Inclusion Now Articles Issue 29
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Headteacher Nigel Utton reports from a ‘Green Paper’ fringe meeting at the NUT Conference 2011
I have been an active member of the NUT since first becoming a teacher in 1990. This year I was pleased to be asked to co-lead a fringe meeting about the Green Paper on SEN and Disability.
I started by questioning the assertion that there is a 'bias towards inclusion'. My experience is that there is a bias against inclusion, as witnessed by the parent of a child at my school with Downs Syndrome who was told: 'Oh, she is one of those' and shown the door by several local schools - including an 'outstanding' one; and the three boys from different families who have joined my school with statements since January, whose parents have all been told by local schools that they cannot cater for their needs - I thought that was our job!
All boys are successfully being included, have made friends, are learning well and are an integral part of the school. And that is in a County (Kent) which fundamentally does not understand the concept of inclusion because we still segregate children at the age of 11 on the basis of a spurious intelligence test.
I pointed out that even when I worked in Hampshire, selection on dis/ability was alive and kicking with an 'outstanding' headteacher who would de-select children from nurseries by putting post-it notes on the wall of children who were not welcome at the school. Such ruses are not unusual.
The Green Paper points to the number of children with SEN and disabilities who are excluded from school. They have not made the obvious link between that and our very narrow curriculum and obsession with SATs/ GCSEs and comparisons of schools on restricted measurements which encourage schools to keep out messy children who don't conform to the 'norm'.
On a recent discussion on the Green Paper in my Heading for Inclusion page on the NCSL*, several Headteachers kept repeating that there are 'obviously some children who cannot be included’. So I posed the question, 'Whom is it acceptable not to include?' Nobody has yet been prepared to join that discussion.
At the fringe meeting, I asked my audience to indicate if they had included children as I went through a wide range of needs and disabilities - between us we had included all of them.
I thought that made the point quite well.
Nigel Utton is Chair of Heading for Inclusion
He is a co-author of Education, Disability and Social Justice published by The Policy Press on 8th June
*NCSL is the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services.
Progress towards a more equitable society where all can exercise their human rights, is often not straight forward. Powerful vested interests can subtly draw parents into a web, so confusing them about what is in their or their children's best interests.
Progress towards inclusive education for disabled children and those with special educational needs is a case in point. The current coalition Government says that it is committed 'to removing the bias to inclusive education in our English Education system' and supports more parental choice while introducing real term cuts across all schools and seeking to break up a thirty year consensus of moving towards more inclusive approaches.
At the same time, under the smokescreen of 'choice', parents and special schools are being urged/bribed to opt-out of Local Authority support and planning, to set up Special Academies and special Free Schools.
Under the last Government, after a wide consultation with parents and educationalists, the Lamb Inquiry identified 60 improvements that could be made to the education system for disabled children and those with SEN. Many of these have been ignored by the present Government, choosing instead to thrust the education of disabled children into the front line in their ideological battle to break up state education and prepare the way for much greater private sector involvement.
In the Green Paper 'Support and Aspiration', they hold out a panacea of 'parental choice', 'new special school academies', 'special free schools', removal of bureaucracy and the streamlining of the process of assessing needs and providing support, by providing a single assessment of disabled young people aged 0-25, for Education, Health and Care Plans. It can sound seductive to parents who have been fighting to get their disabled children a decent education.
Even Local Authorities that were exemplary in meeting the needs of disabled children are being forced to weaken their services by centrally imposed cuts. The National Deaf Children's Society recently reported that 40% of Local Authorities in England have cut the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf. In attempts not to cut class teachers, massive cuts programmes have been announced across Children's Services in nearly every Local Authority over the next four years. For example, in Barnet, Lambeth and the City of Leicester Educational Psychologists are being cut, in Haringey Speech and Language Therapists are being lost and Youth Workers are being cut across the country. Educational Welfare is a favourite target, as are Behaviour support teams such as in Tower Hamlets and Camden. All this can only be viewed as a cynical exercise to destabilise the provision for SEN and disabled pupils, to open it up to privatisation.
Yet the vast majority of parents of children with statements of SEN, those on School Action and School Action Plus are happy with the provision made for their children. There are currently 1.7 million children in the SEN system and all but 6% are in mainstream schools. There is not a huge rush to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) to get children placed in special schools. There are 254,000 children with a statement of SEN and 41% attend special schools. In 2009 - 2010 there were 1408 appeals to SENDIST which concerned where the child went to school, with 443 of these conceded to the parents. This is hardly evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with the SEN system, as claimed by the Government.
It is true that a minority of parents, particularly of children on the autistic continuum, are unhappy with the treatment their disabled children receive at school. According to the Council for Disabled Children many who have opted for special school claim to be refugees from the mainstream system where their child was bullied or their needs were not met.
Since 2002 all schools have been under a legal duty to eradicate disability related harassment against disabled pupils, and yet according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Triennial Review - ‘How Equal is Britain’ (2010) , 80% say they have experienced bullying at school. Since 2002, all schools have been under a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils in admission, education and associated services and exclusion. Yet exclusion of disabled pupils are 9 times higher than non-disabled pupils and 20 times higher for those on School Action Plus.
This is clear evidence of a lack of training and whole school provision to accommodate disabled pupils. Despite rhetoric and policies from the last Government about inclusion, over the last 13 years there were more children in separate segregated settings because of their SEN or impairment than when they came to power.
There were of course many schools where there was an inclusive ethos , positive attitudes and good inclusive practice-around 20% according to OFSTED (2004). A larger number of mainstream schools (around 60%) were adequate but with much room for improvement. 20% were not implementing inclusive practice. Much of this poor practice results from the old deficit model, as viewing the problem within the child and their impairment - Medical Model thinking. The good practice is in schools which are prepared to change and adapt policies, practices and curricula, to accommodate different styles and types of learning and assessment.
Such schools also have a leadership whose ethos is informed by equalities and inclusion, where staff are supported in resources, staffing and training disability equality from a Social Model. Interestingly, neither the Education Bill nor the Green Paper address this success of inclusive education, or analyse how to make it more widespread and effective, in line with international treaty requirements, such as Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
In addition, the Green Paper says the Government will make it more difficult for parents to choose a mainstream school for their disabled children, bringing back caveats to Section 316 of the 1996 Education Act, which were dropped in the 2001 Act. Therefore, the ‘cost’ of mainstream education and the ‘appropriateness’ will be reintroduced, bringing back the position of 'compulsory segregation' against the wishes of parent and child that existed before 2002. This fits in with the new harsh approach to exclusion with no appeal, which will lead to an increase in the exclusion of disabled pupils. Already there is much evidence of a disproportionate number of disabled pupils being excluded from Academies.
Teachers need more training on how to run inclusive classrooms. Nearly every class now includes disabled students. The Government are suggesting that the expertise of special schools is key to developing training for mainstream colleagues on how to include disabled children. This is to misunderstand the so-called ‘specialist’ expertise of special school colleagues, which by its very nature does not fit into the mainstream setting.
The gains made in the development of inclusive education are now under threat by Government. However, good inclusive practice was always initiated and led by teachers and head teachers, seeking greater equality for disabled pupils and students. It will be harder in the coming months and years, but we are engaged in a struggle for the heart and soul of not only our education system but our society. We will need to keep inclusion as one of our goals for a good local school for every child in every area, rather than the inequality of choice and privatisation.
World of Inclusion
ALLFIE has started to pull together our response to the Government's ‘Support and Aspiration: A New Approach to Special Educational Needs and Disability’ Green Paper. It is important that the Government receives lots of responses so we thought it would be helpful to provide information and suggestions for what you might want to include in your own response.
The Green Paper is divided into five different sections with a list of questions.
1) Early Identification and Assessment
2) Giving Parents Control
3) Learning and Achieving
4) Preparing for Adulthood
5) Services working together for families
ALLFIE will be focusing on the first 4 sections.
Section 1. Early Identification and Assessment
Introduction of a single "Education, Health and Care Plan" for disabled people from birth to 25 years of age. The Education, Health and Care Plans would have the same statutory status as SEN statements. Voluntary organisations are likely to take on the single assessment process coordinator role.
Questions you may want to answer:
Question 2: Do you agree with our proposal to replace the statement of SEN and learning difficulty assessment for children and young people with a single statutory assessment process and an 'Education, Health and Care Plan', bringing together all services across education, health and social care?
Question 3: How could the new single assessment process and 'Education, Health and Care Plan' better support children's needs, be a better process for families and represent a more cost-effective approach for service
Issues you might want to include in your answer:
Single Assessments may be a good idea to avoid multiple assessments, but who will have control of plan?
Assessment should take a Social Model of Disability approach focusing on the removal of barriers.
Assessment should be based on the assumption of inclusive rather than segregated education.
Concern about the lack of joined-up-ness between health, social and education budget holders
Section 2. Giving Parents Control
The Government wants parents to have choice over which state funded school their children will attend. More information for parents about what services are available, by getting local authorities and schools to publish a Local Offer, setting out which services/support will be available for parents of disabled children (including those with SEN labels). Making personalised budgets available to families in lieu of direct services.
Questions you may want to answer:
Question 10: What should be the key components of a locally published offer?
Question 11: What information should schools provide to parents about their SEN provision?
Question 14: Do you feel that the statutory guidance on inclusion and school choice, Inclusive Schooling, allows appropriately for parental preferences for either a mainstream or special school?
Question 15: How can we improve information about school choice for parents of children with a statement of SEN, or new 'Education, Health and Care Plan'?
Issues you might want to include in your answer:
Real choice of school provision can only be achieved by giving children and young people a legal right to a mainstream education and by the removal of the bias towards segregated education.
All mainstream schools must have a duty to promote inclusive education.
The Government should build the capacity of mainstream schools to increase their confidence to develop inclusive learning environments.
Concern about lots of free special schools opening which will lead to less money being available for mainstream schools to provide the required support.
What is the legal status of the Local Offer?
The Local Offer should promote inclusive services and support.
What services will be on offer to parents & disabled young people to support their mainstream education choice.
Section 3. Learning and Achieving
The Government want young people to feel safe in school by getting schools to tackle bullying. Schools must offer a broad and balanced curriculum, that can be differentiated to meet individual needs. Special school teachers to provide SEN expertise to mainstream teachers, alongside an online library of medical explanations of impairments which are developed by Teachers Development Agency. The Government wants to get schools to work collaboratively with each other and where necessary to use alternative education providers to work with pupils at risk of being excluded. Increase the special school provision available through the setting up of free schools and alternative provision. The Government also wants to use separate measures to record disabled young people’s achievement such as P-Scales, Engagement Profile and Scale and Inquiry framework.
Questions you may want to answer:
Question 21: What is the best way to identify and develop the potential of teachers and staff to best support disabled children or children with a wide range of SEN?
Question 24: How helpful is the current category of BESD in identifying the underlying needs of children with emotional and social difficulties?
Question 25: Is the BESD label overused in terms of describing behaviour problems rather than leading to an assessment of underlying difficulties?
Question 31: Do you agree with our proposed approach for demonstrating the progress of low attaining pupils in performance tables?
Question 32: What information would help parents, governors and others, including Ofsted, assess how effectively schools support disabled children and children with SEN?
Issues you might want to include in your answers:
How should disabled young people be included in lessons, extracurricular activities and field trips, etc.?
How should the school organise and differentiate the national curriculum for all learners?
What could the different methods of assessment and testing be?
Simply focusing on individual behaviour will not reduce bullying in schools. Bullying comes through prejudice, ignorance and segregation of disabled young people, away from their local communities.
How will special school teachers be able to build the capacity of their mainstream colleagues without the necessary mainstream experience?
Teacher training should focus on inclusive teaching methods and be based in mainstream schools with outstanding practice in the needs of disabled children.
No mention of building the capacity of mainstream schools to meet the learning needs of disabled learners.
Alternative provision suggested is of a segregated nature, provided by special schools.
School Performance tables have had a negative impact on mainstream schools wanting to be inclusive.
Why have separate achievement measures for disabled young people?
Alternative to 'standard' achievement measures are not considered of equal value.
Have an inclusive approach to recording achievement, through measuring progress.
Section 4. Preparing for Adulthood
The Government wants all young people to have choice between vocational educational, training, work placement opportunities and getting good support to find work.
Questions you may want to answer:
Question 33: What more can education and training providers do to ensure that disabled young people and young people with SEN are able to participate in education or training post-16?
Issues you might want to include in your answers:
Disabled young people are three times more likely not to be in education, employment or training.
There is no mention of what expectations there will be for both colleges and universities to develop inclusive educational opportunities for disabled learners.
Education providers should not lose money if disabled students enrolled onto accredited courses do not gain a qualification.
Colleges should be providing support so that disabled students can attend mainstream courses of their choice.
Evidence (facts & figures & stories)
Your response will be much stronger if you are able to include a personal story, research or statistics to support any points you are making.
The Government deadline for responses is 30th June. If you need any assistance then please contact Simone or Tara at the ALLFIE office (details on back page).
For more detailed information about what to include please go to www.allfie.org.uk
"Inclusive Education is a Human Rights issue and can only be achieved by a fundamental change to existing education systems and an end to segregated schools, classes, units, courses and programmes."
This statement sounds like the mantra of the UK Inclusion movement (and of course it is). In fact it's a recently agreed position by a group of education professionals who are part of a European project sharing good practice on inclusive education. ALLFIE is the UK partner, alongside partners from France, Italy, Romania and Iceland.
The project has involved groups of disabled people, parents and education professionals visiting each partner country to find out about the local education system, the progress being made and the challenges they face in developing inclusive education practice.
I have been on all trips and whilst there have been some tricky moments and challenging conversations, particularly in relation to different understandings of what is seen as inclusion, integration or out and out segregation, there have also been some truly memorable highlights.
One of those big highlights for me has been the shift in thinking amongst the partners. It would be fair to say that at the beginning there was not a shared vision that inclusion was for all disabled young people - despite the focus of the project being all about inclusive education!
For me that shift in thinking came about because disabled people, family members and professionals have been meeting together, talking about their experiences - what works and what doesn't work - and agreeing TOGETHER what each group needs to support each other to make inclusive education a reality for all disabled young people. It has been a great reminder for ALLFIE about the value of working in alliance with others - truly powerful stuff!
A good example of this is a parent from one of the French partners whose three disabled children are all in special school and from the beginning of the project she has been a strong advocate of special education. This all changed when she saw children with similar levels of impairment as her own children included in a school in Iceland. I remember her saying 'if this is what you mean by inclusion then of course this is what I want for my children'.
The professionals have often felt like a tough nut to crack, but in Romania and with some 'gentle' persuasion from Simone and I (representing UK professionals), the group not only signed up to ALLFIE's Principles for Inclusive Education, but there was also unanimous support for the statement above - when you think that at the beginning of the project, many of the professionals were, at best, sceptical about inclusive education, this has been an enormous shift.
Another equally important highlight has been the opportunity to visit schools in each of the partner countries. It has often been hard to not compare practice in each and we did our best not to as the project is about learning from each other by sharing information and practice. The constant challenge has been understanding the true nature of the practice in schools when the visits are often short and numbers of people for each visit have been large. It is inevitable that, at best, you get a snapshot of what is going on. (see Inclusion Now Vol. 28 for a report on a school in Iceland)
In Italy for example, where there has been legislation supporting inclusion since the late 70s, we saw lots of integration and some inclusion, but I was really impressed by attitude of the teaching staff I met who seemed to believe that all disabled children and young people could be part of the mainstream. There was equally strong support for inclusion from the parents we met but all agreed that there were still huge challenges in terms of inclusion beyond school - sound familiar anyone?
Romania proved to be both challenging and surprisingly positive when you consider the very recent history of institutionalising disabled people. Romania has recently ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and there was a real determination amongst the disabled people, parents and professionals we met, to use Article 24 as the framework for transforming their education system.
This project has also given the UK the chance to showcase the great inclusive practice happening here. The visit to the UK focussed on schools we knew about in the Nottingham/shire and Derby/shire areas. We identified 10 schools, including infant, junior, primary and secondary levels, all of whom have truly inspirational head teachers and staff teams - all committed to inclusive practice which in the current political climate feels ever more challenging.
For example in Seely Infants school (Nottingham) we saw fantastic peer to peer support; in Dale Community Primary School (Derby) we saw a community led hub of support for parents; in Elmsleigh Infants School (Derby) we saw a commitment to the learning of sign language for all children and staff; at Ellis Guildford Secondary School (Nottingham) we saw self esteem and empowerment support groups for disabled and non disabled students.
So a big Thank You to all the head teachers, teaching staff, young people and parents involved in the visit - your leadership and commitment to inclusive education has had an impact in France, Italy, Romania, Iceland and of course the UK and hopefully beyond - 10 fantastic new recruits for the Heading for Inclusion network I hope!
The shared barriers to a fully inclusive education system in each of our countries are predominantly about each of our education systems being so highly competitive and that each measures success in a very narrow and inflexible way. These barriers, alongside the ever present attitudinal barriers, unite us in our separate and shared challenges to bring about system change in each of our countries. The learning from this project will also help us understand better what it is that needs to change in terms of support, curriculum, training, testing and assessment, and who we need to involve in making that change happen.
Some people think that disabled people are so different to them, but let me tell you something, my brother is not different to anyone else!
My brother is disabled so he needs extra help with all his work and things like that.
Luke is a fantastic little bro.
Like any little brother he can be irritating at times but he likes playing with me in the garden and joining in with me on the trampoline and on the slide.
He goes to the same school as me, St Mary's CE Primary School, which is great and all my friends are great with him. Lots of his class mates know that he needs more help and making friends can be hard for him but this is the same for many people!
Having Luke at our school has taught everyone that we are not all the same and not to be frightened of people who are different.
Luke has lots of friends outside school as well - the children next door, he also has a friend from Holland! He loves our pets, two cats and our two loveable hamsters.
We have lots of fun as a family going on trips to a museum or to the park for a picnic or even into London on the bus or train which Luke loves.
He is truly the best, or as some people say,
Back in February, Nadia Clarke led the march and gave a speech at the 'Northern Towns Against Cuts' rally in Halifax. Her speech is reproduced here:
The cuts planned by central government are unfair. These cuts are going to undermine disabled children, adults and other groups of vulnerable people.
We moved to Halifax so I could go to a mainstream school with my brothers and sisters. I had brilliant support from special educational services in Calderdale. Thanks to specialist staff with the right skills I was included in both primary and secondary school and now college.
These services are being cut across the country - this includes speech therapists, educational psychologists, behaviour support and equipment.
This will make it difficult for lots of disabled children to go to local schools in their communities. More children may need to go out of the area to go to school which will cost the council more than £100,000 for one child.
I am very independent and I have a team of staff who I pay and work for me. The Independent Living Fund is to be closed down and disability living allowance is being changed. Disabled people will lose choice and control and will end up in care services. This means that disabled people will end up with greater needs at high cost.
Over recent years disabled people have worked to improve independent living and not being reliant on traditional services. We will have a tough battle on our hands over the next few years.
Meanwhile few disabled people are in meaningful employment. We all join together to tell the government we are fighting for our rights and an equal society.
Thank you for listening.
There was a time when I stopped going on about the Social Model of Disability. I thought, foolishly as it turns out, that everyone involved in education must by now understand what this means.
I thought that I could talk about the 'next stage' in promoting disability equality: the finer points of making reasonable adjustments, using effective learning agreements, promoting a disability confident organisation, discouraging disclosure whilst respecting confidentiality and so on and so on.
But actually this proved not to be the case. Most people, even those working in education who (to give them the benefit of the doubt) have the desire to make this a fairer world, have no real understanding of the Social Model of Disability.
So now, whenever I'm working with a group of people in a training situation or at any kind of meeting where we are talking about equality for disabled people, I begin differently. I start by telling them that we are going to talk about a lot of different things in the next few hours, but if I achieve only one thing - that they go away really understanding and able to take the Social Model of Disability into their own practice, then I will feel that the session has been successful. They seem to like this approach. It something they can hang on to.
Why do we still need to keep banging on about the Social Model? Well, here's a few reasons to be going on with:
1. The Equality Act
The new Equality Act replaces the old Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and other anti-discrimination legislation. The Act now includes nine 'protected characteristics' and although the protection for disabled people remains the same, not everyone is clear about this. As educators worry about promoting the needs of people in all the protected groups, there is a danger that the specific rights and entitlements of disabled people will be lost. This is a particular worry as Theresa May, Home Secretary and Minister for Equality (can you see my ironic smile as I type this?) is currently 'streamlining' the requirements of the Act in order to 'avoid unnecessary bureaucracy', i.e. watering down the specific requirements.
2. The Current Financial Climate
I'm not saying anything you don't already know when I write that these are difficult times for disabled people. We need to be able to argue with confidence that although making adjustments for disabled people does not always require a lot of money (and sometimes really effective adjustments can be made with no cost at all), there is a financial implication in ensuring inclusion of disabled people in their education and in their personal and social lives. Money must be ring-fenced to employ specialist assistants, pay for assistive technology and improve access to buildings. If those responsible for our children's education really understand and take on the Social Model, they will be our allies in the fight for making sure that money is allocated by the government to ensure inclusive buildings and inclusive practice.
3. Giving People the Language
'In order to be able to understand something, you have to be able to name it', as we used to say in the heady days of 1970's feminism. People are still uncomfortable about the language they should use. Should they say 'people with disabilities' or 'disabled people' (and what was wrong with 'handicapped' anyway?) Why does this trainer insist on using the ugly word 'impairment' when disability is so much softer on the ear?
A clear understanding of the Social Model gives people the language to talk about why (unless you're someone's doctor) knowing the details of 'what's wrong' with them is not your job. It helps educators to understand how and where they can take effective responsibility for improving things. Which leads us to:
4. Developing a Disability Confident Organisation
You give people the theory, you give them the moral argument with lots of examples of how they can take effective responsibility for identifying and removing the barriers that prevent disabled people from being an active part of society and achieving their full potential, you give them the language to explain the social model way of thinking and they are on the road to becoming a disability confident organisation. Non disabled people become our allies, disabled people take an active role in this and are no longer blamed for things they can't change. Everyone in the organisation becomes clearer and more confident about their responsibilities.
Here's one definition, by no means the only one but a reasonable place to start:
“The Social Model of Disability takes the view that society creates barriers that 'disable' people from participating on an equal basis with others and that wherever possible, these barriers should be removed. This way of thinking takes the focus away from what is 'wrong' with a disabled person (their impairment or condition) and puts it on what we should all do, in alliance, to bring about this change. It enables us to define specific areas for change, and in particular to identify negative attitudes, communication barriers and physical access as major areas of responsibility”
So let's run, hop or wheel a bit further with our reliable old friend that is the Social Model of Disability. There's life in the old dog yet.
While the UK Government is set on 'removing the bias to inclusive education', it is an important lesson that most countries are increasing their efforts to build and develop an inclusive education system in line with Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Richard Rieser, who is currently researching a re-write of ‘Implementing Inclusive Education’ (2008 Commonwealth Secretariat) draws our attention to some promising practice he has found.
‘A Promising Path to an Inclusive Life’ showcases Alberta’s programme of inclusive post-secondary education for adults with developmental disabilities. (Uditsky and Hughson, 2008) Many of the students failed to get an inclusive primary or secondary education, but students with learning difficulties attend regular classes in a wide variety of courses and faculties in universities, colleges and technical institutes. They make friends, belong to clubs and participate in informal and formal life of these tertiary establishments. Many of the students have graduated. 70% go on to careers, employment and a richer life in the community.
The programme started 20 years ago and in 2008 there were more than 70 students supported in each college by a few extra staff. When it is working well it is almost invisible. Non-disabled peers have also gained a great deal. Each student has an individualised course supported by peers and teachers. Teachers report that it has stimulated learning in the class and broadened experiences. Plans are well advanced to take the programme into every post-secondary establishment in Alberta.
‘A Promising Path to an Inclusive Life’ is published by Alberta Community Living Association.
The DVD ‘Living the Dream’ (12 mins) provides an excellent overview of this project.
Living the Dream - Inclusive Post-Secondary Education
New Brunswick, Canada
Inclusive Education has been mandated by provincial legislation since 1986. The approach withstood several reviews, the latest of which, the McKay Report, makes interesting reading and makes some far reaching recommendations that will be useful in any developed country heading to inclusion. In 2007 the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission developed and published a 'Guideline on the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities’ in public schools. These go further and are simpler to understand than the recent draft EHRC (UK) guidance for schools:
“What does ‘accommodation’ mean?
Accommodation means removing barriers and taking steps to engage students in a way that helps them reach their potential both academically and socially. A student with a physical disability may need accessible facilities, special equipment or technologies. A student with a mental disability may need alternative teaching methods, adjustments to the curriculum, one-on-one assistance from a teaching aide or some time in a specialized group setting. Solutions must involve respect for the student's dignity. The guideline emphasizes the importance of supporting students with disabilities so they may be included in regular classes as well as ensuring they have access to extra-curricular activities. Reasonable accommodation will be different for each student or parent and it is important to meet the individual's specific needs instead of relying on a single approach. Special needs and abilities, which may develop or decline over time, require that accommodations and strategies be assessed early and reassessed frequently.
Education providers have a responsibility to:
Anticipate and plan for accessibility and inclusion;
Ensure staff have the training they need to accommodate students with a disability;
Assist with assessment and education planning b with the help of experts or specialists as needed;
Deal with accommodation requests in a timely manner;"
If these are not done then they can be challenged in the courts.
McKay Report (2006)
New Brunswick Human Rights Commission (2007) 'Guidelines on Accommodating Students with Disabilities'
The Education Review Office (2010) examined how inclusive mainstream schools are and found 50% were, 30% had some promising practice and 20% were not. This investigation and a consultation gave impetus to the new ‘Success for All’ 2011-2014 inclusive Education Strategy.
New Zealand schools' accountability for recognising and responding to the diverse needs of students increased with the introduction of the Special Education 2000 (SE2000) policy and the 1999 revision of the National Administration Guidelines (NAGs).
NAG 1.iii and NAG 1.iv make it obligatory for schools to "identify students and groups of students (a) who are not achieving; (b) who are at risk of not achieving; (c) who have special needs [including gifted and talented students]" and to "develop and implement teaching and learning strategies to address the needs of [these] students." NAG 2 links together curriculum, assessment and staff professional development, along with an on-going programme of self-review.
To help schools develop their capabilities to meet these objectives the Ministry of Education commissioned Diane Guild and Deborah Espiner to develop school based training programmes and materials that are very useful in the UK context. The ‘Three R's of Diversity’ Programme- ‘Recognise, Respect and Respond’ - trialled with 300 schools in the Auckland area and is now rolled out nationally. The materials cover 8 stages and are designed to be delivered whole-school and across teams.
See material on line: http://www.tki.org.nz/r/diversity
Having set out with strong aspirations in White Paper No 6 (2001) to develop an inclusive education system, this has been held up coming out of Apartheid, by a lack resources, training, and new commitments to develop special schools. Now the Inclusive Education Directorate are showcasing good practice on line with 12 films:
Hlanganani Video Series -
"Towards an Education that is Inclusive"
Also on line now is the World of Inclusion (2008) film ‘Developing Inclusive Education in South Africa’ which examines developing practice in 10 primary schools:
Also, the Department of Education has produced guidance for the development of Full Service and Inclusive Schools:
Directorate of Inclusive Education, Department of Basic Education (2010) 'Guidelines for Full-service/Inclusive Schools', Pretoria, South Africa http://www.thutong.doe.gov.za/ResourceDownload.aspx?id=44323
“I have a child with a statement who is in year 5 of his primary school he was held back a year in nursery. We have been told he must transfer to secondary school at the end of year 5 so will not move at the same time as his friends. If he stays until end of year 6 we have been told he will go into year 8 of secondary school. Is this the case?”
“The decision over placement in a school year is usually an issue for Headteacher discretion. The Headteachers of the current and future schools would need to agree in order for the child to remain in his current academic year, rather than transferring to be with his chronological age peers. However, as with any school based discretion it is likely that Headteachers of local authority (LA) maintained schools would be heavily influenced by the LA's view.
In this case, if the child's statement specifies, as special educational provision, that he is to be educated in the year group one year below his chronological year group, then that must be arranged. The child cannot be moved to his chronological year group unless the statement is amended in this respect.
If the statement does not specify this, there are two possible ways of challenging any decision to change him to his chronological year group. The first, and possibly the best, way may be by way of an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. Where a child has a statement of special educational needs there must be a formal review every year at which the child's progress is discussed and recommendations made as to any amendments which are needed. There should in particular be a review early in the child's last year in primary school at which secondary education is considered, and the secondary school statement must be issued by 15th February of the year when the child is due to move. If the LA is proposing that your child move to secondary school at the end of this year they should have issued an amended statement by now, and given you notice of your right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal within two months of the date the amended statement was sent. If the LA has done this, and if you are within the time limits for an appeal, you can enter an appeal specifically asking that the statement continue to name the primary school and that it should specify that your child is to be educated in a class one year below his chronological age. You would need expert evidence to support the need for this, and you should also take advice generally on the statement so as to use the opportunity of the appeal to improve provision for your child.
If the LA has not issued an amended statement yet they should be reminded that they are breaking the law and pressurised to issue the new statement. Action can be taken through the courts in your child's name (and therefore possibly with the help of legal aid) to enforce this if necessary. If they issued the new statement more than two months ago then regrettably an appeal to the Tribunal is not likely to be admitted unless you have a good reason for missing the deadline.
If the child's statement does not specify the requirement that he is placed out of his chronological year group, and if a tribunal appeal is not possible, then Headteacher discretion applies. If the Headteachers refuse to use their discretionary powers then there might be a legal challenge to this decision. This legal action is an application for Judicial Review, i.e. an application in which it is argued on behalf of the child that the school has taken an unlawful decision and the court is asked to make orders to rectify this. In this type of case, if it can be demonstrated that the Headteacher is making a decision based on the operation of a blanket policy rather than on the basis of what the child needs, it might be argued that s/he is "fettering his/her discretion" which in this context is arguably unlawful or irrational. It is however difficult to make this type of case and the chances of success would depend on the strength of the evidence. It would be necessary to satisfy the court that it is appropriate and necessary for the child to remain within his current year group as an educational need, and it is likely that independent expert evidence would be required for that purpose.
Any claim for Judicial Review must be taken within a maximum of three months of the date of the decision being disputed, but it is important that it is issued without delay. If parents think this might be appropriate then they should seek legal advice as soon as any decision is made.”
Victoria Edwards is a trainee Solicitor at Maxwell Gillott
Eleanor Wright is a partner at Maxwell Gillott
Maxwell Gillott is a firm of specialist solicitors, providing legal advice and assistance for clients who face difficulties with the key public services of education, health and social services.
Celebrating our Struggle for Equality will be the theme of UK Disability History Month 22nd November to 22nd December 2011
History in the Making - on Wednesday 11th May more than 5000 disabled people marched in the 'Hardest Hit' demonstration, protesting at the singling out of disabled people to take the brunt of both Local Authority and central Government cuts.
It is important at this time of cuts and attacks on Inclusive Education (Green Paper - Removing the Bias towards Inclusion), that every workplace, school, college and university educate their staff and users on Disabled People's Rights and the struggles we have had to undergo in the past and are still undergoing to get what everyone else takes for granted. Think now about what you can do in November/December to take Disability History Month forward where you are.
UKDHM has printed an A3, illustrated broadsheet, entitled ‘Learning the Lessons from History’. This gives a brief overview of what has happened to disabled people in the last few thousand years and how in the last 120 years we have organised a fight back that has led to the rights in the Equality Act 2010. It also points out some of the ways these rights are currently not implemented with high levels of hate crime, bullying, unemployment and reduction in benefits. You can order copies from UKDHM (10 for £3.00, 20 for £5.00 and 100 for £10).
UKDHM has also printed sets of 20 cartoons on postcards drawn exclusively for us by cartoonist Dave Lupton aka Crippen. These are £5 per set plus postage and packing £1.50.
We also have 3 different A3 posters demonstrating the difference between the Social and the Medical Model, also drawn by Crippen (£1 each or £2.50 for 3 plus £1.50 postage)
Lastly, UKDHM has badges for £1.00 each, sold in batches of 10.
Please make cheques payable to United Kingdom Disability History Month, and send to Unit 4x Leroy House, 436 Essex Road, London N1 3QP.
Contact Richard Rieser UKDHM Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com
Every once in a while there comes a film that rises above the mediocrity of theatrical releases and the hype of international film festivals. Such a film is ‘Benda Bilili’ which roughly translates to:
‘Look Beyond Appearances’.
My first viewing was at the 2010 London Film Festival which was followed by a Q & A session with its French documentary makers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye. To label the film a ‘musical documentary’ is to underrate its taut narrative structure that, more spellbinding than many works of fiction, sees the gradual rise of a disparate group of black Congolese musicians from roughsleepers affected by polio and streetchildren languishing in poverty to a musical sensation entertaining enraptured audiences in UK, Europe and Japan. Theirs is an infectious, dance-inducing music, a combination of Congolese rumba, funk and blues. The lyrics, written by the group members, lay bare the harsh reality of their lives.
The French film-makers, with a meagre budget, first follow the musicians as they struggle to eek out a living in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. Nothing it seems deters this group of musicians - when they have nowhere to rehearse, they find some outdoor space in the unlikely confines of the local zoo. When one of their modest houses literally burns down, they start a market stall to survive. Particularly endearing is a young, lanky boy, Roger Landu who, with nothing more than a tin can and a piece of taut wire attached to it, creates a lute-like sound. The bright lights of the ‘other world’ they aspire to, of London and Europe, seem a distant dream when the boys are seen sprawled out on the ground against the grim reality of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over a period of five years, the film-makers record the musicians as they struggle to keep their band alive. With hope in their hearts and a steely determination not to give up on their talents, this band finally gets to fulfil their dreams to travel and play on an international stage. At this particular time in musical history where promotion is often all it takes for a band to get recognition, ‘Benda Bilili’ demonstrate the enduring power of real, home-grown talent and draw us into their uplifting and truly inspirational story. You cannot come away from hearing them without being moved by their music and the magnitude of their transformation.
For those who missed the live band at the Roundhouse in Camden in May 2011, Trinity Film has now released the DVD ‘Benda Bilili’. With a ‘12’ rating, it can also be used as a useful resource in the secondary curriculum, in Citizenship, PSHE, RE and music classes.