 and Spring of 2010, I was commissioned by the Qualification and Curriculum Development Authority to find out what schools in England were doing to raise disability equality in the curriculum and to work with them to develop good examples. I wrote an introduction to the project in Volume 24.
Now the project has finished and we are awaiting selected films and case studies to go onto the QCDA website. There are also a whole host of resources developed with and for schools on the World of Inclusion website: www.worldofinclusion.com/qcda.htm
Under the 2005 Disability Discrimination Amendment Act all state schools, as public bodies, have a Duty to promote equality for disabled people, eliminate harassment and promote positive attitudes towards disabled people. Analysis of school Disability Equality Schemes has shown that promoting positive attitudes was not being addressed by more than half the schools that had a Scheme, (only around half of all schools have a scheme)*. Those schools that were addressing disability were usually only including it in PHSE or Citizenship and not bringing disability equality in across the curriculum. Clearly concerns about this dearth were linked to growing concerns about the level of bullying and harassment disabled children and young people were experiencing (8 times that for non-disabled students). The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families therefore recommended that QCDA commission this work.
The Equalities Act 2010 has replaced this legislation, but the need for this work and to develop positive attitudes remain crucial in developing disability equality and inclusive education. Schools from next year will not have to have a Disability Equality Scheme, instead they will need a single equalities scheme where they can choose their priorities. However, the public sector equality duty (Section 149.1) requires schools 'to foster good relations between persons who share protected characteristics (i.e. disabled) and persons who do not share it' And in particular the need to 'tackle prejudice and promote understanding' (Section 149.5). The 2005 Act specifically said disability equality had to be based on the 'social model' of disability. This is not in the 2010 Act so we will all have to work harder to get this perspective embedded in schools. However, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which is now law in UK, does have a social model orientation and Article 8 on Awareness Raising specifically requires Governments to take appropriate measure including:
"b) Fostering at all levels of the education system, including in all children from an early age, an attitude of respect for the rights of persons with disabilities" Article 8 2b
26 schools took part trying out ideas and ways of bringing disability equality into the curriculum. We extended the project to film exemplars of good practice. In all, 7 films and 5 written case studies will appear on the QCDA website along with a written account of ways of thinking about disability and a link to the resource list compiled for the project is available at: http://worldofinclusion.com/res/qca/Resources.doc
Anthony Gell Secondary School in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, in
2009 held a disability equality week using material from Disabling Imagery:
and the DEE posters 'Everybody Welcome Here': http://worldofinclusion.com/res/every/Everybody_Welcome1.pdf
They built on this awareness week to develop work in Humanities
on impairment and the First World War and what happened to disabled veterans.
In Science, Year 8 students identified visible and invisible impairments and
linked them to the different systems of the body. In Maths, Year 8 students
studied the mathematical basis of the Braille code and used Braille for message
codes. See subtitled film:
With Year 1 at St Matthias primary school, Hackney, Diane Burnet demonstrates how she brings disability equality right across the curriculum. All it requires is the teacher to include it in their planning: www.redweather.co.uk/videopages/QCDAfinal1
At St Peters Primary in Tower Hamlets, Year 4 map the area
round their school for access barriers and solutions for blind people and
wheelchair users. Then they wrote to the Council about the barriers: www.redweather.co.uk/videopages/QCDAfinal6
Year 8 at Ashcroft Academy, Wandsworth spent the Autumn term examining the Social Model for non fiction writing in English. When they started the class was evenly balance on their views, by the end all were convinced of the validity of a social model approach:
"I agree with the social model of disability because everybody is different and who is anyone to judge a disabled person. Disability is not the person because they are exactly like a non-disabled person but it is the exclusions which makes them feel different; however in the medical model it states that the problem is within the child. If disabled people were not separated from the non-disabled people then the non-disabled wouldn't think of themselves as normal and the disabled people as outcasts....Non-disabled people automatically assume that when they see someone with a disability that they are more superior as they have lost a part of their life. To disabled people this 'sympathy' that non-disabled people give them is offensive because it makes them feel like they have a disability...Inclusive education would be a benefit in society because then disabled children and non-disabled children will understand at a young age that a disabled person is NOT different and therefore many more people will treat disabled people like an equal human". Jaimin Desai Yr 8.
The work carried out for the project was often reported by
teachers to engage pupils, especially those who often find it difficult to
concentrate. It was reported as fun and engaging. Teachers needed support
to get involved, but once engaged they could adapt their curriculum planning
to incorporate disability equality to the benefit of all. This project only
scratched the surface and I am currently trying to find ways to work in depth
with selected schools resulting in more lessons and approaches that can be
shared on the internet.
Richard Rieser, World of inclusion
*Report to Secretary of State Impact of the Duty to Promote
Disability Equality on Schools, 2008
An analysis of a London Boroughs Disability Equality Schemes,
Allfie is coming towards the end of its second year of our 3 year 'Young Disabled Leaders of the Future Project. ALLFIE has three objectives in this project:
- Build the capacity of young disabled people to enable them to become the next generation of leaders of the Disabled People's Movement
- Build the capacity of Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) to be able to effectively involve young disabled people
- Build the capacity of DPOs to campaign for inclusive education at the local level
The first stage of the project resulted in the 'Pushing for Change' Report* which was featured in Inclusion Now Vol. 25. In the second stage, Allfie has given three project grants to Disabled People's Organisations in Darlington, Norfolk and Preston to make these objectives happen at a local level.
Kevin Caulfield, Allfie's Project Co-ordinator went to visit
one of the three funded projects developing young people and leadership at
Darlington Association on Disability (DAD) in April to see how things were
The 'Young Leaders' project at DAD set out to include more Young Disabled people as young leaders in their own lives and to be more involved in making decisions about, and influencing the work of DAD. Here in Darlington the project is doing just that!
In the summer of 2009, twelve young people signed up to be involved in the project. The group has gone from strength to strength and has a vision to make a difference and influence change for young disabled people in Darlington. To date the project has about 22 members, and the number is growing monthly.
I attended the recent Forum Get Together in April 2010 and saw a lot of work going into the day from the young people, volunteers and staff at DAD. Everyone got a lot from being together, including myself.
We all took part in activities together and contributed to
looking at what things they wanted to do as a group in the future. Some of
the activities had been used before at young leaders meetings, but every time
there are different things that come up and more valuable comments to share.
A 'Dragon's Den' style activity was especially useful, looking at proposals
that the young people decided they might do in the future.
During the nine months since the forum started, the young people involved have got a great deal from joining, in a variety of ways. A number of members recently participated in 'Challenging Disablism' training, looking at a rights based approach to the Social Model of Disability, self-identity, confidence and self-esteem building, assertiveness and speaking out training. The training has supported members to see that having an impairment and experience of Disablism can make them a stronger person.
Sammy, for example, has been successful in becoming a regional representative with the Youth of Today Fellowship, a government scheme aimed at encouraging young people into leadership - Sammy is one of two ambassadors for young disabled people from the group, representing the Tees Valley Region.
Some of the other comments young people have made include:
'The group has helped me to 'speak out' more publicly'
'I'd like to talk to you, I would like to become a trustee of DAD, and I would make a good trustee you know!'
Lewis Holder, Young leader, aged 16
'I enjoy coming to the meetings, it's made a big difference
to my life - I've made new friends and noticed a change in my behaviour at
home and at school - I'm calmer now. It's the best thing I've ever done in
my life! I just wanna have a laugh!'
Abigail, Participation Leader, aged 15
One member was asked what difference the group makes to his life, he didn't say a word - just smiled - the smile said it all!
When talking about meeting up with young people on a regular basis for 'Coffee with the Chair', Gordon Pybus, Chair of DAD said "It's one of the best things I have done since becoming chair of DAD over 10 years ago!"
The project has recently been evaluated and: 'All interviewees said that without exception the project had effected the young people overwhelmingly; confidence, personal skills, motivation to be included had grown in all individuals.' Alison John, External Evaluation Consultant and Disabled Person
I was really impressed by how the project had made such a positive impact in everyone's lives and how easy it was to see that.
Allfie knew from talking to young people in the first year of our Young Disabled Leaders of the Future Project* that many young disabled people were and felt very left out. The work of this project in Darlington is proving that is true and that a lot can be done to change that reality.
I hope all our projects continue to go from strength to strength.
Young Disabled Leaders of the Future Project
*see Pushing for Change at www.allfie.org.uk or contact the ALLFIE office for a free copy.
Getting 'Seen and Heard'
In March this year Jhon Bateman, a young disabled person from Leicestershire and a member of ALLFIE's Midlands group won a BT 'Seen & Heard' award. Jhon won the award on behalf of ALLFIE for his inclusive education campaigning work. Here's what Jhon had to say about it.
What did it feel like winning the BT award for your campaigning
It felt fabulous winning the BT Seen and Heard award for the campaigning work I have done. I always saw my work as something everyone does, because I thought everyone wanted to make a change and put a stop to disability discrimination. I felt very proud and honoured to have been chosen as the winner of such a prestigious award.
Has winning the award encouraged you to do more campaigning
work - if yes, how?
Yes it has. I now feel like my campaigning work is being recognised, so I want to continue to campaign for equality so people see that not only are disability equality and inclusion big issues, but also that young people should have a voice and that voice should be listened to.
Why do you think it is important for young disabled people
to get involved in campaigning?
We were all young, and we will all get older. Does this mean that as soon as you turn 18, you will actually make valid points, and as soon as we reach 65, we will go back to being irrelevant? We all have a voice that should be heard and acted on, because we all come from a different perspective, and it is those perspectives that make a difference in the world.
When did you first start getting involved with ALLFIE?
I was invited down to the launch event for the Disability LIB project which ALLFIE is involved in. The project is about supporting organisations run by disabled people (DPOs) including CILs (Centres for Independent Living). I was one of the 6 main speakers for the event, and I spoke about how important it is for disabled young people to have their voices heard and why it is important to fund DPOs and CILs to people in front of over 100 people.
I have also spoken about special schools and whether we should have them with Jonathon Shaw at a meeting at Caxton House.
Why is inclusion in education important to you and other
young disabled people?
Everyone is unique in some way, whether that is their disability, ethnic minority, political and religious beliefs or if they struggle with maths. If someone did struggle at maths, would we then not teach them? No. It is the same with disability. You have difficulties doing something. It is our job as a nation to help people in whatever way we can. Disabled young people are part of the future along with every other young person. We will have a broken nation unless we work as a team. The future of the campaign for inclusion lies within young people at the grassroots.
On calm days I find it easy
To walk my brother home.
He thinks that he is walking me.
He thinks that I might roam.
But it's I who walk my brother.
It's me who gets us there.
'Cause Nate is unpredictable.
He gets stuck counting stairs,
Or making calculations for
School dinners for a year.
Nate gets tangled in his own thoughts.
He has a lot of fears.
He can get shaky, agitated
When there is sudden noise.
Nate just won't stand for changes.
He's not like other boys.
"That sign was not there yesterday,"
He'll say, anxious, to me.
Or "But she's always here Thursdays,
Wherever can she be?"
He's got a sense of humour
Most people don't expect.
My brother is hilarious.
He's cheeky. He's direct.
I always walk my brother home
Although I'm only eight
He's Autistic. He's Fantastic.
My brother's name is Nate.
Early this year I took a phonecall in the ALLFIE office from a young woman working as a teaching assistant in a mainstream primary school. She was very upset. For some time she had been working on a one-to-one basis with a child with Down's Syndrome who was successfully being included alongside her peers. In fact, this was a school that successfully included several children with a diversity of impairments within the school.
However, with no warning, the Headteacher had decided to change the school's practice. This little girl, along with three or four disabled children from other classes, had been removed from her classroom and all of her friends and was being taught in a separate group in the corridor while a 'nurture classroom' was being set up as a permanent place for them. Three teaching assistants had been sent with the group to teach them full-time, so from now on they would not have access to a qualified teacher. Two of the children in this new group were children with a label of autism and had been removed for 'making noises' in the classroom. These were all children who were working happily in their mainstream classrooms, fitting in well with their classmates. Overnight, inclusion had effectively been reversed.
The Headteacher's rationale for this was that the children
would get more one-to-one attention with this arrangement and that their learning
needs would be better met. She told her staff team that the latest 'inclusion'
directive was to teach children with Special Educational Needs in 'Nurture
What a distortion of the concept of 'inclusion'! The young woman on the other end of the phone was trying to fight against it but found she had no power as a teaching assistant within the school. 'Surely this is exclusion?' she said, and I agreed with her, it was segregation, these children had been selected purely by their SEN labels. Their parents hadn't even been informed.
What is even more worrying is that, in the following weeks, as I spoke to more and more people about it, a picture emerged that seemed to support what this Headteacher had said. 'Oh yes, we do that in our school, lots of schools do it now', was a common response. There were different examples: some where the children would only spend mornings apart, some where children would meet up again for specific lessons like PE and art, or for lunch and play, but always the children were selected because of impairment - most often Autism. And while it is true that some children with Autism may need a quieter space to learn, there will always be other children in the classroom who would benefit from that too, children perhaps without a label who just prefer a quieter learning environment. Teaching in small groups is clearly a good idea for all children. And these examples that were given to me were never something the child in question had a choice over, the groups were made and that was that. Which is not the same as having an environment within a school that a child can retreat to (any child) if they feel the need.
I was confused. I had always thought nurture groups were a good thing, that they could be a tool for inclusion. At ALLFIE we had promoted examples of them in the past. Had we got that wrong? Or was this a new concept of them, a distortion of what had once been good?
Why Nurture Groups?
Nurture groups were first set up in the 1960's in East London by a woman called Margaret Boxall, an educational psychologist who believed that some children from vulnerable or stressful backgrounds would struggle with the demands of an everyday classroom setting and that what was needed was a more 'nurturing' environment, something closer to 'home' within the school where there could be a period of transition and adjustment.
A nurture classroom usually has more 'homely' features, such as a kitchen area and soft furnishings, where children are offered plenty of hugs along with their curriculum. According to the Nurture Group Network, a nurture group:
- is a small supportive class of up to 12 children usually in a mainstream Primary School.
- provides a secure, predictable environment where the different developmental needs of each pupil are catered for.
- is staffed by two adults, usually a teacher and a learning support assistant and pupils attend regularly for a substantial part of each week.
- focuses on emotional and social development as well as academic progress.
- ensures pupils remain on their mainstream class roll with an expectation that they will return to their class in 2- 4 terms.
Traditionally, nurture groups have been used with young children with a label of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, as a temporary and part-time placement. The main purpose of the placement is to enable pupils to return to mainstream classes on a full-time basis. A study in Enfield in the Nineties showed that 87% of children who had been supported in a nurture group were able to return permanently to the classroom, 83% without additional help. This compared to only 55% of children with similar problems who had not had access to a nurture group in school, 35% going on to attend special schools.
The Government's 'Excellence for All Children' Green Paper in 1997 supported the use of Nurture Groups as part of the school behavioural strategy and since then, their use in primary schools has been on the rise. In 1998, there were about 50 nurture groups in the UK. Today, there are more than a thousand. What is also clear is that there are now many variations of the original 'classic' nurture group, perhaps rightly so, for as we already know well about inclusion, it's success relies upon flexibility.
"The beauty of the model is that it's so flexible. All
the children go back in to the mainstream, but if one of them is having a
bad day in the classroom you can always say, 'Come and have a snack with us.'
And then they stay a little time, and feel better, and go back. And the results
are fantastic. Children sometimes have a dip when they first return full-time
to the classroom, but after two terms they are usually back on track."
Eileen Greenaway, behaviour support teacher
The Independent, Thursday, 6 September 2007
So, do nurture groups support inclusion? This is a complex
issue with no straightforward answer. Certainly there is evidence that they
do for children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulty labels, as in the
Enfield example. A national study in 2004 by Professor Paul Cooper of Leicester
University also found that nurture groups have a 'whole-school effect'. Not
only do children using the nurture group improve, but so do the other children
in the school, a more 'caring' environment is created throughout.
Professor Cooper also found there to be a "very quick turnaround in terms of kids' attitude to school". Children changed within weeks from doing all they could to avoid school to being "very pro-school. It is probably the single most successful form of mainstream school provision for children with EBD I have seen." TES, 17 Sept 2004
An Inclusive Future for Nurture?
For me, the 'inclusive' model of a nurture group would include several key things. Firstly, the pupil would be able to elect themselves to the group. This is not the norm. In the 'classic' nurture group, children are carefully selected using the Boxall 'profile' - a kind of questionnaire with 68 descriptions of behaviour and a point system, that charts the behaviour and responses of the child against those expected of "competently functioning children". It seems to me that this is open to subjective judgements being made, and issues such as classism and racism creeping in, particularly when the origins of Boxall's theories were based on underlying assumptions that deprivation and social upheaval cause a 'deficit' of nurture within poorer families. Besides this, a child who appears to be 'competently functioning' may well express a need for a nurturing environment if asked.
Secondly, the room would be open to any pupil, any time, a kind of nurture 'resource' - which of us doesn't need a bit of extra nurture some time or another? This would reduce the risk of the room being used as a 'sin bin' for children to be 'removed' to, and also the risk of stigma being attached to who is sent there. In one school, children in the regular classroom asked why the children from the nurture group had to come back to their class 'because they spoil everything'.
Thirdly, a pupil would be able to refuse to go. 'Nurture' shouldn't be compulsory.
And most importantly, no child would be put into a group defined only by the label that they are carrying. The recent examples I have been given of this are wholly different from the nurture groups set up for children who are withdrawn or disruptive, to help them adjust to a school environment, and a far cry from a model that will support inclusion. In fact they are the opposite, a barrier to inclusion. To remove children from their friends, their peer group, their school community and to educate them separately and permanently purely because of their impairment or condition is Medical Model practice, even if it is happening in the same building, or for only some of the time.
I'm reminded of Robin Hill's interview in Inclusion Now Vol.
24, when he said: "Most of all, remember that inclusion doesn't mean
sometimes, it means always".
A Cause for Concern - Heading for Inclusion's Response
to the New Government's Attitude to Inclusive Education
From the point of view of a national network of Head teachers and leaders within schools, dedicated to the principles and practice of inclusive education, we read with dismay the approach to be taken towards inclusive education by the new Government. Although much of the rhetoric chimes with our aims of an equitable society where all people are valued for their unique contribution, the detail within the document causes us serious concern.
Much of the Coalition Government agreement has transferred directly from the recent Conservative Draft Education Manifesto, which Heading for Inclusion first responded to back in February of this year:
'Better Teachers and Tougher Discipline'
Heading for inclusion want our children to have the benefit of highly trained, highly valued professionals whose love and dedication leads them on the path to socially responsible and fulfilling lives. We want all children to receive an education equivalent to the best that the country can afford. We want all children to attend their local school regardless of their needs and abilities. We want to see schools at the heart of communities, indeed, shaping their communities to become inclusive, supportive, welcoming and strong.
The focus on 'discipline' misses the point that our children's behaviour reflects the society in which they find themselves through no fault of their own. Even Ofsted have noted that in the best inclusive schools children's behaviour is 'excellent'. We do not believe that children brought up in schools segregated by their parent's economic status, or by their physical, emotional or intellectual needs will grow up to create the sort of cohesive society to which this manifesto claims to aspire.
'A Rigorous Curriculum and Exam System'
In this section we see the exact political and bureaucratic interference which the opening paragraphs claim to want to avoid: 'The reason we have fallen behind is that schools are controlled by politicians and bureaucrats with the wrong ideas'. Heading for Inclusion welcomes the day that politicians use their power to improve the education of our children. The manifesto claims that standards are falling against other nations - failing to recognise that it is the constant, blatant and misguided interference of both Labour and Conservative Governments which have shaped the curriculum and examination system which have caused this problem in the first place!
Teachers have consistently warned about the damage that proscription from above would cause. Heading for Inclusion would like to see education professionals taking charge of the curriculum and designing innovative, creative and responsive ways of engaging children, ensuring that they become life-long lovers of learning. If we trust the Governor of the Bank of England to set interest rates then we need to trust education professionals to set the educational agenda. Politicians of all colours need to stop interfering in education.
Cramming for 'rigorous' exams and forgetting what you have learned or why you have learned it is 'so twentieth century!' We need to find new ways to engage with young people and their future employers and to be creative in measuring what they have learned and where they need a hand with their next steps. Primary Headteachers have led the way this year with their SAT boycott - after which the sky did not fall down and children continued to learn!
'Giving Every Parent Access to a Good School'
This section causes us the most alarm notably for the phrase: 'call a moratorium on the ideologically-driven closure of special schools and end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools'.
The Heading for Inclusion network has been called 'idealistic' - and we probably deserve that title. Our promotion of inclusion, however, is not 'ideological' it is a moral, philosophical and ethical position. We believe in a society where all people are valued 'regardless of their achievements and abilities' (Micheline Mason).
In running our schools we cannot call upon the resources of an Eton or Wellington, we do not select our pupils or discriminate against them because of differences in academic, physical, emotional or social abilities. The Inclusion Movement was borne out of a desire from parents of disabled young people and from the young people themselves to play a full and active role in society. It is a reaction against the Eugenic concept of the simplistic medical classification of human beings.
In this manifesto the line is clearly drawn in the sand: if
you are fit and perform well in 'rigorous' exams you could potentially win
a place at the top table - if you are poor or have 'special needs' you will
be 'cared for' or trained for useful (manual) work. There will be a four tier
system of education: Private schools for the elite; Academic schools for the
middle classes; Academies for the poor and special schools where children
can be neatly hidden away.
The new schools will apparently continue to be 'Ofstedded' in a 'new and tougher regime'. Heading for Inclusion want all our schools to be models of best practice and a showpiece for the World. We do not believe that putting Headteachers and schools under constant threat of inspection is a useful way to achieve that. We would like schools to be supported by some form of Improvement Teams whose role would be to work with Headteachers to gain a thorough, in depth knowledge of the strengths and areas for development in their school. They would share good practice across schools, monitor performance, direct resource to where it is most needed and work in partnership with schools to make them as good as the best. These teams could function under the auspices of a strengthened General Teaching Council (populated by education professionals!), which would have the support and respect of the teaching profession.
David Cameron says: 'If we are going to mend our broken society and make British poverty history, we need to address the causes of poverty and inequality, not just the symptoms'. The Heading for Inclusion network would add - in order to achieve this we must work together, starting with the very organisation of our schools, to put the concept of inclusion at the heart of all that we do.
Chair of Heading for Inclusion
Heading for Inclusion can be contacted via ALLFIE, details on back page.
'Planning Positive Futures' Extended
Parents for Inclusion has delivered its four day 'Planning Positive Futures' course for parents - an introduction to disability equality and to inclusion - many times. A recent variation of this course was financed and organised by DCATCH (Disabled Children's Access to Childcare) Camden.
DCATCH brought together parents who want to actively influence the play provision for disabled children in Camden. As most of these parents' children attend special schools, participants and providers were - understandably - nervous of Parents for Inclusion delivering this course. Notwithstanding, 19 parents signed up for the first four days of our traditional Planning Positive Futures course and 13 entered a second phase for another 6 sessions. 12 of these parents completed an accredited element of the training.
Linda Whitehead and Micheline Mason facilitated the first four days of the well structured and tried and tested interactive workshop, which builds on parents' personal insights, strengths and knowledge. The importance of listening is practised and experienced. Micheline talks about the history of disability and the different models of disability. Together people explore their own experiences of friendship, play and having an ally and compare their experiences to those of their children. Ellen Goodey came as a guest speaker, leaving no doubt in anybody's mind that inclusion is the way forward.
The second phase of the training (6 days) was aimed at deepening the knowledge and understanding which parents were introduced to in phase 1. It also opened up the question about how to apply what had been learnt to play settings. Lucy Mason and two of her colleagues from the Hackney Inclusive Play team introduced their work during two of these sessions.
This is what the parents said when interviewed on the 10th day of the training:
Did the course meet your expectations?
'Yes, it did meet our expectations actually because we got a lot of information on things we never knew about. It kinda really brings us together. All of us; that we all share the same view as a parent of a disabled child and we just want things to be improved. And I think this has met our needs.'
'Yes, a lot of enlightenment went on through the course'
Had you heard about the Social Model?
Except one parent who had heard about the social model fleetingly, none of the other parents had.
'The medical and the social model, when you compare I think the social model is more useful for our children than the medical model.'
Did you know about history of disabled people?
'No. The history was quite surprising because it is not really publicised; the fact that you've watched the film about the history which for some reason is not normally discussed, it's quite hidden and it was very shocking and surprising the amount of things that used to happen compared to now. Because of my son being special needs but not having prior knowledge of it before my son, it was all a bit overwhelming to watch and see that things were really that bad.'
Were there any particular elements of the training which
made an impression on you?
'Listening to Micheline ..and know about the history'
'Lots and lots...most importantly.. when meeting the playworkers from Hackney...because they've got (children with) the same diagnosis (and) people will automatically think they'll like the same things and do the same things, which is not true. So that was really good, hearing that and that can be used in playsettings.'
'Meeting Ellen; to know that she is living on her own. The knowledge that there is something set up that works perfectly for her. There is a chance my child maybe living on his own and having all the people who he can choose who he wants a part of his life to help him'
'I loved doing the dream for D (the son)'
'To start looking at play when it is not about building skills (my son's skills) and it's more about free play and building relationships, that was a huge eye opener. That's how you develop your circle of friends. Play had a huge impact on our lives as kids and when we're younger and so to miss on that would leave a huge hole in our kids' lives. So it is really important'
What difference has it made to you and your family to have
'It made a huge difference because it kinda makes you a lot happier that you're bringing up a child now - rather than back then....'
'The difference it's made for me is we take time before dinner, we sit down and talk about what happened during the day and we actually listen to each other. With no background sounds or anything just in case something has happened at school. Also the children ask me what I've done today'
'Personally made me more confident and made me stronger. It's fantastic, it's given me more confidence in my child. I understand that although she is disabled she can do lots of things. And I have realised that I, my husband and our children have to make ourselves stronger in a way.'
One parent said that she started investigating making the more inclusive mainstream play scheme work and not push for the specialist provision.
'I've got a clearer idea of what I want for my child and also what he should be having, what he is entitled to.'
'To show what we and our children expect them to do for us in the borough. And show what kind of things we want our children to engage in.'
'For a long time I felt I was fighting a battle solo, which I have and I haven't because we have all been doing it quietly, or alone which is what the government wants for us to feel, like we're on our own or alone, but now we've come together we're going to be pleasantly surprising them.'
It has been an absolute delight to work with the parents in Camden and witness their increasing understanding of the real issues, their growing empowerment and the forming of a supportive and strong group identity.
It has also once more confirmed the nonsense about parental
'choice' - there was no choice for these parents as not one of them was given
true information about the alternative to 'medical model' and 'special' provision.
'It's been an emotional rollercoaster. We don't actually want it to end.'
At the time of writing, we are negotiating with Camden DCATCH
for the third phase of this project.
Parents for Inclusion
My Mum died on January 15th after a long battle with ill health and dementia. She clung desperately to life in her last years, terrified about what the future might hold for her son, my brother who has Downs Syndrome, in a world without a mother to love and care for him.
Her funeral, however, proved that her efforts at building community with other parents as they worked to change a world so very different from the one we struggle with today, had been very effective. Norah, the secretary of my brothers' school, and key organiser in the local Catholic Fellowship for Handicapped Children organised a party of Kenny's school friends and their parents to come along - not just to pay tribute to my mum but to support Kenny in his grief. Although they had run out of energy for fundraising and campaigning, their friendship and support had endured for over 40 years. It was a heartwarming reminder that in the long run, it is people and community that make the biggest difference in our lives.
For as long as I can remember, we had a plate on the kitchen
wall with a motto that my Mum tried to live by:
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.
Although serenity and wisdom flew out of the window from time
to time, Mum had the courage to raise Kenny in a time when the world thought
he should be in an institution.
I hope I'll be able to run with her baton for as many years.
Inclusion Now was sorry to hear about the untimely death of David Morris who died over the weekend of April 17th-18th. Dave was a well known and powerful advocate for all disabled people. Dave was a special school survivor and a grassroots movement person. As part of his role in advising the Mayor of London he pioneered the Disability Capital events. Most recently he has been involved in the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games managing the strategy to involve disabled people. But for us it will be his untiring commitment to inclusive education that we will remember him for.
Dave was not a 9 to 5 activist. There was no divide between
his personal and professional view when it came to his passion and commitment
to inclusion and equality. I first met Dave when he was the Director at HAFAD
and over the years he became a friend, great source of advice and support
and an excellent drinking partner!