Inclusion Now Articles Issue 31
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Moments of Inclusion in Ulverston
Direct Payments for Educational Support in Further Education
'Telling Our Stories' & 'Resistance' Event
Free Special Schools & Academies
An Interview with 10 year old Elliot Crompton
Commonwealth Round Table on Inclusive Education
Reviews - ‘If You Listen to Me, I’ll Listen to You’ and ‘Check it Out - 1 Mission’
What Did You Learn at School Today?
Attempt to Overturn Section 316 at Court of Appeal Fails
Legal Question No. 5
The language of inclusion is commonly used across all sectors of education. However, the meaningful practice of inclusive education is less common. Despite Article 24 of the 2010 United Nations Convention promoting an international shift for human rights equality through inclusive education, the practice of segregation and devaluation of disabled learners remains a stubbornly accepted way of schooling in the United Kingdom, both in special and mainstream schools.
Despite such apparent contradictions between what policies say and what people do, in our schooling systems, in relation to disabled students and those with additional support requirements, there exist examples of exceptional inclusive practice. Ulverston Victoria High School is a place where such refreshing expressions of inclusion were observed.
In this school the term inclusive education was rarely used nor did they present their practice as exceptional. The school promoted "good" schooling which included the building of good relationships, student self confidence and active listening to learners.
The feeling of being in a good school was tangible; it was observable in the moments when people were relating to each other, when older people listened with care to younger people. There was a listening for understanding. Listening was respectful. The same listening was afforded to a student who did not use speech to communicate. There was a philosophy in the school that valued individuals and understood that 'because a person did not use speech - this did not mean he had nothing to say'.
Adam is the student; he had an expressive sharp and humorous personality with a deep thirst for learning, demonstrated by a desire for serious, enjoyable schooling. Adam's particular impairments, whilst significant, were secondary to his Right to belong with his local school. A Right recognised and struggled for by his family, understood and acted upon by those who worked with him. A Right expressed by the head teacher who, when asked why he welcomed Adam into the school, was incredulous: "Why? Where else would he go? This is his local school!"
Adam uses a communication aid to participate independently in school and uses a power wheelchair to navigate around the school, connecting with class mates and to follow a timetable designed through negotiation with Adam. Although Adam does not use speech, his voice is heard, understood and respectfully acted upon.
It was authentic listening, in particular from Adam's key support staff, Viv Buxton, Lucy Allen and Elaine Cowperthwaite, that resulted in a curricula mix for Adam that enhanced his educational experience and highlighted his hidden talents. Each member of the support staff had developed particular skills and interests, from their contact with Adam. The staff worked collaboratively, encouraged innovation and had an enthusiasm for learning that was contagious. Adam's "additional support" was not seen or presented as burdensome or a problem to be isolated or devalued but as an opportunity to learn more about his ways of learning and how teachers could try different ways of teaching to penetrate the curriculum and connect with this young energetic mind. The support staff successfully connected the networks of relationships into valued learning environments for all who participated.
There was serious laughter during the drama session, where Adam's impairments were skilfully exploited by the teacher, as was his fascination with mathematical concepts during a regular maths session. In these two settings staff assisted Adam with his communication aid, making sure his narrative performance, in a scene from Blood Brothers, was delivered with an appropriate tone and the required gravitas. The timely intervention for mathematical sparring with his classroom teacher demonstrated his skill at numerical conversation. It was refreshing to observe and be reminded that ‘Inclusion Works’ when there are people committed to making it work.
Adam's family was crucial in the design and construction of his Statement of Special Educational Needs. The Statement is a legal framework to provide particular support. Adam's Statement did what statements were originally designed to do, to ensure all parties worked collaboratively with the individual learner as the primary focus.
Adam's Statement also highlighted the importance of an appropriate method for his communication. If you do not have a meaningful communication, you do not have a meaningful relationship; if you do not have a relationship you seriously inhibit constructive learning. Communication is essential for learning - it is Life Giving and Life enhancing.
Good schools call upon outside help if such expertise does not exist within the school to support particular individuals. It is not uncommon for schools to highlight a student's learning disability but remain mute to their own teaching and organisational difficulties.
Marion Stanton was called into Ulverston Victoria High School to advise on how to teach Adam by using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to make adaptations to the curriculum for his hand use difficulties. Marion is a long-time advocate for effective communication in the education service and works with Adam, his peers, his family, the school management and the teaching and support staff to orchestrate an overall approach all in the support of Adam.
Adam's relationship with his peers group highlighted the importance of friendship at school. An amusing discussion took place with Adam and his Circle of Support, where the focus was on the use of "teenager language". Such imaginative and practical initiatives encouraged a network of informal supports that can act as cement to self-confidence and bear witness to a person's right to belong.
Whilst Adam was originally the key focus for the creation of the Circles of Support in the school, he was not the only beneficiary of the collective wisdom generated among this group of young people.
Effective leadership comes from people who are prepared to serve. The School Head and Manager of Support Services enabled others to work creatively, when meeting the support requirements for Adam - appreciating different staff characteristics, different skills, but underpinned by a common set of learnt values. This team approach started before Adam joined the school, planning to avoid the potential barriers that can be created in any place of learning. This team approach was monitored to ensure the focus was always on Adam's learning requirements. The support manager insisted "We are not perfect, we have so much to learn".
When Adam was asked what made his learning at school good, he carefully but confidently typed:
"My TAs are great. The teaching is really good".
Adam's classmates also commented:
"It doesn't just include white people but all people are included" Katlin
"All types of people have an option in this school. They always sort out bullying" Vicky
"I like how supportive teachers are" Jess
"It’s good because it includes people straight away, you don't have to wait" Rebecca
A school where teachers want to learn from their students and where you don't have to wait to be included, this is a school to be welcomed.
Inclusive Education like any effective learning can be messy; it is not neat and tidy, often unpredictable despite meticulous planning. In such a setting relationships have to be, at times, painfully honest. Inclusive education is not the absence of struggle or argument but it is the presence of equality and fairness, where people can feel safe enough to be different and have a school where it is safe to make mistakes.
Adam's family has learnt from his early experiences of statutory services that they have to remain continually vigilant about his wellbeing as he moves through life. However, feeling safe in the knowledge that your child is enjoying being at school and observing him flourish in the educational opportunities available and knowing he is a part of the school is of immeasurable value.
And knowing that your child is "missed" by friends and teachers at school, if he is not there could be described as another moment of inclusion.
Allfie welcomes the Government debating the Special Educational Needs (Direct Payments) Order in both Houses in Parliament. This hopefully will provide an opportunity for disabled learners to have access to direct payments instead of educational support services provided by education providers.
At the moment too few disabled learners are enrolled onto mainstream accredited courses. Disabled Learners with learning difficulties are FOUR times more likely to be on a segregated learning foundation course, preparation for independent living or employment course than on any other course.
"A great deal still needs to be done to ensure that, at Year 11, all young people had real choices. For many of those with complex learning difficulties and or disabilities at the age of 16 and over, the choice of courses…were very limited" (OFSTED 2010)
Having direct payments, as a way of getting educational support, will allow disabled young people a greater opportunity to participate on mainstream accredited courses, especially in further education. ALLFIE would like these pilots to establish good practice in providing disabled young people with the support they need in order to flourish in mainstream further education. For this to be achieved, Government policy on further education funding needs to be amended so that education providers have a new requirement to provide one to one support packages for disabled learners.
ALLFIE is committed to the 12 pillars of Independent Living. ALLFIE has always supported the Independent Living movement, which has campaigned extensively for direct payments instead of institutionalised services. Prior to the introduction of direct payments disabled people were restricted in their ability to participate in mainstream opportunities, many of which non-disabled people take for granted.
There are plenty of examples of disabled learners relying on education providers' support services which often results in restricted access to mainstream accredited courses, particularly in further education. Disabled young people requiring support are often enrolled onto segregated 'independent living' and 'employment preparation' courses for learners with learning difficulties, without their consent.
"I'm sad to say our experience in pursuing a college place for Janet was extremely painful and disheartening. We were immediately directed to the SEN department which only offers a Life Skills course, no chance of performing arts. At first I was confused when we were told ‘we don't have a performing arts course’, but I knew I'd seen wonderful photos of students on the course in the college prospectus. Then of course it transpired that the SEN department doesn't offer a performing arts course. What the SEN department did offer was trips into the local town centre to learn how to shop, sitting at a desk doing maths and English and art work. Not surprisingly we were not jumping with joy and enrolling Janet onto the course......" (Parent of a young disabled person)
ALLFIE sees real potential for disabled learners to have greater choice of mainstream education / training provision if direct payments in lieu of FE support are available for disabled learners.
ALLFIE knows that people may already be using direct payments in some form to provide support in accessing and staying in education. We are keen to collect a set of examples where direct payments have been helpful and also to identify any barriers to using them that could help feed into their development within education.
For more information or to send an example contact Simone Aspis:
0207 737 6030
Disability Arts at M Shed, Bristol's new Museum
On Saturday 14th of January Deaf and Disabled artists and film makers met at Bristol's M Shed to celebrate UK Disability History Month. Studio 2 at M Shed was full and overflowing, well over 150 people came along throughout the day and what a great day!
Last year in Bristol we celebrated UK Disability History Month with an evening of film screenings by local deaf and disabled artists. This year we decided to hold our Disability History Month arts event alongside Liz Crow's installation ‘Resistance’ during it's run at M Shed museum.
Things got off to a great start with a series of comic short films, including ‘Stubborn and Spite’ from Lou Birks, ‘Amazing Art’ from Katherine Araniello and Aaron Williamson and the ‘Deaf Person's Guide to the Sound Sensitive’ from David Ellington and James Banks. PhD student Mike Mantin followed telling us something of the history of a local building, now called The Guild but which started life as The Bristol Guild of the Poor Brave Things!
Theatre took over the middle of the day. First, Firebird Theatre presented poetry from their ‘Nine Lessons of Caliban’, a work that has developed from the Firebird's previous work on The Tempest:
'When you are called a name enough, you get to think it is right, you cannot get away from it.'
In 2011 ‘All the King's Fools’, a company of actors with learning difficulties, researched the role of natural fools in Henry VIII's court and presented a series of promenade performances at the Hampton Court Palace. At M Shed the actors presented two films of their work and performed their Tudor Fart dance to wild applause!
During the afternoon visitors were treated to a special showing of ‘Resistance’ complete with The Red Notes Choir, a presentation on Disabled People's History from Richard Rieser, poetry created in British Sign Language from Donna Williams and a screening of three thought provoking films from deaf film makers introduced by David Ellington.
Liz Crow's installation ‘Resistance: Which way the future?’ takes as it's starting point the Nazi programme of mass murder of disabled people and asks what does this history mean for us today? And Telling our Stories at M Shed was very much about what we all can learn from disabled people's history. We had a great day, lots of fun and lots to think about and we were delighted so many people turned up.
A big thank you to everyone who contributed, everyone who came along and M Shed for having us!
As we move into the New Year Mr Gove, Secretary of State for Education, is messianic about his school reform programme and the push for academies and free schools claiming that they bring increased choice for parents and pupils and drive up standards.
Despite his exhortations against ideologists who support inclusion and comprehensive schools and that we need to rely on facts, Mr Gove is the real ideologue. His ideology of Local Authority bad, private sector good, with creeping privatisation and the involvement of private sector such as Ark, Harris, Oasis and UCT and many other provider chains moving in to run the 1500 academies already established. At present they are not allowed to make a profit from these schools. But they can charge inflated salaries and management fees and channel off state funding.
The market to service these schools will be where they make their profit, as more and more Local Authorities are no longer able to provide SEN Support, Social Work and Psychology and the money to do this is removed from their budget. This market is worth £2billion a year. The loss of local democracy and accountability through parent governors and local councillors being replaced by local trusts made up of cronies, leave parents only to exercise control through consumer choice of schools.
Existing schools can become Academies by a vote of the Governors, where they are outstanding, or be forced by Gove where they are not improving. Converting schools get a £25,000 grant to set up a charitable company and get their plan agreed by the Department for Education (DfE) and a financial agreement is then signed with the Secretary of State. They do not have to teach the National Curriculum and they can vary wages, terms and conditions for their employees and the length of school days and holidays. These flexibilities can be beneficial, but they can also lead to problems. Academies do have to abide by the Equalities Act and the Special Educational Provision for pupils with statements, though many ignore this. Academies can also have sponsors who can build or convert buildings into new schools. For Converters, the public buildings the schools are in are leased by the Trust for 125 years. Often sponsors make their money by building the school and then are paid a service fee for 30 years, as in Public Finance Initiatives, where the money with interest is also paid back.
Again, this does not count as profit, but as in all these schemes there is less money in the communal pot for education of children. In the Government report on SEN in October 2010it was stated that children with SEN in the first 200 Academies did significantly worse than children with SEN in other state schools.
In spreading Academies to Special Schools there has so far been very little take-up, mainly because special schools rely on Local Authorities agreeing to place disabled children there, where parents express preference for special schools. However, this is just a matter of time, as new guidance has been produced by the DfE making it easier for special schools to opt-out of local Authority Control in 2013.
Local Authorities are meant, by law, to keep the provision for children with special educational needs in their area under review to ensure there is adequate provision. Some Local Authorities have met this requirement by creating resourced provision in mainstream schools, while others have in recent years built new special schools using Building Schools for the Future money. Most authorities have a mixture or a continuum and use a medical model approach to place the children according to their label. Groups of parents, teachers or other community interests are now being encouraged to set up Free Special Schools, Independent and non-maintained Special Schools (where Local Authorities place children with statements when they do not have provision).
Although more than 20 applications were made for Free Special Schools only 3 were approved and will open in September 2012. The three that were approved were Lighthouse School in Leeds for students with Autism aged 11-19, Rosewood school in Southampton, a non-maintained school for students with ‘Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty’ and Peterborough City Academy to co-locate a school for autistic pupils.
This last is sponsored by a chain of secondary academies (Greenwood-Dale) and is supported by the Council as they have insufficient provision and cannot get funding from the Department for Education to build new local authority special schools or resource bases. The sponsors say teachers will be able to come to the co-located school from the Academy to teach subjects, not that the pupils can be included in the mainstream.
Rosewood was set up 60 years ago by parents as a charity and it also provides respite. As a Non-maintained school, Southampton and surrounding Authorities pay for the placement of 30 statemented children with £864k a year. The Rosewood School will get significantly more money than this in their budget from the Secretary of State.
Of the three, only the Leeds Lighthouse school fits the Government model of ‘providing greater choice for parents’ with a consortium of parents, teachers and business. The problem is as there is no new money and Leeds would not be allowed to build a new school to meet this need, the money will come out of the budget for all the remaining Local Authority schools.
Free Schools when set up in the 1970s (such as Croxteth in Liverpool) were a radical response to Local Authority school closure plans in the inner city and a radical curriculum that was relevant to working class life and achievement flowered. These radical experiments in education were stopped by both Labour and Tory Governments. Free Schools now being introduced in the name of choice are about breaking up state provision and eventually introducing commercial forces, as has happened in Sweden.
It is interesting that two of the bids that were not progressed arose from the very real gaps that now exist in provision, as Local Authorities are prevented from innovating inclusive provision, by regulation from, and lack of money from the DfE.
Clearly, with Local Authorities under massive pressure from draconian cuts, parents can be seduced by the argument for academies, free schools and choice. We know from history that the mirage being painted by Gove with his false statistics will end up as a desert and a wrecked state education system that is exclusive, not inclusive.
For parents who care about the inclusion of their disabled children they must get organised into local coalitions, get on governing bodies and fight to make schools comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, which can ensure full inclusion. Meanwhile we need to intensify lobbying on all political parties to come up with an effective plan for good inclusive comprehensive quality education in every school.
Elliot is 10 years old. He lives in Haslingden, Rossendale with his mum, dad, brother and sister
What kind of school do you go to?
It's a mainstream primary school in Haslingden but I think it's more than that. It's an amazing school with lots of facilities. We have an Astroturf pitch, a climbing wall (which the pupils helped to design) and free-running. There are out-of-school clubs too, so there is always a lot to do. It's quite a large school and has about 400 pupils. I'm in year six now but I wrote my poem when I was in year five.
What is school like for you?
I'm really very happy in school. The teachers try to decide things for us in the fairest way possible. This year I'm the Key Stage 2 team captain for my school team, Saturn. I'm in the school choir too and we practice each week. In addition to usual lessons my school has a social skills group, which I attend.
In social skills, children in Key Stage 2 with similar difficulties work together twice each week to learn the skills which we find difficult. We learn from both the social skills teacher and from each other.
At the end of November 2011 I went on a five day residential trip to Wales with some of Year Six where we took part in outdoor activities. That was really exciting and the longest I've ever been away from my family for.
What do you enjoy?
My favourite lessons are Maths, ICT and Science. I like Maths because the answers are right or wrong. I can't be a little bit right or wrong in Maths, unlike Literacy. I think I'm quite skilled at ICT and there are lots of fun things to do on computers. Science is interesting because I enjoy finding out and understanding about things in factual ways so I like doing experiments.
What don’t you enjoy?
I have to attend handwriting lessons in school which I don't enjoy at all. I really struggle to write neatly but I don't think the lessons have helped to make it neater or better at all. We also have to do talking homework on a topic set by a teacher and I feel that it's often not interesting or relevant to me. I do it because I have to but I'd rather talk about topics that are interesting to me.
My teaching assistant really helps me when I'm struggling but is great at knowing when I'm doing fine by myself and leaving me to get on with my work. My class teachers have all been fantastic and sometimes the school SENCo works one-to-one with me too which I enjoy.
What doesn't help?
Occasionally the other children don't quite understand me. They can say thoughtless things but I have learned how to get help when I need to rather than letting it upset me too much. Even so, it doesn't happen often and mostly we all get along well.
Is there anything you would change about the support you get in school?
No, I think it's perfect how it is.
What would you say to teachers who are including young people like yourself?
I'd like to say thank you for making school fun, exciting and fair so that children like me can attend mainstream schools.
The ice lacquered trees were calling and beckoning through the snow. Time appeared to have frozen, along with the world and sun. The army of snow had invaded the land! The children, however agile, were being thrashed by snowballs. The icy winter feel filled the air as the sparkly crystals of snow danced gracefully down from the puffy clouds above. Various children were building snowmen, snow forts and igloos to make their parents proud. If you had looked skyward, all you would have seen was white as snowflakes covered all the world from view. Needle-sharp icicles hung dangerously from every surface possible, as pointed as knives. Oh, how wintery... how wonderful it was.
Elliot, 9 years.
Claire - Elliot's mum
“Elliot was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome when he was 6 years old and it was a huge turning point for us all. As a family, we learned how to cope with Elliot's additional needs and get the support we all needed. It has involved working closely with Elliot's school, including setting up our own support group there. I also undertook a certain amount of personal learning including learning Makaton as a communication tool and completing The National Autistic Society's Early Bird Plus course. Forming a network of friends who also parent children with additional needs has been invaluable because they truly understand how difficult it can be, coupled with how precious any triumphs are. It hasn't always been easy but parenting children with additional needs has taught me a lot about humility and acceptance. I don't wish things were different, Asperger's Syndrome is a facet of Elliot's personality; something that makes up who he is, without it he'd be someone else. If I had one wish, however it would be for much greater understanding of unseen disability. As children like Elliot appear physically the same as most children it is difficult to have people understand that any disability exists”.
What would you say to parents who are thinking about a mainstream school place for their disabled child?
“I think I'd probably say do your homework. There are lot of mainstream schools and although all of them are theoretically inclusive, in reality some are far better at delivering inclusion than others. Have a look at the schools during a real day, not just an open day. Ask questions about what provisions are in place for supporting additional needs. If you can, talk to parents / carers of other children with additional needs at the school and decide if what you hear is what you'd like for your child's education. Finally, I'd say that it won't always be easy but a mainstream education can be very beneficial to disabled children's development; I think that my son has learned from the other children and I'd really like to hope that through him, they have learned acceptance and understanding of disability diversity”.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. Traditionally not much has been done for the 400 million disabled people who live in it. Recently the Human Rights Unit has produced a pamphlet on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in January this year a Round Table was held in London on implementing Articles 24 and 27 of the UNCRPD.
The Round Table brought together experts from UNICEF, International Labour Organisation, World of Inclusion, Disabled People International, the Commonwealth Disabled People's Forum and Young People’s Forum, as well as country representatives from Australia, Barbados, Canada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Uganda and the UK.
Over two days, 42 participants from 14 Commonwealth countries examined the issues and shared their experiences of promoting inclusive education - the process of enabling all children to learn within mainstream school systems without segregation - and sustainable employment for persons with disabilities.
"There is a long road ahead to ensure that disability rights are seen as central to the development agenda. This Round Table can play an important part in continuing the dialogue that will ensure the Commonwealth is able to use its influence as a development partner to embed this understanding ever more widely," said Mr Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General. He added that he was heartened by the progress made by Commonwealth member states towards improving access to education and employment under the UNCRPD and that the Secretariat was ready to assist those member countries who had yet to ratify the Convention with the implementation of its provisions.
27 commonwealth countries have ratified the convention with African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries lagging behind. In many countries that have ratified the Convention there is little sign of implementation of inclusive education.
The round table heard from Richard Rieser, who has just completed research for the 2nd Edition of 'Implementing Inclusive Education: a Commonwealth Guide' for the Commonwealth Secretariat. He found that barriers include:
Under estimating the number of disabled people. If there are 1 Billion disabled people in the world, disabled children in the majority world will be 250-300 million (twice current estimates).
Children with disabilities account for over 40% of children not in primary education.
Drop out and failure to complete primary education is much higher for children with disabilities.
Not transitioning to secondary and higher education is much higher for children with disabilities.
Many states only record 2-3% of children as disabled. Recent work through UN Statistics estimates in many countries 14% of children are disabled. This leads to lack of provision and training for teachers on methods of inclusive teaching.
What is needed to achieve Education for All Disabled Children? Some of the solutions put forward at the Round table included:
Twin track approach - adopting an inclusive child centred approach to teaching supported by expertise on making accommodations, providing support and individual programmes for disabled pupils in mainstream schools.
Increase in funding from $16b to $24b per year, to take on extra cost of support, equipment and training. Monitoring funding by DPOs & NGOs and community.
Projects supported directly on the ground by parents and local community.
Mass awareness raising. Parent education.
Training all trainee and in-service teachers in methods of running an inclusive classroom.
Flexible Curriculum and Assessment.
More reliance on Peer support.
The Round Table heard from 2 representatives of the Commonwealth Disabled Young People's Forum. Zara Todd, in reply to a question, explained the difference between integration and inclusion:
'Integration is about putting someone into an environment where they are expected to fit into it. Inclusion is about making changes to ensure that everyone can be included, rather than expecting the person to change.' Zara also used her presentation to highlight the need for financial support to enable Commonwealth Youth disability Activists to meet face to face.
Abia Akram from Pakistan, also part of the Young People's Forum, talked about her education and how the transition from an education centre for persons with disabilities to a mainstream school highlighted that teachers and students needed greater training on working with children with disabilities: "It was difficult to work in the mainstream school system because of the attitude and behaviour of the teachers there" she said. "If I did not complete my assignments they would say, "It's okay, we can manage". At the time I was not a wheelchair user but they would discourage you from using one if you needed it as they believed they could cope with getting you to your classes. They would use the word 'special' for persons with disabilities. The fear is that a child with a disability will not attend school because of the attitudes he/she will face there. Persons with disabilities do need extra facilities at schools to enable them to use the building, but they should not be considered 'special' because of this, they are like everyone else."
Professor Ron McCallum, Chair of the UN Disability Committee, said "Without education, it is not possible for we persons with disabilities to live life to the fullest. Without education, it is almost impossible for we persons with disabilities to obtain employment. Without employment, we are unable to provide for ourselves and our families."
At the end of discussions participants reviewed key areas to aid the implementation of the UNCRPD, including: bridging the information gap and developing a knowledge network which is easily accessible; building capacity within national human rights protection mechanisms and in governments and civil society.
It was resolved that mainstreaming disability into the development agenda and advocating for the implementation of the UNCRPD should continue at forums such as the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in August and the Conference on Sustainable Development in June.
It is also to be hoped, after 4 years since their inception that the Commonwealth Disabled People's Forum and Commonwealth Disabled Young People’s Forum will get the support they need to bring a strong voice of disabled people to all these fora and to build capacity across the Commonwealth for Disabled People’s full inclusion.
Richard Rieser, Treasurer CDPF
Review by Zara Todd
'Check it Out - 1 Mission' and 'If You Listen to Me, I'll Listen to You' are two interesting resources for those working with inclusive groups of disabled and non-disabled children and young people, produced by Children's Voices.
Both kits provide basic practical information about operating inclusive groups of young people and organising activities for groups of disabled and non-disabled children and young people. Both resources take a creative approach to youth work and include a diverse group of disabled young people. One area that the toolkits are particularly good at addressing is the inclusion of disabled young people with non-verbal communication.
'If You Listen to Me, I'll Listen to You' seems to focus on communication and it was great to see the young people in the supporting DVD developing relationships with one another as they learn more about different ways in which people communicate. It would be really interesting to see how the facilitators altered their practice as they got to know the group and what they learned from the experience - that was something I felt was missing from the resource. However, it was great that the voice of young people was strong throughout the resource.
In 'Check it Out - 1 Mission' a group of non-disabled and disabled young people investigate play and leisure activities in Sheffield. The DVD supporting the publication brings to life the activities that the group do and the voice of the young people in the project. It would have been helpful if the resource discussed the logistics and barriers around locating and doing the activities more, but the film was great for showing the diversity of activities available to inclusive youth groups.
These packs are particularly useful for somebody starting out in inclusion or turning a segregated group or provision into an inclusive one. Both packs are very much an introduction to inclusive practice and do not introduce new ideas but as introductions to inclusive groups they are done very well and the accompanying DVDs are particularly good at communicating the Young People's voice.
For more information go to:
Children’s Voices on 0114 228 8556
ALLFIE is working on an exciting project funded by Heritage Lottery and supported by the British Library, to uncover and record the educational experiences of disabled people over the last 100 years for the first time.
The project will build a unique collection of personal memories and histories of school education. Designed and delivered by disabled people it will become an oral history resource that will also be an archive in the public interest.
It will also be a practical tool for schools and other education providers to bring to life debates on citizenship, equality and diversity bringing to life disabled people's history. Using the interviews ALLFIE will create a learning resource for schools and colleges, including lesson plans and a qualitative evaluation of learning and attitudinal changes. The school pack will include a DVD.
ALLFIE believes in uncovering an invisible and vital part of society's history the project will capture the changing educational experience of disabled people over the last century with the aim of creating a timeline of change between the old fashioned and paternalistic view of disabled children and young people as 'uneducable' to a more inclusive and empowering approach where disabled children and young people are valued and welcomed into their local school and communities.
It is only in the last 30 years that disabled people have had an opportunity to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in mainstream education settings. In the first half of the 20th century disabled children and young people were routinely sent to residential institutions, often many miles from their families and communities. Some of these institutions provided an educational element, but the focus of the placement was to 'fix' the disabled child.
This approach was driven by the traditional Medical Model of Disability which identifies the person with the impairment/health condition as the problem, rather than the society we live in that creates barriers to disabled people participating as equal citizens.
ALLFIE wants to interview at least 50 disabled people to record a wide range of educational experiences to reflect the changes in society over this time. The interviews which began in January 2012 will be carried out by disabled people over an 8 month period. All of the interviews, in their entirety, will be housed in a public archive at the British Library.
ALLFIE will work with five London schools to develop and trial the schools pack which may feature as a key resource for the proposed Disabled People's History Month and as part of the citizenship element of the national curriculum. ALLFIE hopes this will create an opportunity for disabled and non-disabled children and young people to learn together about disabled people's history and will link to other existing citizenship work from marginalised communities.
A public-access website which will include a historical timeline will also be created as part of the project.
ALLFIE may not be able to interview everybody who responds. However, we will let people know whether or not we will be interviewing them.
For further information visit www.allfie.org.uk or contact Kevin Caulfield, Project Coordinator
Phone: 020 7737 6030
On 2nd November 2011 an attempt by Bury Local Authority (LA) to undermine the existing case law on Section 316 of the Education Act 1996, as amended by the SEN Disability Act of 2001, came to an embarrassing halt.
In this case the child's mother had clearly expressed a preference for a mainstream primary school, where he had been placed since Reception. 'John'* has significant learning difficulty described as 'global delay'. He was already going through school a year behind his chronological age at the schools instigation.
At the Annual Review in 2009 the Education Psychologist, the Outreach teacher for Complex Learning Needs, the Headteacher and the SENCO of ‘H’ Primary School all suggested he should be moved to a special school for children with ‘Severe Learning Difficulty’. They argued that he was socially isolated, was making no progress and that it was beyond reasonable to expect his class teachers to differentiate work for his 1:1 Teaching Assistant and that he was only on Level P5 or P6.
Bury LA then changed 'John''s statement to name ‘M’ Special School, against the wishes of the parent. So Mum, assisted by IPSEA, appealed to the SEN Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) under Section 326 of the 1996 Education Act, about the content of the statement. While the appeal was waiting to be heard Bury moved 'John' to the special school, but a deal was agreed that he would stay at ‘H’ Primary School a day and a half a week until the Tribunal decision.
In March 2010 the First Tier Tribunal went well, despite more evidence of ‘H’ Primary School not being appropriate from Bury LA. The Head of ‘M’ Special School and the Head of Resourced Provision at ‘G’ Primary also gave evidence that 'John' should be in a special school for children with ‘Severe Learning Difficulty’.
The Tribunal upheld the appeal from Mum, as the Law is clear on this issue and changed Part 4 from naming the special school to specifying a mainstream primary school, though not the existing ‘H’ Primary, as they clearly did not want 'John'. Mum found ‘L’ Primary School in Bury where 'John' was welcomed and then embarked upon a much more productive education.
The professional judgement of appropriateness was removed from Section 316 following a campaign from the Alliance for Inclusive Education back in 2000 - the SEN Disability Act 2001 amended the 1996 Act so that appropriateness and the efficient use of resources could not be used to compulsorily segregate disabled children where parents wanted mainstream.
Only if it could be shown that the presence of the child adversely affected the efficient education of other children, after all possible reasonable adjustments had been made, could it then be argued that parental preference could be over-ridden. The campaign to get this change in the law was a long and difficult one with hundreds of families sending evidence to the Government that their disabled children were being forced by Local Authorities and the Courts into special schools against their and their children's wishes.
It appears Bury LA was taking David Cameron literally and seeking to remove this right to inclusion where parents choose it. They appealed to the Upper Tier Tribunal and again got the same interpretation of the Law. So they sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal that it could not be right to keep 'John' in a school of his parent's choice when (in their opinion) he was not gaining anything from it and that his presence in a mainstream class would adversely affect the efficient education of other children, as his teachers and his school had to spend time making reasonable adjustments for him. Leave to appeal was granted.
Now all this had taken a long time and 'John' was at his new school and making good progress. The headteacher of ‘L’ Primary School was not asked to give a view and instead a new report was constructed for the High Court by Bury LA, repeating that 'John' could not make progress in a mainstream primary.
Fortunately, the Head of ‘L’ Primary School got hold of the Local Authority report and critiqued it with her staff. They wrote:
'John' does not distract others in his class'.
'School staff know 'John' has made progress in every area of PIVATs and the curriculum. Although these are small steps, they are huge steps for 'John'.
'He now has a wider vocabulary and holds conversations with his peers and adults'.
'Staff feel that 'John' does interact and chooses friends and peers’.
‘We are pleased with his progress in socialising'.
'He does not disrupt the class and he is probably one of the most kind, caring, genuine members of the class'.
'We have other pupils who are working significantly below age related expectations in every class'.
'John' gets highest quality 1:1 support and still engages with his class'.
This email painted a very different picture and was sent to IPSEA and Bury LA the day before the Court of Appeal hearing. As the three judges said, they had expected to clarify an important part of the law, but instead Bury ignominiously had to withdraw their case in tatters.
I was in Court, as I had been called as an expert witness, for the parents against Bury LA. My witness statement made it clear that there are many pupils like 'John' in mainstream schools. They make much better progress that those with similar types and degrees of impairment in special schools, when the school has a ‘can do’ attitude, is flexible and willing to try out what works and give adequate support. As I ascertained when I filmed in 40 mainstream schools for the DFES in 2003-4, it is the leadership of the headteacher and the inclusive ethos of the school that are most important here.
Clearly 'John''s Mum's determination has paid off and the honesty and determination of the staff of ‘L’ Primary School to demonstrate the misleading picture Bury LA was giving the Court was very important. We can expect many more challenges to inclusive education from this Government and those who wish to deny the human right to inclusive education, but at least this underhand conspiracy to change the law against inclusive education has been seen off. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
*PLEASE NOTE: All names have been changed in this article to protect the child’s anonymity in this case.
"IPSEA are very concerned about the number of cases we are seeing where Local Authorities are guiding professionals to recommend parents take their children out of mainstream school placements and place them into Specialist schools. Many Local Authorities seem to misunderstand the legal test outlined in the Education Act 1996, Section 316 and that parents have a right to a mainstream education for their child if they want it, unless the child's being in the school will result in an inefficient education of other children and no reasonable adjustment can be made to prevent this. Legally this is very hard test to establish and IPSEA are aware of only a handful of cases where this has been successfully made by a Local Authority over the past 10 years."
Jane McConnell IPSEA CEO
"I have been told my son has behavioural difficulties and he has a statement of SEN. He has been temporarily excluded from school a number of times for behaviour related issues and I was asked to keep him at home when his class went on a trip and when the Ofsted inspector was due to visit. I have been told that the next time he is excluded it is likely to be a permanent exclusion. What are my legal rights if this happens?"
Should your son be permanently excluded from school the head must inform the Governors and the local authority of this within one school day. The Governors must meet to consider the exclusion between the sixth and fifteenth school day after the date they receive the notice and you should be given the chance to put your case to them and ask questions. The Governors must then write to you within one school day giving their decision and although they can overturn exclusions, in practice this is unusual. If the exclusion is upheld they should send a letter explaining this together with other information and giving you a right of appeal to an independent appeal panel (IAP).
The IAP must usually meet no later than fifteen school days after the appeal was lodged and is made up of three or five members who should be independent of the school and conform to the official guidance. The IAP decision is binding on all parties and there is no further right of appeal. However, if the panel have not followed procedure or have made a mistake in law then it may be possible to make a complaint in the courts by way of Judicial Review. This must be done as soon as possible and at least within three months of the date of the decision letter.
The IAP can decide to uphold the exclusion or can overturn it if they consider that either the child did not do what they were excluded for, or that permanent exclusion was inappropriate in the circumstances. If they overturn, they can either order reinstatement or that the exclusion is removed from the record but the child goes to a new school. If you do not want your son to go back to that school you should let the IAP know this.
The school must not discriminate against disabled pupils. It is possible your son may meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore be protected from discrimination. The school must make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils and this could include adjusting school discipline sanctions where appropriate or disregarding behaviour which is a result of their disability. If the school has failed to make reasonable adjustments for your son it could be argued that the exclusion was unlawful disability discrimination. This should be raised both at the governor's meeting and at the independent appeal panel, and if they find discrimination has taken place they should overturn the exclusion.
If you consider that the school are discriminating against your son by fixed term excluding him or in the way that they deal with him, but he is not permanently excluded then you may be able to make a disability discrimination claim to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. Any claim must be lodged within six months of the date of the discrimination. If the Tribunal find that there has been discrimination then they can order a number of things such as an apology or staff training, but they cannot order financial compensation. If he is being internally excluded, or you are asked to keep him at home, this may be an unlawful exclusion, and may be subject to a challenge by way of Judicial Review through the courts.
Trainee Legal Executive, Maxwell Gillott Solicitors
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.
If you have any legal questions send them in to Inclusion Now and we will see if we can answer them.