Inclusion Now Articles Issue 34
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Creative Learning at Bromstone Primary
The First Term - Sucking and Seeing
PARTicipation - parents and disabled people in Munich
Bringing Change to Europe
DfE - A Worrying Trend Emerges
Review - Creating Learning Without Limits
Review - Maggot Moon
An Inclusive Education - A Fulfilling Life
Legal Question No. 8
Tucked away in the lovely traditional seaside town called Broadstairs in Kent is Bromstone Primary School - a school full of innovation, creativity and inclusion, as we discovered when we visited recently, and we shouldn't have been surprised given that Nigel Utton, the Chair of Heading for Inclusion, is the Head teacher.
Bromstone Primary is big - nearly 400 young people with plans to increase this to 600 next September. Talking to Nigel, he says there have been lots of challenges since he took over in September 2008, but he knew it was the place for him because the advert for the job stated the school wanted a new Head fully committed to inclusion. Nigel has created a warm and welcoming feel, which can be difficult to sustain when the performance pressures on schools have become so rigid.
All year group classrooms have a combination of learning areas - some tables and chairs and some softer seating and floor space. Teachers have discovered that this level of flexibility has really helped those young people who struggle to concentrate for long periods of time. One young girl in Year 4 who was finding it difficult to keep still now uses a carpet square, which she can move around the classroom whenever she needs to. The ethos very much feels - 'What works best for this young person?' - What a breath of fresh air!
We were really impressed with the creativity the teaching staff have when it comes to lesson planning. Deputy Head Alison Monroe took us through some examples of the visual maps which have replaced the usual boring planning sheets the teachers used to use. Each termly map has a question the children will think about, discuss, and incorporate into their lessons - essentially the learning subject. When we were there the subject was the 2nd World War. A couple of books relevant to the subject are highlighted and in this example it was 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' and Anne Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl'. The visual map focuses on learning concepts rather than specific skills. Key Stage learning outcomes are also included but don't feel central to the map which frees teaching staff and children to explore the subject in new and creative ways - it really brings the subject to life!
The subject of Philosophy is embedded across the school, both within the culture and the curriculum. It is a weekly timetabled slot, on a Monday morning so that it can feed into other subjects during the week. Often a theme will be presented in the Monday assembly and teachers are able to either incorporate this theme into the lesson and the week, or they might choose something altogether unrelated. There is a sense in this school that teachers have more creative freedom than they might do elsewhere.
The focus on Philosophy has led to new skills for the children - they are at ease with considering other opinions, discussing and understanding other's lives and experiences as well as sharing their own.
British Sign Language is considered as a language of equal value to languages such as French or Spanish and the children really enjoy learning it. We were told about one young girl, who is not deaf herself, asking for story books in BSL for Christmas because she has so enjoyed learning BSL with her signing classmate.
A key member of the staff team is Geoff, otherwise known as 'Super Granddad' by the children. Other schools would use the job title of 'Behaviour Manager' or something similar, but not at Bromstone - Geoff is the Safety First Officer, essentially his role is to support the young people and teaching staff to work through any issues that might be getting in the way of teaching and learning. He stresses 'values', not 'rules' and is clear that any kind of 'behaviour' is communication. The children have a good understanding of his role - one child approached him recently asking 'Can I come and see you? I've got anger issues'. Geoff seems to really understand the pressures that young people and their families are under to conform to increasingly restricted definitions of 'good' or 'bad' behaviour - he's a real asset to the school.
As is the case in most primary schools these days, stickers celebrating achievement are highly regarded by the children. One clear distinction at Bromstone is that you are just as likely to be awarded a sticker for 'honesty' or 'kindness' as you are for 'good work'. One child received his sticker for owning up to fighting on the school bus, in so doing, demonstrating the school value of 'honesty'. The school values are highlighted across the school, both in posters and practice! CHECKER stands for Co-operation, Honesty, Excellence, Courtesy, Kindness, Enjoyment and Respect.
Nigel, Alison and the entire staff team seem to really get the need to provide support to young people and their families in the local community. Families of young people at the school can access support around work opportunities, adult education - all strategies to encourage better relationships between the school and its community - it isn't rocket science. The school has a dedicated Family Liaison Officer, Richard, who has arranged family learning opportunities in literacy and maths and has even got the Citizens Advice Bureau to open an office in the school regularly. A significant number of pupils in the school are new arrivals to England with no prior knowledge of English. Bromstone has the highest proportion of children from outside England in the locality. Nigel and his team are passionate about ensuring that inclusion extends to all aspects of school life and actively work to give a warm welcome to children from all of the different cultures in the school. Incidents of racism are rare but when they do occur the school community responds with 'restorative justice' to ensure that both parties are left feeling positive about themselves. A black African student was recently subjected to verbal abuse by a classmate and after the restorative justice session with Nigel, he said he had never known racism to be handled so well.
The number of children with statements in the school is higher than the national average, with 13 children with a very wide range of impairments and the inclusion ethos feels strong, in fact many of the local schools have approached Nigel to see if Bromstone will take their statemented young people - sadly this is another indication of the pressures of SATs results. There are fewer and fewer incentives for Head teachers to develop inclusive practice and with current Government plans this can only get worse.
Bromstone School is a shining example of the benefits to all children and staff of sound and creative inclusive practice, as Alison made clear when she told us with conviction, 'Our children leave here as incredibly confident human beings'.
Tara Flood and Chloe Bowles
Caroline White's four-year-old son Seb made history this Christmas when he became the first model with a learning disability to be featured in a British TV commercial from a major high street brand. Seb starred in the Marks and Spencer Christmas campaign after Caroline posted a photo of him on the company's Facebook page and challenged them to include him in their modelling campaigns.
Caroline had visited her local store to shop for Seb's new school uniform and was struck by the lack of diversity in the 'Back to School' brochure and the in-store posters of children starting school. Since then, their story has been featured in almost all of the daily papers, as well as being shared thousands of times across social networks. We caught up with them.
How is Seb enjoying his new found fame?
He has definitely lapped up all the attention but he also really thrived from it too. He absolutely loved seeing the ad come on the TV and was mesmerised when he saw his bigger than life image in store. He got quite used to cameramen popping round to interview us and was such a pickle in the radio studios! It was a crazy time and he had no idea of that impact he was making.
Have his school friends noticed?
Yes, they have! Lots of the children have said to Seb 'I saw you on the telly' and a few have said they wished they could be on TV too. When we were on BBC Breakfast one of Seb's friends asked her mum to play it over and over again, and another friend asked his mum if Seb was famous enough to be on Strictly Come Dancing which I thought was lovely.
Were you surprised by the level of public support and interest following Seb's ad campaign?
I was absolutely, completely and utterly blown away by it. I always believed that if someone big could grasp the idea and execute it well that it would be big news and get people talking - but I had no idea of the magnitude. The media were so interested in it and sadly I had to turn down interviews as I couldn’t fit it all in. It has created the most amazing platform to talk about Down's Syndrome and challenge the commonly held outdated stereotypes associated with the condition. I receive many emails from new parents who were massively boosted by seeing Seb and also emails from young adults with Down's Syndrome who have felt represented at last.
Why do you think inclusive education is important?
It is so important on so many levels. There is no doubt that Seb learns a lot of positive behaviour from his peers. He has amazed us with his concentrating and his willingness to learn. I can really see how much respect he has for his friends too. It is also hugely important for the other children to grow up with 'difference'. I did not know anyone with Down's Syndrome or any other special needs when I was growing up. They were missing from our community and were shipped off on their own bus to their own school. To grow up with difference is to see a person first and foremost, not a syndrome. Little people are so accepting and there is a really powerful message in inclusion - that Seb deserves to be there and be a valued member of society and his community. When I hear feedback from other mums that their children talk about playing with Seb and that he is the best at hide and seek because he finds the best places to hide, it makes my heart want to burst. If I had grown up with 'difference' I have no doubt that in those first hours, days and months of Seb's life I would not have been so gripped with fear. Seb is the best tool I have to change attitudes about disability and he is doing a great job of this at school.
What's next? Are there plans for Seb to feature in the next M&S ‘Back to School’ catalogue?
Just before Christmas I met up with Steve Sharp, Marketing Director at M&S, and he intimated that they would like to use Seb again. I have made really clear my passion for Seb to be in the ‘Back to School’ campaign so I would be delighted if he was chosen. Nothing is set in stone though and if nothing else follows for us personally I hope that we have opened the door for more inclusive advertising and given other retailers something to think about. We had such fun last year, it was a whirlwind and knowing that we have given a boost to new parents and changed a few attitudes along the way is incredible!
It seems incredible to think that this time last year I was in utter turmoil. My brain was aching and my mind was swimming. My thoughts were all over the place and I never thought it would ever fall into place. We were considering schools for Seb. There were a million and one things to consider. Mainstream? Special school? Both? Which mainstream school?
As Seb gets a statement, this allowed us free reign, not bound by catchments and gave us entry into my top choice - a Catholic school, a few minutes walk away that has an excellent reputation for inclusion and anti bullying. As a Catholic school, it celebrates the uniqueness of every child. The dilemma? There is a real possibility that his younger brother won't get in as we are not Catholic and the school is hugely over subscribed.
After spreadsheets and pages of notes, lists of pros and cons, printouts of entry requirements, we finally chose a dual placement with my top choice mainstream and the special school. We will deal with his brother when we need to!
We knew it would be 'suck it and see'. I wanted to keep our options open with regards to Special school as I knew there was such great support there and I felt it would be good for Seb's self esteem if he struggled at mainstream. I was pleased with the decision - and happy to keep an open mind and see how it went.
I have read that, with the right support, mainstream is encouraged but I have also been told that mainstream is only as good as your child's Teaching Assistant(s) (by other parents and teacher friends). I was concerned that Seb and I would get 'lost'. That we would both feel 'different' and find it difficult to relate to our peers. I worried that Seb may not be able to concentrate in class and disrupt (and possibly irritate) the other children.
I could never in my wildest dreams imagine the first term we have had.
Staff, children and parents alike have made us all so very welcome. Everyone takes the time to chat to us, as they do with each other, and I cherish the morning drop-offs and after school pick-ups. It is only brief encounters, but we feel included. We feel the same as everyone else.
To see Seb confidently and happily marching into the school and being met with chirpy little faces saying: ‘Morning Seb!' 'It's Sebby!' and 'Hi Seb' warms my heart in a way I never could have thought possible. The other day I witnessed one of Seb's male classmates playfully rub Seb's hair as he walked past him in a boyish 'hello mate' kind of way. I nearly cried. It was a really special moment and that little boy will have no idea how much it meant to me.
Seb seemed to recognise his peg from Day One. At first I thought it was a fluke but it soon became apparent that it wasn't. He settled into his routine really quickly. He places his bookbag in the bookbag box, hangs his coat up, puts his water bottle in the tray and finds his bumble bee name to self-register. The other week when we had the first cold snap of weather I noticed that his hat had been removed. I assumed he had dumped it on the classroom floor somewhere so I asked him where it was. He took my hand and led me to the chest of trays, found his tray, opened it and there lying neatly was his hat. It was another lump in the throat moment.
The initial reports from his fantastic Teaching Assistants were that Seb had settled well, was concentrating, making friends and above all, working hard and LEARNING. I am (off the scale) delighted.
One mum, who has a son in year 2, told me that her little boy often plays with Seb during breaktimes. He said to his mum 'Don't tell Seb, but sometimes I let him win the race because I am older and faster than him and that's what friends do'. Gulp. Gorgeous.
After school pick-up is a positive experience too (depending on what mood his 2 year old brother is in). I look forward to seeing Seb sitting beautifully at his desk with his coat on and bag on his back waiting for my arrival. I then listen to what he has been up to from his Teaching Assistant(s) and it always gives me a boost and makes me smile. I feel the same sense of celebration as all the other parents do and it doesn't matter to me at all that his achievements are different to his peers. A success is a success.
By the time I am ready to head back to the car I know that Seb will be hanging around with his little classmate Poppy………..
Poppy has a baby sister who arrives at school in a buggy. Seb has cottoned on to the fact that Poppy's mum brings with her a tin of treats. Seb coos over Poppy's little sister, stroking her face and mumbling away - knowing that if he hangs around long enough Poppy will take the lid off the tin and offer him a treat!
So, it is now the eve of the dress rehearsal of Seb's first nativity play. He is a sheep. As always, I am managing my own expectations and basically prepared for any eventuality. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will wear his costume (to date he has never wanted to wear it at home). Whatever happens I know my bottom lip will wobble. Even if he doesn't do anything at all.
And finally. Thursday. I have been told that Seb is due to receive a certificate in the school's Celebration Assembly. I have no idea what it is for. I don't even care if it something that the whole school gets. Whatever it is, it's amazing.
I am so proud of that school for making us so welcome. I am so grateful and thankful for Seb's teachers and teaching assistants for embracing Seb and working so hard to motivate him, give him opportunities and for TEACHING him. I am so touched by the loveliness of all the parents and their children. And above all I am so proud of our Seb. He never ceases to amaze me.
I hope that Seb continues to thrive and learn at school. I also hope that we continue to be supported with the staff that care for him as they really do go over and above the call of their jobs. We are currently reviewing the split between his two schools as we feel he is coping so well at mainstream.
(Edited version of an article that first appeared on Caroline’s Facebook page: Down's Syndrome - Raising Awareness and Shifting Attitudes)
The German project PARTicipation was founded in 2010 following Parents for Inclusion as a role model. PARTicipation is based in Munich, Bavaria and consists of Marion Jurgovsky, Disability Equality Trainer and Stefanie Lehmann and Anja Rosengart, Parent Trainers.
With the ratification of the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People the topic of inclusion finally arrived on the agenda of German politics. Since 2010 it became increasingly an issue on German state level, especially regarding education. Each of Germany's Federalist states has legal and executive powers, particularly regarding their education systems. As a consequence inclusive educational practice differs hugely in the German states. While the north of Germany is way ahead, Bavaria - in the south - is far behind. The federal state of Bavaria has little interest in supporting inclusive education, as it has a very rigid four pillar school system which streams children into four different schools at age 11. The well segregated school system is one of the 'holy cows' of the Bavarian Conservative government (which has been in power for 48 years). It is not open for debate.
There is no government funding and no helpful legislation. PARTicipation has to find its own funds and also their own ways of getting to be known. We are proud of what we have achieved so far: PARTicipation gives seminars, workshops and presentations all over Germany - mostly to professionals.
One of the most important themes was - and still is - to clarify the difference between "integration" and "inclusion". Germany is very proud of its integration measures. Until today the word "integration" has dominated German politics, society and training programs for professionals in the education sector. We still face a lack of awareness of this issue which seems to come hand in hand with the patronising practice of talking above and about someone in their presence rather than the respectful approach of talking with someone.
Bavaria offers few support structures for parents of disabled children; what is on offer are the typical medical model based charity organisations. This makes it hard for Bavarian parents to get their children into a mainstream school or generally choose another path than the typical state supported path into special needs centres.
With the support of PI´s Cornelia Broesskamp and the Disability Equality Trainers, Sarifa Patel, Micheline Mason and Christine O'Mahony, PARTicipation has had their first training as training apprentices. We are about to set out to accompany parents on their journeys to become agents of change and strong allies to their children. In the beginning of March PARTicipation will facilitate its first self led weekend seminar ‘Planning Positive Futures’ in Munich under the supervision of PI. The parents have to pay a fee for the seminar which proves to be an additional barrier for a lot of parents as we have not been able to attract funding. Inspite of this we managed to have a good turnout for our first seminar. As the struggles for an inclusive way of life and with the Bavarian school system especially are so hard the expectations of the parents towards us are high. Our recent positive experiences training nursery teachers inspired us to keep going.
October is generally regarded as a gray, depressive month. Summer is gone, days are getting shorter and a bunch of obligations are beginning to crawl all over us. But then again, there are Octobers that can bring a change, make you wish to do great things, and change the world. These Octobers are worth living.
In October 2012, the European Network on Independent Living in cooperation with the Directorate of Democratic Citizenship and Participation, Youth Department of Council of Europe, organized a study session named "Supporting Young Disabled People to Become Future Leaders of the Independent Living Movement". I am not going to tell you about great times, hard work brimming with good energy, the level of acquired knowledge related to disability, or possibly lifelong friendships that were made. My aim is to show you how this group of young people, despite their personal differences, cultural and social milieu that shaped them as individuals and inevitably influenced their views, came together around the same, completely unoriginal and always refreshing idea - that every man, no matter what his economical, social or personal background, has a right to live with dignity.
At the end of the session week, myriads of discussions and shared personal experiences began to group around four main topics recognized as most important at this very moment: Changing Perceptions and Attitudes towards Young People with Disability, Education, Transition to Employment and Institutions and Independent Living. Each of these topics is complex and has a vast potential to be named as the most important, but if you look more carefully they all connect and depend on each other. Namely, you can't have perceptions and attitudes changed if a young disabled person doesn't even have a chance to be educated and consequently find satisfying employment, or, an even worse scenario, if this young person is locked in a specialized institution. Changing Perceptions and Attitudes is precisely defined as a crucial problem for which has been offered a very practical solution: presence of youth with disabilities in public, their full and active participation in citizenship, because if one wants society to understand and solve the problem, firstly one must make it visible. An excellent idea followed: the focus shouldn't be only on youth with disabilities, but also on youth from other minority groups: black and ethnic minorities, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. United, these groups should act to try to change the rooted notion that society in most cases has towards them.
The next topic was rather attractive and challenging for these young people: the question of specialized institutions is currently a burning issue but even though there are several studies which clearly indicate that the amount of money spent on maintaining or building new institutions highly exceeds what is needed for incitement of the Independent Living concept, there is still a tendency to sweep the problem under the carpet and claim that specialized care is the best long-term solution.
Accessibility of the educational system was a subject of great importance since most of these young people are still students. From time immemorial, education represents a significant, and one of the most appropriate means of improving one's social position. In modern times this share is multiplied, since education becomes more open, but again not enough to ensure that everyone has equal access. Good and practical educational basis provides a better chance for being competitive in the labour market and finding employment. Currently the situation is far from ideal but certain moves are being noticed, at least in the sphere of teacher's flexibility regarding the needs of students with disabilities. Most of the participants of the study session said that even though they had certain access support at different points in their educational career, the fact that they finished or will be finishing studies mostly relies on personal determination and adaption to existing conditions and family support. There is a lot that can and needs to be done, and some part of it even doesn't require financial support. Participants suggest that governments should allocate specific funds within education budgets to support the needs of students with disabilities, make mainstream schools fully inclusive and train teaching staff how to meet disabled students' access needs.
And last, but not least, the topic which raised numerous discussions was transition between education and employment. Those participants who completed their academic studies experienced a new problem - finding employment. Entering into the open labour market was more difficult than those of their non-disabled colleagues, partly because there is still a poorer offer of jobs accessible to disabled people (in means of physical and other accessibility). It is recommended that governments and other authorized institutions should guarantee that adequate information regarding youth employability accessible to youth with disabilities is transparent and that EU policies promoting employability of youth is fully inclusive.
There is not much to say in the end. Nothing mentioned above is new; but what is new is the determination and energy with which these young people concretize and stand up for their rights and needs. After all, let's hope that this October was one of the many to come, and that these young people will bring the change.
ENIL Youth Network Recommendations for Europe on Education:
During this meeting we realised that, although we had access support at different points in our educational career, we finished our education due to our own determination and continual family support. As young people with disabilities coming from all over Europe we observed that we are the exception instead of the rule when it comes to successfully completing higher education. Better continuous accessibility support, which is streamlined between institutions and stages in the education process, is important to ensure the success of disabled learners.
Therefore, Governments are recommended to:
- Facilitate continuous access to education for disabled young people in Europe. Our definition of 'Access' refers to physical access, human support (including sign language interpreters and palantypist), technical aids and accessible curriculum that reflects different learning styles.
- Train teachers to meet disabled students access needs.
- Improve the technical support and issue departments in educational establishments to have responsibility for informing disabled students of the support available. This department should employ experienced disabled students to support its work and distribute information about its services.
- Governments need to allocate specific funds within education budgets to support the needs of students with disabilities.
- Mainstream schools need to become fully inclusive of all disabled students so that special schools are no longer needed. Special schools and institutional education settings should be turned into resource centres to support disabled young people's inclusion in all aspects of their lives.
A Worrying Trend Emerges
A worrying trend has emerged. Figures from the Department of Education show that, for the first time in years, the number of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) attending mainstream school is dropping.
Increasingly, disabled pupils with SEN statements are being placed in special schools. This is happening despite the Government's 'commitment' to keep the presumption of inclusion in the forthcoming Special Educational Needs reforms, which will be part of the Children and Families Bill expected to be published by the end of January.
Despite this 'presumption for inclusion' remaining in theory in the proposed legislation, we believe inclusive education is coming under real attack by elitist education policies.
We are on course for a head-on collision between wider education reform and this 'commitment' to the presumption of inclusion in the forthcoming bill.
School Performance Indicators
The Government has changed school performance indicators to reflect a narrower range of pupil achievements. Largely, only General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations will be considered as school performance indicators. An overwhelming majority of vocational qualifications will no longer be classed as a success. As such, many pupils with SEN achievements will count for nothing in the school performance tables.
This may continue when the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) Diplomas are introduced. A narrow view of 'success' could continue when students are able to sit EBacc. We know of mainstream schools with a reputation for inclusive education practice, which are being placed under increasing pressure not to admit disabled pupils who are most likely to fail the government's prescribed academic standards.
According to the Government, too many pupils and students are being awarded pass rates for GCSEs and tougher examinations are needed, using the benchmark of international standards set by overseas school leaving certificates.
The Government proposes to replace 'easy' GCSEs with a harder EBacc, whereby students would only gain the award if they achieved a pass in final written examinations for specific academic subjects.
The Government makes no secret of the fact that the EBacc will be taken by the 'most able' pupils, leaving everyone else to settle for a 'statement of achievements', which will have little or no value.
Since legislation from the Academies Act 2010 has been in place, academy schools no longer have to provide a national curriculum.
Many academy schools will continue to offer a national curriculum for pupils 'capable' of doing GCSEs. Nevertheless, we are finding that pupils with learning difficulties are being placed onto segregated independent living and employment preparation courses whilst at school.
Removing national curriculum entitlement has given the green light for schools to provide segregated learning opportunities, backed by qualifications for disabled learners.
School Building Projects
The majority of proposed school building work was cancelled during 2010. Since then, the Government has amended school building policies and regulations so that heads and governors are required to do less to legally ensure that their premises are fully accessible with a minimum range of on-site facilities.
Just a few months ago, the Government announced a Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP), which will fund a very limited number of school building or refurbishment projects, accompanied by base-line school designs that may not take into account a wide range of disabled people's access requirements. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Sunesis Education, a specialist company overseeing major school building work projects, have both expressed concerns that the proposed designs are not inclusive of disabled people and may not comply with the Equality Act 2010's public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).
The obvious impact of the Government's school building programmes and relaxing of the School Premises policies will be that disabled pupils will not be able to get into the school or, if they do, use all the facilities. If disabled pupils cannot get into mainstream schools, they will be forced to accept special school placement against their wishes.
School Freedoms, Support Services and Funding
The Government ideally wants all schools to be in charge of their own affairs; from the curriculum and length of day, to teachers pay rates, along with everything else, including if and how any SEN provision is provided for pupils. Rather than receiving ring-fenced money, individual schools will receive a budget direct from either the Government or Local Education Authority (LEA) to cover pupils / students, including those with SEN or from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
As schools are increasingly being pressured to meet the Government's Standard Assessment Tests (SAT) and GCSE examination targets, the fear is that resources are more likely to be used for providing additional support for pupils from financially deprived backgrounds, who can help the school hit Government academic standards targets.
When parents and young people do not get support from their school, they are forced to go through the 'statementing' (statement of special needs) process to secure the SEN provision, meaning they will lose their automatic right to a mainstream placement.
What are we doing about the Government's policy reforms?
The wider education policy reforms will see a return to schools becoming more selective about which pupils they will admit. Increasingly, schools will be for children with particular aptitudes and abilities, as a result of free schools opting out of a national curriculum. Disabled pupils are likely to be forced into segregated education for a number of reasons, such as mainstream schools not being built to be inclusive of their access requirements, or being unable to perform at the academic standards expected.
Even when disabled pupils are included in mainstream schools, they are likely to be placed in segregated courses if they are unable to complete EBacc certificates without any form of differentiated curriculum.
Whilst we anticipate increasing segregation of pupils by school, courses and type of qualifications, we are fighting back to make sure this does not happen.
After all, the Children and Families Bill's 'presumption for inclusion' ethos is the weapon we have to prevent a range of underhanded / sneaky attacks creeping into the Government's wider education reforms.
ALLFIE has a series of plans to try and influence those education reforms that are having a negative impact upon a disabled learner's right to be included in mainstream education.
For further information about what we are doing, visit our campaigns web pages at:
and our December 2012 membership briefing at: http://www.allfie.org.uk/pages/work/press.html
Mandy Swann, Alison Peacock, Susan Hart, Mary Jane Drummond
Published by Open University Press 2012
This book is about a three year study into the changes brought about by a new head teacher, Alison Peacock, when she took over Wroxham Primary School in 2002 after it had been classed as 'failing' and put into Special Measures.
This book was such a shock to the system that I couldn't just write a review. I felt that I had read about, for the first time, a serious attempt to create a truly inclusive school in the way we dream of, but barely dare hope for:
"Wroxham is not about abandoning ability grouping, and it is not about mixed-ability teaching. It is about a deeper and much more far reaching project - rejecting fixed ability thinking in all its guises, and with all its negative effects on children, teachers, curriculum and assessment. It is about replacing the fatalism of ability labels with a more hopeful, powerful and empowering view of learners and learning" (p115)
The book describes actual practices which were very carefully thought about in order to foster an environment in which every child would be free to learn. One example which impressed me was a decision to not praise children for their compliance with adults, or 'rules', or their external achievements (i.e. "That's a very good picture you have drawn"), but for the process they used - how they used their own thinking and effort to learn something. This was to stop them feeling that they had to work out how to please the teacher rather than how to evaluate themselves in relation to their own goals.
The book also describes the seven 'dispositions' which increase the capacity for learning in both children and teachers: openness; questioning; inventiveness; persistence; emotional stability; generosity; empathy, and how the teachers were supported to develop these in their individual teaching practices. The underpinning values are the opposite of those espoused in the 'Standards Agenda' and the school is open and proud of that.
I was worried when I read it that 'our' children - disabled children and children with the label of challenging behaviour - might still be exceptions in the minds of the teachers and researchers, but gradually I came to trust that they really were talking about everybody. Right near the end they finally spell it out:
"Although in our account of developments at Wroxham we have not addressed issues of ethnicity, class, gender and disability explicitly, it is our conviction that the analysis of interacting influences which lie at the heart of teachers' power to make a difference means that these issues can be taken into account in an equitable and empowering way, when the principle of transformability inspires approaches to school improvement" (p123)
The book challenged two of my prejudices, pockets of cynicism and doubt within me that inclusion will ever really happen. One was my feeling that there are not enough inspirational leaders/teachers to make inclusion happen other than in small, time limited pockets of good practice, to lead 24,000 schools in England and Wales alone, to resist the Standards Agenda and make inclusion happen for all children. This was challenged by Alison's underlying faith that her teachers were all capable of working out how to develop the dispositions identified above if she applied the principles of 'inclusion' to them as well as the children. The main point being that you cannot by pass the stage of thinking for yourself, nor should you. There was no dependence on downloaded lesson plans at Wroxham. How teachers and children assessed their own progress and development was also revolutionised.
My second prejudice was about parents. The government are continually telling us that parents want the best for their own children and need 'choice' in order to get it. They need the information necessary to make those choices such as the National League Tables and Ofsted Reports. Would they be too afraid to support a school which was not interested in those things? The answer seemed to be the opposite:
"It was clear that one reason why they (parents) valued the Wroxham approach so highly was because their priorities for their children were not concerned with standards, achievement, and academic goals; they wanted their children to develop a thirst for learning, to feel happy about themselves, to be rounded individuals and good members of the community" (p93)
And perhaps most surprising of all, although it shouldn't be, was that whilst pursuing this different agenda, the attainment levels of the children rose as a 'by product', keeping Ofsted happy and the school being marked as 'outstanding' by 2006 and again in 2009, so there is no loss of anything, only gain, for even those who fear 'inclusion' will lead to a 'dumbing down' for all.
To sum it up, in the words of a new member of staff "The children feel invincible, as if there is no limit to what they can achieve".
Even the references at the back are a mine of information about some further reading we can do if we want to learn how the transformation we want can, and is, being done. It is one of the most hopeful books I have read for a long time.
'There are train-track thinkers and then there's you... a breeze in the park of imagination'
Maggot Moon is a great read with a lovely visual storyline. It's both imaginative and inspirational, and gives space for the reader to really absorb what's going on and add in extra detail as and when you see fitting to do.
Despite the oppressively dark and sinister backdrop, the central character 'Standish' beams a very bright light from every page. It is a tale of proud resistance set in a fascist state where, in the end, the power of what's right rings true.
Like both Sally Gardner and I, Standish is Dyslexic, although this is not explicitly labelled in the text, rather this is implied in the opening pages with the line, 'Can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright'.
However, the text does not locate this as a deficit belonging to Standish, but quite smartly highlights the unique quality of his diversity and the problem as theirs; that is the traditional attitudes of others, the school system and society. This is reflected in the style and presentation of language that often creatively reworks typical linguist conventions, emphasising the visuality of the world as seen by the neurodiverse, that is as Standish states 'eye-bending in its beauty'.
Sally Gardner has done a good job of promoting Dyslexic pride with this work and while this is positive, I am left slightly confused by a quote on the website related to the book that asserts Dyslexia as being not a disability, but a gift. Even though I understand this perspective, I would challenge this in terms of the Social Model of Disability, in which people are disabled by barriers in society and not by the diversity of their bodies or minds, that is people's impairments or conditions.
While Dyslexia is not a deficit, society does disable Dyslexics through the way it rejects and ridicules our unique and beautiful thinking and communication style that challenges and does not conform to the traditions of an outdated and exclusionary education system. For Dyslexics to disassociate with the politics of disability, the collective struggle of disabled people and other marginalised identities to achieve an inclusive and equal world is weakened. Together we are stronger!
As well as being a gripping story this book is really exceptional in terms of showing some publishing leadership, in terms of both accessible communication and inclusive design. I love books but the act of reading is hard work, I often find myself flicking ahead and thinking 'OMG - shiny moving pages making no sense at all, how many pages left in this chapter, how many? AHHH I can't cope' and throw the book at the wall. Maggot Moon has one hundred chapters, but each one is no more than a couple of pages and is subtly illustrated with a mute flicker book style. This, and the low contrast cream colour pages made this very easy for me to maintain my attention. Additionally, the book is available in audio, and as a new funky style iBook that has loads of additional content that makes it not just a read but a super story experience.
Maggot Moon is really worth a read. See www.maggotmoon.com
Stephen Lee Hodgkins
On 17th November 34 of us met in Derbyshire to promote full access to education and a fulfilling life for all disabled people. We meant business.
As disabled children and adults and their allies, we did our best to bring down the barriers. Wheelchair users talked and listened, people without speech found ways to be heard and get their point across. Parents explained that sometimes they are their child's best ally, but sometimes they get in the way.
Friendship was central to the day and we found ways to explore serious issues, like how the government cuts are reducing the independence of disabled people, and what we can do about it. We worked hard - amidst profound thoughts and giggles - to outline our vision and recorded it in words and in a stunning picture.
Oh yes, and we decided to do it again and bring in more people next time; everyone is welcome. And we hope to set up an accessible website in the New Year.
Team Inclusion (Midlands) is on a mission. We want to give committed people in the area the opportunity to get together and hopefully we'll do this through the new Website and regular get togethers. Next one: May 2013.
Contact us at email@example.com
Team Inclusion (Midlands)
“My child has been diagnosed with ADHD. He is now in Year 7 at secondary school. The school has told me that if I refuse to have him prescribed Ritalin there would be a possibility that he would be excluded from school. Have the school the right to exclude him on these grounds?”
It is a headteacher's discretion to exclude a child from school if they feel their behaviour requires this response. This decision should only be taken in accordance with their own discipline policy and the law. There are procedural steps, set out in statutory guidance, which must be followed.
A headteacher should only exclude a child with special educational needs as a last resort. A headteacher should not exclude a child simply because they are not prescribed Ritalin. If a child exhibits challenging behaviour because of their ADHD this might be cause for concern with the school. Nevertheless, exclusion should never be an automatic response to challenging behaviour. Suitable alternatives, such as those mentioned below, should always be considered before a decision to exclude is made.
It might be that the child needs additional support in school because of their special educational needs. They might need a statement of special educational needs that should set out the additional support they need in school. If this could be the case then either the school or the parent can ask the LA to carry out a statutory assessment of the child's needs. This would allow the LA to determine whether additional support is needed. If the LA refuses to carry out a statutory assessment, as they often do, parents have 2 months to make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
A 'managed move', which involves a child moving to a different school and avoids exclusion, might be appropriate but should only be done with the consent of the parent. If appropriate, this would enable a child to have a fresh start in a new school.
If a headteacher does exclude a child, the parent has a right to make representations about the exclusion to the school's governing body. Where the exclusion is permanent, the governing body can either uphold an exclusion or direct reinstatement of a pupil. The governing body should consider whether the decision to exclude was lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.
If the exclusion is upheld, parents must be notified of their right to ask for the decision to be reviewed by an independent review panel (IRP). Parents can also make a claim under the Equality Act if they consider that the exclusion was discriminatory. If a child was excluded because they had ADHD or for a reason related to their ADHD, this might be discrimination. A claim must be brought within 6 months of the exclusion.
The IRP can, amongst other things, quash the decision and direct that the governing body considers the exclusion again. IRP decisions can be challenged by way of Judicial Review if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the panel has made a fundamental error in law. If such action is appropriate it must be taken quickly and in any event within 3 months of the decision.
Parents should also be aware that the law on exclusions has recently changed which might result in more mistakes by schools, governing bodies and IRPs than there were previously.
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.