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Inclusion Now Articles Issue 33

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Inclusion in Afghanistan

SEN Legal Clauses – It Could Have Been Worse
         
Sterre's Story

A Future in Politics

Tributes - Gerry German - A Life Well Spent

Disability History Month 2012

What do Parents who were Trained by Parents for Inclusion Get Up to?

The Inclusion Training Pathway

Review - Safeguarding Deaf and Disabled Children

A Ballad Moves - Review of 'The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong'

Legal Question No. 7

 



Inclusion in Afghanistan

You're going WHERE?' was the anxious response from most people when I told them that I had accepted a job in Afghanistan, where I would spend a month evaluating an inclusion project for the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA).

I reassured them (and myself) that the SCA are an established non-governmental organisation who have remained in Afghanistan during the past 30 years of turmoil, determined to find ways to empower poor families in rural areas.  With 99% Afghan staff, longstanding relationships with local communities and the chance to evaluate my two passions: inclusion and children's participation, it was an opportunity I couldn't possibly ignore!
While there are many Afghans with physical impairments due to the fighting, inclusion of children in mainstream schools is new in Afghanistan.   There is a lot of social stigma towards disability and families often keep their children hidden indoors, with no expectation that they should or could attend school. However, the Government are committed to changing this, and in recent months created a department for Special and Inclusive Education, who have been impressed with the SCA's inclusive education and employment project.

SCA worked with local communities to find disabled children and then supported them in their homes or at local centres where they are taught basic life skills, literacy and numeracy in order to prepare them for school or employment. They also supported the schools by training teachers, visited included children regularly and provided extra classes for them at the centres. This led to over 770 children (40% girls) being successfully included in schools over the 2 years.

During my month in Afghanistan I spoke with over 260 people - Government officials, including those from the ‘Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled’ (it took me a while to find out 'martyrs' meant war veterans), SCA staff, Head Teachers and teachers. However, the greatest privilege was visiting villages and towns with SCA staff working directly with families and schools in order to meet the children and families themselves. 

For cultural reasons I worked with mothers and fathers in separate groups and each had its own challenges.  I have to confess that when 10 fathers walked in wearing what I considered to be 'Taliban clothes' I was a bit anxious!  My own prejudice made me fear they would resent me for being a) Western b) female and c) working. However, within 2 minutes these softly spoken men had introduced themselves, told me they wanted the best for their child, thanked me for coming to listen to them, and of course the clothes they were wearing are what all Afghan men wear, not just the Taliban. All of this made me feel humbled and somewhat foolish! 
 
The mother's groups were different. While some were confident and vocal, others arrived covered in sky blue burkhas that were only lifted once we closed the door. Even then some mothers turned away or would only whisper to their more confident neighbours due to the presence of my male interpreter, Farhad, anxious that interaction with a non-family member would bring shame upon then.  As they became more comfortable and opened up they told me stories of being ridiculed or blamed for their child's impairment before the SCA came and educated the wider community. Now they feel more included as a family in social functions and community life.
What struck me most when working with the parents was that people are people, wherever you are. Unlike what we are told, they are warm and hospitable people. Just like parents of disabled children in the UK, they all care and worry about their children, all face daily challenges and all want their child to live happily in the local community.

I met a number of children whose lives had been transformed by the project. Having driven past rusting Soviet tanks, beautiful mountain plains and grazing camels I arrived in one village where there was a new sewing workshop for six 17-year old girls.  In addition to the skills they had learned, the most moving story was that for two of the girls it was the first time they had ever been allowed to leave their home since they were born. 

The project has also had a profound effect on a younger generation of children. I met Aliyah who was 13 and had a hearing impairment.  She told me that she never believed she would go to school and that her life had been transformed by learning sign language at 11 years old and being taught by school teachers who were also trained in sign language. With aspirations to be a journalist she was determined to complete her education.

As the foreign troops leave Afghanistan by 2014 there is much discussion about the future of inclusion and education in the country. I am quite sure that the SCA will remain and my hope is that children like Aliyah, having had a taste of accessing her rights, will be determined to ensure that future generations of disabled children do the same.

Julia Hayes
Educational Psychologist
www.inclusioncreativa.com


SEN Legal Clauses – It could have been worse

The Coalition Government has now published its planned legal changes to SEN provision and the general consensus is that it could have been much worse! The Government appears to have backed away from an explicit intention to 'remove the bias towards inclusive education'.
 
The latest SEN reforms began in 2010 with the publication of the 'Support and Aspiration: A New Approach to Special Educational Needs and Disability' Green Paper and the 'Progress and Next Steps' document published June 2012. Many of the current SEN provisions have been in place for over 30 years and whilst some of the Green Paper proposals are still being piloted, a number of the SEN  proposals will require legislative change.  The draft SEN provisions will form part of a new Children and Families Bill due to be published in January 2013.

Not only is the presumption for inclusion being extended to cover all state funded mainstream schools and post-16 further education institutions, but it will also continue to cover all children and young people up to the age of 25, with a strong focus on preparing them for adulthood. 
The draft SEN provisions include:  

Even though the presumption for inclusion remains, it is important to note that children and young people could still be forced to attend a special school or college under the proposed provisions. 

ALLFIE is seeking clarification from the Dept for Education about whether early years, including state funded nursery schools will also be included in the 'presumption for mainstream education' because currently the draft SEN provisions only mention state funded mainstream schools and post-16 mainstream institutions.   

ALLFIE is concerned that the provision has been written so that it may allow Local Authorities options to refuse a mainstream placement as identified by the parents or young person for two reasons instead of one related to cost (see next page).   

Previously the need of the Local Authority to take into account ‘efficient use of resources’ before naming a mainstream school  became less of an issue  after the 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA). From our experience, SEN tribunals have refused to support a parent’s preferred choice of school even when the amount of money in question is very small.  

The proposed clauses are intended to replace existing legislation covering pupils within the SEN framework (Education Act 1996 Part 4) and students with learning difficulties assessment (Learning and Skills Act 2000 section 139A) provisions.

Definitions
Whilst there is no proposal to change the definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN), the range of those children and young people entitled to be registered as having SEN will be extended to include students and trainees attending post-16 and training institutions.   

Local Authorities will also be required to identify all children and young people with SEN, with or without the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.  The duty of care will cover children and young people with SEN, both with and without an EHC plan. 
     
Local Offer
Under a new provision, Local Authorities will have a new duty to provide information on what services they can offer to families of children and young people with SEN, with and without EHC plans. There will be regulations related to the 'Local Offer' which are likely to include who should be consulted about the content of the Local Offer.
Schools will still be under a duty to provide information about their provision for children with SEN.   Additionally, schools will also be required to publish an SEN information report covering the school's SEN policy, disabled pupils admissions and steps taken to prevent less favourable treatment of disabled pupils.
     
Education Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan)
As part of the new provisions Local Authorities will be responsible for carrying out EHC Plan needs assessments, as well as the coordination and review of the EHC Plan where appropriate for anyone with SEN aged from birth to their 25th birthday.  The Local Authority will also still be under a duty to secure the SEN provision that the child requires without taking into account money or other resources.  However there will need to be a change in the law so that Local Authorities have the same requirement to secure SEN provision for young people up to age 25 whilst in post-16 education or training.   

The Local Authority powers to undertake the new EHC Plan needs assessment, prepare plans, amend the plan and cease a plan for a child or young person with SEN, are similar to the current statutory assessment and statemented provisions. It is disappointing that the same legal caveats apply in relation to 'choice' of mainstream education, that it is unless:

1. ‘it is against the wishes of the child's parents or young person’, or

2. ‘the presence of the child would impact on the efficient education of other children’.
 
Also as with existing legislation, the Local Authority must consider whether there are reasonable steps that could be taken to support the child's inclusion, in a mainstream setting. Local Authorities can still place disabled children and young people in special schools and specialist colleges even when it is against the wishes of parents or the young person. There is nothing in the draft SEN provisions that will change this. What is new is that local authorities will now be able to place young people in specialist college provision.

For children and young people with SEN but without an EHC Plan they must still be educated within a state funded mainstream school or post-16 mainstream institution. However this group could be placed in a special school or specialist further education institution for the purpose of assessing their SEN with agreement of the Local Authority, Head teacher or Principal, parent or young person, or other relevant professional.
    
Education, Health and Social Care working together
Joint commissioning and integration of services and functions is a new requirement, as previously there has been little or no expectation of partnership working between services for children and young people with SEN.
Local Authorities and groups of GPs and health professionals must now work together to make arrangements about the education, health and care provision for children and young people with SEN. It is hoped that the new requirement on Education Health and Social care services to cooperate will bring to an end the endless squabbling between professionals in terms of what support service is required; for example whether speech and language therapy is an educational or a health need.

Personal Budgets in Education
Local Authorities will be required to offer a personal budget for children or young people with an EHC Plan if requested by the parent or young person. Personal budgets could now allow parents and young people to arrange their own SEN support, which once would have been provided by the school or college or training provider. Personal Budgets which includes education support have the real potential for greater flexibility.   When young people are in control of arranging their own support, there are greater possibilities for participating in mainstream education.
    
New Right to Appeal
Interestingly the draft SEN provisions will also create a new right for children, young people and their parents to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) if they disagree with the Local Authority's decision to carry out an EHC Plan needs assessment, the issuing of an EHC Plan, SEN identification and provision, or the named educational institution.  The Government has yet to say what support children may expect to access, such as independent advocacy. 

There are Pilots planned, in three Local Authority areas, that will test out the options related to a child’s right to appeal. Generally the new rights to appeal remain similar to the current statutory assessment and statementing arrangements.  But the new right for young people and children to appeal is the big change. Alongside the right to appeal for young people, there will also be a new requirement to participate in compulsory mediation prior to the tribunal stage (unless the appeal relates to the type or naming of an institution).  
 
Final Thoughts
Even though there is no specific reference to the Government plans to 'reverse the bias towards inclusion' in the draft SEN provisions there is still a great deal of lobbying work to do if we are to protect existing rights to mainstream education. ALLFIE has a particular concern about the provisions that encourage the further development of special academies and free schools and the real danger that this signals a growth in segregated provision supported by the Government rhetoric of more choice for parents. Every effort must now be applied to not only protect existing rights, but actually strengthen and build on those rights so that inclusive education becomes a reality for all disabled learners.
Simone Aspis and Tara Flood



Sterre's Story

I am Sterre
I speak with signs
I am passionate about performing
I want to work in the theatre
I wanted to go to Newham College to study Performing Arts
After a long struggle, I was enrolled on the Level 1 course!
I was so happy!
But then…
On Wednesday 5th September 2012 I was suspended from college for bringing my own Personal Assistants!
I need my PA’s to communicate!

Please let me continue on my Performing Arts course at Newham College.
I made this article when I was struggling to get back on to my Performing Arts course in September. After a struggle, I was allowed back on the level 1 course. They have hired a drama practitioner to help the teachers differentiate the curriculum, which is great. However, I am still not allowed to use filming for my personal communication and learning. I need films of all classes to review and learn from what we have done in class and to make my homework. Without using films I am not able to participate or achieve on the course, which has the same effect as being excluded. For a full picture and updates of my struggle to study Performing Arts at Newham College please have a look at my website: http://sterreploeger91.wix.com/equalityforsterre
Sterre Ploeger



A Future in Politics

My name is Nadia Clarke, I am 20 years old, I am disabled and I am also profoundly Deaf. I communicate using both a computer called a DynaVox, and British Sign Language. I have very strong views about the rights of disabled people like myself and have done a lot of campaigning about our entitlement to equal rights over the years.

I believe that disabled people have the right to have a voice as much as non-disabled people and I want to eliminate all the barriers that disabled people face each and every day of their lives. I am hoping to go to University in the next few years, as I want to study Disability or Special Educational Need and Inclusion because my ambition is to advise the Government on Disability issues as a young Disabled woman in the future. 

Because of my ambition I decided to contact the Government to see if I could organise some work experience for myself in this field.  After months of planning I finally had a 2 day visit in May this year.
On Tuesday 22nd May I excitedly set off to London, where I would spend the next two days with Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister of Children and Families as part of my work experience. I arrived in London and straight away was escorted to the House of Commons in the heart of London. I was taken to watch a meeting taking place between Sharon Hodgson and education and communications expert Jean Gross. They were discussing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), which I found extremely interesting and informative.

After lunch in Portcullis House, Sharon took me to the Houses of Parliament, which was truly awesome! The old, authentic building was beautiful, and I felt privileged to see it. Sharon then took me outside onto the Terrace where we sat near the river in the sun, ready for me to interview her. I couldn't have asked for a better place to be holding the interview. Here are some of the questions I asked her.

What do you like about your job?

Oh gosh, I think for me it's the best job in the whole of Parliament and within the Government portfolios that you can have.  My job covers Early Years, children with Special Educational Needs, Sure Start, child poverty, young carers, school food and children's rights.  So for me it's one of the most interesting and most important areas of Government policy.

I would like to be an advisor on Disability and Communication Issues.

Yes I certainly can see you as an Advisor, you're so good at doing that role anyway.  When you gave evidence to the SEN hearing on Labour Party policy, you came along and gave your advice, that's what an Advisor does, you're only going to become more knowledgeable in the future especially after you have been to America and you have found out more about AAC devices. You are going to become more and more knowledgeable and Politicians, such as myself, are always looking to experts in that field, such as yourself. You can really talk knowledgeably from your experience around the issues that effect children and adults with disabilities.

What are your views about withdrawal of support staff for Deaf students in the exam room?

I just think that it can't be allowed to become the case because, if we really believe that all children can achieve their full potential how can you withdraw the support that levels the 'playing field' and to give children with disabilities, in this case Deaf children, a 'level playing field' is a chance to be able to compete and achieve on the same level of non-disabled children. I think that's definitely an area of policy that we need to look at strongly.

Is there anything you would like to ask me?

Oh Gosh! So what would your dream job be?

My dream is to work, I want to be a Government Advisor and change policy around Disability Rights and Education.

Fantastic! I think that's a real amazing aspiration for a 20 year old to have. I strongly believe that young people should have dreams and set out each day to do something to take you closer to fulfilling that dream and to reach that goal and some of the young people today do not have that, they think 'What chances am I going to have?' They don't even have the aspiration, and I think what is amazing about what you're doing is that you not only have got the aspiration and the dream, you are doing something chasing it and here you are today, your second time in Parliament, you even gave evidence to the SEN review, you're here shadowing me, tomorrow you will be with Sarah Teather, so already you are doing so much to try and make that dream a reality and I know you will do it.
After I had finished interviewing Sharon Hodgson, I went to look inside the Houses of Parliament.  I kept stopping and driving my wheelchair really slowly because it was so awesome inside, I just kept thinking ‘wow!!’ We then watched the Deputy Prime Minister questions, I thought it was brilliant. I left early and shadowed Sharon Hodgson to a meeting about learning disability in the House of Lords. I loved meeting those involved as I enjoy meeting new people. Later in the day I had an escorted tour around the Speaker's house. This was amazing because I got to see the bedroom and living room in the Houses of Parliament where Kings and Queens of our history would have stayed.

I went on to meet up with Sharon Hodgson and her boss Stephen Twigg MP, who is the Shadow Education Secretary. We discussed the day and talked about AAC and the possible withdrawal of support for AAC users in examinations. I especially spoke about children with disabilities and the barriers they can face in education. I could see that Stephen Twigg was impressed with my knowledge and expertise.

The day concluded back on the terraces of Parliament.  As the sun set over the Thames, a small group of us sat and reflected over the day's events. Sharon Hodgson asked if I would like to participate in future policy reviews. I didn't need to be asked twice, I was ecstatic! Sharon's genuine warmth was heart-felt and I could see she really wanted to learn about all my concerns and ideas around AAC. I know that my future in politics is going to happen, and probably sooner rather than later, as I now know that I don't need a degree as I have the life experience to become a leader in disabilities which no degree can give me.

I gained so much knowledge and a wealth of experience over those two days, a work experience that will never be forgotten, and of which I will take with me on my way as I build a career around Leadership and AAC.
Nadia Clarke




Gerry German - A Life Well Spent

"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity…., or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively  with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world"  Paulo Freire

Gerry was very much an educationalist of the second type. This quote was at the front of a celebratory service held on 24th May 2012 at All Saints Church, Notting Hill, where the church overflowed with more than 500 who came to respect his life and work.

Gerry was born and brought up in working class chapel going Wales, which gave him his abiding sense of fairness and equality. Going to the Caribbean to teach where he met his wife Patricia he became a ferocious champion of education for all, also teaching in West Africa. Gerry brought his strong sense of anti-racist teaching into a West London school, activating the community and soon was working for the Commission for Racial Equality where he used all means to fight the institutional racism that was endemic in London schools in the 1970's.

In 1999 when most people his age relax and enjoy their retirement Gerry founded Communities Empowerment Network (CEN). Gerry was the principal caseworker, representing excluded students and supporting their parents. Taking 900 cases a year Gerry's work was informed by his passionate belief in the entitlement of every child to quality state education in a safe, supportive and self-affirming environment that contributes to their holistic development of the person and his conviction that no teacher should write off any student. His mantra was that school exclusion is "wasteful, discriminatory and destructive" destructive of children's life chances. He ran countless advocacy courses to empower parents. Despite successive governments putting more children's entitlement to education increasingly under threat Gerry continued his work until two days before he died.

Gerry’s spirit lives on in CEN - support them.  www.cenlive.org
Richard Rieser

“He was joyous and vibrant around children, young people and their parents. As he always said when visiting young people in need, "Who is Number One here?" Their reply was often, "You...? My Mum?"... to which Gerry would ask them again, "No...try again....Who is Number One?" And you could bet that their next response was, "Me...?" "Yes! You are...You are." Gerry would enthuse. He truly put every child first and at the centre of his thoughts”
Excerpt from Gerry’s tribute on CEN website

A Tribute to Gerry German
A tribute to Gerry German our dearly departed beloved brother 
A loving husband, father, granddad, uncle, relative, colleague, mentor and freedom fighter.

A Warrior on the battlefield of the highest order
With a spirit and energy to light up any corner
Educationalist, head teacher, advocate, writer, vanguard,
Community worker, CEN Director, Gerry certainly knew how to draw card
In pursuit of Justice, he was second to none
Championed the fight, indefatigably for equality, our liberation and freedom.

At eighty four years young he had mileage on the clock
The energy of a lion, going from strength to strength, non stop!
School exclusions, employment tribunals, appeal hearings, judicial reviews,
As Director of CEN his mantra was regardless of the outcome we win and never lose!

Accepting in many instances justice does not always prevail
The importance of a positive mindset as we continue to hail
In our quest for an education system that is all inclusive
Devoid of indoctrinations, perceptions that render it currently,
Unacceptable and intrusive

A society and World devoid of race discrimination
Peace, love and harmony as a global revelation

Our dearly departed beloved brother Gerry German
We honour and salute him as a brilliant man
Who inspired and encouraged me in writing poetry
We pay homage to his contribution, work, notoriety and legacy

A tribute to Gerry German our dearly departed beloved brother
Illuminated our lives uniquely, like no other
Humorous, funny, intelligent with plenty wit
Had my insides aching whenever he got down on it
We love him, miss him, may his memory live on
Through the work of CEN with wider community collaboration.
Raoul Dero


Disability History Month – 22nd November – 22nd December 2012

We are pleased to announce that the theme for this year's Disability History Month will be ‘Changing Lives, Changing Times: Challenging the Ideas that Lead to Hate Crime’.

We have some really interesting events planned, which will explore the considerable changes that disabled people have faced throughout history. We will also be looking at the origins of hate crime and the impact it has on people with disabilities today.

We have planned a pre-launch event with Leeds University  on Wednesday 17 October, 2-4pm in Leeds at Cockburn School, Parkside, Gipsy Lane, Beeston, Leeds, LS11 5TT. This will showcase a ground breaking project which uses musical theatre to take disability history into secondary schools. Please contact us on 020 7359 2855  for more information. Changing Lives, Changing Times is based on work by disabled researcher Sonali Shah who interviewed over 60 disabled people and tracked the key events in their lives. Sonali wanted to see if there were differences if they were born in 1940, 1960 or 1980. Some of these narratives have now been the basis of a school based project using drama and installation to involve teenage students in three schools. The methods have proved very effective in getting them to consider disabled people's lives, the barriers and forces that shape them.
www.disabilityhistories.leeds.ac.uk/resources

We are also planning the official launch for UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) 2012 on the evening of Thursday 22nd November in Central London at the Abbey Centre, Great Smith Street SW1. Expect thought provoking speakers, entertainment and a showcase of an exciting new UKDPC project of Disability Murals. The project worked with disabled people in Norwich, Frome, Bristol and London to create murals in public places They are now in situ and the project also offers a thought provoking exhibition of photographs, film and audio messages from those involved. www.disabilitymurals.org.uk

Disability History Month creates an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of disabled people's struggles against discrimination and oppression in the wake of the highly successful Paralympics when public attitudes shifted. UKDHM allows the challenging of traditional stereotypes of disabled people and forms a strong platform to argue against discrimination and inequality for disabled people in the UK. 

What are you going to do in your school, college, community or workplace? Send us information about your events to put on the website: info@ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com
 
For more information visit:
www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com
or contact us on 020 7359 2855

For media comments contact Richard Rieser, UK Disability History Month Coordinator on 07715 420727 or Nancy Maguire on 07907 346273




What do Parents who were Trained by Parents for Inclusion Get up to?

It all started out with a DCatch (Disabled Children Access to Childcare) Pilot Scheme to get parents back to work in 2009. A group of almost 20 parents of children with different impairments and special needs, some in mainstream and some in special schools, was brought together by the playservice Camden  and parent consultation officer (those were the days!)

Although we had this similar experience of being parents of children with additional needs we could not have been a more different group and would never have had our paths cross for long. However the group got together every week as we went on the journey of planning for positive futures for our children inspired by the PI trainers. 

After a few sessions we knew we had a great opportunity to learn together and make something happen. Not only would we plan a better future for our kids but one for ourselves. Together with some very inspiring professionals this determined group of parents started a social enterprise and became PACE - Play, Adventure and Community Enrichment. Believing that inclusive, quality services make our world better we work towards the goal of creating local services that improve the health and happiness of children and their families.

The 3 areas we are focusing on at the moment are play services, training and glamping (= glamorous camping). To date, we have trained Camden Play Workers, Short Breaks Commissioners and Camden Transport Escorts and Drivers. (summer 2012)

Our training is very interactive and hands on. As we  parents provide the training the participants learn about the practical side of living with a disabled child on a daily basis and experience our enthusiasm and positive approach towards staff who work with disabled children and our understanding of how to make life inclusive for all.

Our professionals are embarking on providing a play service for the Camden Borough that is inclusive, inspiring and a healthy place to be for children. Our glamping adventure is just at the beginning but we can't wait!

Stay tuned for what's next from PACE and be proud of our group that started from a Parents for Inclusion course not long ago.
Alison Turner



The Inclusion Training Pathway

Enrolment is starting now for the one and only accredited training for parents of disabled children and those with special educational needs.
Gain nationally recognised certification for what you do well and feel strongly about - being a parent and supporting your family.

What can you gain from the course?

Contact: info@parentsforinclusion.org or ring Pam Hall or Cornelia Broesskamp on 020 7738 3888




Safeguarding Deaf And Disabled Children - A resource for use in training and professional group learning

As someone who works a lot with disabled young people I was particularly eager to have a look at this learning resource created by Triangle and NSPCC.

From my experience of trying to find advice on safeguarding with particular emphasis on disabled children and young people I know that disabled children and young people are often just referenced in passing in mainstream safeguarding information. This resource aims to raise professionals' awareness and understanding of issues, barriers and approaches needed to sufficiently safeguard deaf and disabled children and it is quite successful at that.

The resources start by highlighting the greater risk Deaf and disabled young people face with regards to abuse and neglect.

Contained in the resource is a CD-ROM and a DVD. The CD contains prompt and fact sheets that facilitators can use to support training on the subject.  All the information on the prompt and factsheets directly reflects the videos on the DVD.

The resources are clear, to the point and accessible to professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and no assumptions are made about the audience's exposure to or understanding of disability issues.  The resources are particularly strong at addressing communication barriers that many deaf and disabled children face around safeguarding and encouraging viewers to overcome them. One particularly refreshing element in the resources is the challenging of the medical and charity models of disability and the one of videos is great at communicating how those models actually make disabled children more vulnerable.
The resources are very good at ensuring disabled people are seen as experts on the issue and the videos are very balanced and good at highlighting the additional issues which need to be considered regarding working with deaf and disabled children and young people. The videos are the perfect length and are very engaging. 

Although the resource is definitely a strong introduction to the issues surrounding safeguarding deaf and disabled children and young people, it is clearly a tool for trainers to build upon rather than a standalone training package. It feels as though it would be most beneficial to those with a strong background in safeguarding but new to disability issues.  The information is very useful for signposting professionals and getting them to think about deaf and disabled children in safeguarding.  The resource is less valuable for those already with a strong grounding in disability and inclusion as it focuses on disability rather than safeguarding.

In conclusion, this resource is a great introduction  to disability for professionals involved in safeguarding and deals with a sensitive and under discussed  topic well and it is very useful for sign posting and getting professionals thinking about safeguarding and disability issues.
Zara Todd

 

A Ballad Moves

They say the world is divided into mothers who have lost their children and mothers who haven't. And launching into that mighty chasm with assured emotional prowess was writer Rahila Gupta's 'The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong', staged for one drizzling day in June in the aptly intimate Arts Theatre in West End by director Guy Slater.

From the moment the Mother, played by Jaye Griffiths of the '90s TV series 'Unfinished Business', saunters onto the stage proudly holding a photo of Nihal and proclaiming 'From that ether of unborn souls, my keen words too will strive to tease you into existence', you get a sense that this piece is either going to tear you apart or leave you high and dry.

The hour-long monologue, a personal tribute to Rahila's long-lost son who had cerebral palsy and died of asthma, aged 17, evokes their lives together with palpitating intensity. From the traumatic scenarios around Nihal's birth to the struggles to have his non-verbal communication understood and the battles with the education authorities to gain him a mainstream school place, Rahila takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster of a journey.  Particularly telling are her experiences with the so-called 'experts', the doctor who first misdiagnosed her on the assumption that Asian babies are small, the head teacher who bargained for state funds to let Nihal into her MLD school and the therapist who refused to believe in the evidence of non-verbal communication. Through it all emerges a mother of indomitable fighting spirit trying every which way she can to forge her firstborn son's place in the universe, 'Siaka, siaka... the child who OPENED his mother'.  Particularly poignant is the scene where the mother, on her son's death, voice rising from a slow moan, challenges the audience in Nick Dear's style 'Is my umbilical cord dangling between my legs, like a sloppy dresser, raw and torn and bleeding?' You have nowhere else to look.

Though a ballad has an old fashioned sense of rhyme and rhythm, Rahila manages to resurrect its form using richly textured contemporary language, dramatic metaphors and personification to create a shape bursting at the seams of its own poetic format. So when Nihal's kidneys fail soon after his birth and the audience is on tenterhooks, 'you skirted liquid gold' provides an eloquent pressure-release and later, the crushing home life becomes a 'blood filled cockpit'. The writer coaxes enough flexibility into the structure so Nihal's own quirky poem enters the foray seamlessly and exposes this young man's mischievous character in his own words. Jaye inhabited the mother's character in full throttle although at times you begged for more control to prevent the audience from sliding into collective catharsis.  Guy's  minimalist props, for example the different sized wheelchairs representing Nihal's stages, add to the sense of urgency of the piece - this is no time for distractions.  Only sparse respite is provided in the heart-wrenching refrain 'Oh my darling, my little love, tying and untying our bond has been the metre of our lives'.

Even though mothers like myself will be familiar with the terrain exposed by the ballad and the sense of Nihal's 'touch and go' life, the work's lyrical quality alone had the power to surge our own experiences to powerful new heights.  This, then, is real life for all to behold, its emotional resonance breathing new life into other experiences, with or without a disabled child. We all have loss lurking in our bones somewhere and it is Rahila's ability to awaken them and force us to examine them anew that gives this ballad a life beyond its short life. Where I was seated, midway in the aisles, there was not a dry eye to be seen and the audience rose spontaneously to give it a deserved standing ovation. A compelling piece of writing that alters perceptions through laying bare the naked, throbbing heart of a mother's raging grief.  Catch the piece if it travels your way.
Preethi Manuel

A Kindle edition of The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong is now available from www.amazon.com

 


Legal Question No.7

"Does a school's reasonable adjustments duty include allowing pupils to bring learning aids into school?”

Schools have a duty (under the Equality Act 2010) to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils.  From 1st September 2012 this includes a duty to provide auxiliary aids and services in addition to the existing duty in relation to provisions, criterion and practices.  The duty does not require schools to make adaptations to physical features. 

The reasonable adjustments duty only applies where a disabled pupil is at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled pupils.   If a disabled pupil is at a substantial disadvantage then the question is whether or not it is reasonable for the school to make an adjustment.  In many cases it will be reasonable for the school to make an adjustment and it is only the more unusual or complex adjustments that should cause a school to question whether the adjustment should be made.

A school will not usually be expected to provide a pupil with an aid which they already have and use outside of school but they would usually be expected to allow the pupil to use that aid in school.  For example, if a pupil with limited mobility uses a rollator on a daily basis both at home and at school it would reasonable for the school to allow the pupil to bring the rollator into school but unlikely that the school would be expected to provide a rollator for use in school. 

There isn't a list of what reasonable adjustments a school has to make or a list of aids that pupils can bring into school.  The first thing to work out is whether or not the disabled pupil would be at a substantial disadvantage if they weren't allowed to use the aid in school.  In some circumstances the aid might help the pupil but its absence would not place them at a substantial disadvantage.  For example a pupil without any difficulties in note-taking couldn't argue that they would be at a substantial disadvantage if they weren't allowed to audio record lessons even though this might be easier for them then having to take notes.   However, a pupil with poor manual dexterity is likely to be at a substantial disadvantage when taking notes in lessons and therefore would require a reasonable adjustment to be made.  Allowing such a pupil to use a recording device is likely to be reasonable, although there may also be other adjustments the school could make.

Schools may have concerns about pupils bringing in unfamiliar aids and may wish to carry out risk assessments to ensure that any health and safety concerns can be dealt with.  It is unlikely that a school can defend a decision not to allow a pupil to bring an aid into school because of health and safety concerns if it has not carried out a risk assessment and looked into ways of reducing the risk.   In addition a school may wish to safety test electrical equipment brought in by pupils and to put in place appropriate systems to ensure that aids are used, stored and moved safely.  

In some circumstances the use of an aid by a disabled pupil might cause some minor disruption or inconvenience for other pupils but it would be unusual for this to be sufficient to make the use of the aid unreasonable.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced guidance on schools' duties to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils and it is available on their website:
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/equality-act/equality-act-codes-of-practice/
Beth Holbrook, Solicitor, 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.                         
www.maxwellgillott.co.uk