Inclusion Now Articles Issue 35
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from this archive.
Talking to Sally Gardner
Who's On My Side?
The Children and Families Bill
How Was School?
Educating Teachers for Disabled Children - UNICEF Project
Transitional Inclusion Groups
Teachers Unions' Campaign to Save State Education
Sally Gardner, proud dyslexic writer and author of Maggot Moon, speaks to Stephen Lee Hodgkins, an equally proud dyslexic, about writing Maggot Moon, troublesome education, the 'ticker box' test system and what it might be like in 100 years time.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a dyslexic writer. I didn't think I could be a writer until quite late on in my life as I'd always been told if you were dyslexic and you couldn't spell Tuesday you couldn't be a writer. I was rather with Winnie the Pooh on that one. I thought, well, most probably that's true. But then I discovered really what I love doing most in the world, is telling stories and playing with words. That to me was a total revelation. I was an illustrator before that and before that I worked in theatre, and then to discover what I really love doing has just been amazing.
How did you come to create Maggot Moon?
Maggot Moon came out of a book I wrote for Orion called Double Shadow. I had done an enormous amount of research on the First and Second World War and became really rivetted by the 'what if' histories. They are very simple questions, I mean all of us, every person in the world has a 'what if' history. What if I hadn't done this? What if I hadn't gone there? Would my life be completely different? I was interested in big 'what if's in history, and there's two that really rivetted me. One is Churchill nearly being killed on 6th Avenue but was saved by two centimetres of fat. The other one was Adolf Hitler being run down by a post graduate student from Oxford in a Lamborghini, but unfortunately he wasn't killed. The 'what if' here is if this had happened would a Hitler have still come along? He may have been called Hans Frittlebuttle, but would someone have risen up? And the other question is, if so, would we have ever have found another Churchill? These became really rivetting to me. Mixed in with this is the 'what if' of the moon landing. So I started writing Standish, the main character in Maggot Moon, who came to me very very quickly, and whose voice was incredibly strong. I didn't realise quite where he was or what it was about, until he came up with 'Croc-a-colas' and then his spiteful teacher 'Mr Gunnel' raised his cane, and I knew what was going to happen. I thought, 'this is very interesting'. And that was really the beginning of Maggot Moon.
What gets you about attitudes towards dyslexia?
Being underestimated. Just because you think differently, just because you write differently, because you see differently you're underestimated, and seen as not being a part of the same. I think one has to be very careful about this, because that's how we allowed people like Hitler to get in power. We allow bullies to become dictators because we think people should be the same. But the great thing is we're not. We don't need to be excluded from anything, we just need to have better education and better help.
What does better education mean to you?
I think education should relate to the world we live in, and not be about just ticking boxes on tests. It's to do with learning that means something. Learning that relates to the world we live in. I mean too often, if you look at the highest population of dyslexic students in England at the moment, they are at art school, mainly. Central Saint Martins has one of the highest populations. The other place with the highest population is the young offender prisons. I think that really does say quite a lot about the way we treat this particular outlook on life.
There's something very, very wrong if we are failing this amount of children. We are wasting too much talent. I feel very strongly that the teaching you would give dyslexic students would benefit what I call left brain thinkers, as well as right brain thinkers. At the moment we really still just teach for accountants. We're not teaching to the imagination, and in this really visual age, the age of computers, it should be our landscape now.
We write children off too soon. If you're not at age seven looking academic or scientific you will 'never be a doctor'. And the heartbreak here is that you have doctors who have absolutely no ability to relate to their patients. We are failing very talented people by not including them, and we are doing our country down by it. It's to do with emotional intelligence, which teachers are not allowed to give any value to, because they don't fit into the 'ticker box' test system.
What was your experience of school?
Fortunately the school I went to, those kind of schools don't exist anymore. They were for 'maladjusted children'. So my education belonged in the Stone Age. And I can't really say 'oh, great progression'. I still don't think when I look at it today, in relation to what my children had, and in relation to what I've seen when I've gone and talked at, so many schools, I wish I could say, 'oh wow, so much has changed, it's so refreshing, so exciting'. But I can't.
What do you say to students who have been labelled as 'dyslexic'?
I always say to young people that dyslexia is like a Rubicon cube, you have to get it there. Or it's like a parcel. Most children go to school and they unwrap their little parcels and they see that they can read and they can write and they can draw their little pictures. And then a dyslexic child goes to school and they discover they can't read, they can't write and nobody wants their little pictures. What I say is keep on going, pull off the paper and if you unwrap it by the time you leave school you are a very lucky person. But I really think the saving grace for dyslexic students, is our imagination and I say to people, make sure to keep your imagination, keep it going, don't let anyone take that away from you. In the end that's what will get you through.
What's the problem with the way people represent dyslexia?
Everyone just concentrates on the dullness of spelling. You know they say 'it's all to do with, little Jimmy can't spell boat'. And you want to go 'its nothing to do with little Jimmy not being able to spell boat', it's actually much more interesting and really needs to be looked at in a much more exciting way. Because I think it's to do with the imagination, it's to do with the way we see, I don't think we see like other people, I think we see in an extraordinary way. Encouraged, that way could become unbelievable and every one just concentrates on spelling, I find it so unbearably dull.
When I wrote about Standish Treadwell I thought, I'm not doing that old 'bad spelling' thing. I mean it doesn't even relate to us being dyslexic. In the end what we have, which is extraordinary and needs to be celebrated is a way of seeing. We need people to see us differently. What we don't need is to encourage other people any further in thinking that we are 'crazies'.
What is it gonna be like in the future when dyslexic people meet?
I hope in 100 years time, we would meet and it would just be like 'yeah, well, we did it this way ... there are people that do it that way ... thats interesting'. Rather than 'oh my god did you do this?', 'did you have to get statemented?', 'were you that?' and 'did you end up in prison?' It bores the pants off me all this. It's wrong, it's utterly, utterly wrong.
The word "ally" is often misused and misunderstood, so ALLFIE and Parents for Inclusion (PI) decided to bring disabled children and young people together to make a film about the support they want from their families.
We made the film because we think the first step in supporting young disabled people towards self determination, independent living and inclusion must be to consult with them about how they would like to be supported by their families, friends and professional services. So far little has been done about asking young people how they would like to be supported by their families. And while parents have been widely consulted regarding the services they think their young people and the family need, few people ask whether what the parents and the young people want is the same.
The 'Who's on my Side?' film defines good support and what it means to be an ally. We hope the film inspires, motivates and empowers young disabled people, their families and professionals who work with them. We believe the film demonstrates just what can happen when non-judgmental listening and respect for equality are at the heart of providing support. We want the film to widen expectations of positive futures for young disabled people and their families. And finally we want to make this crucial information available to young disabled people, family members, professionals and the community.
What is an Ally?
This is what the young people and parents say:
- An ally is someone who respects people as equals
- An ally is someone who makes time to listen
- An ally is someone who is constant, reliable, present and patient
- An ally is someone who believes in a person and says so
- An ally is someone who knows that taking risks is part of growing up
- An ally is someone who always asks before giving help
"You have to believe in them (your children) and their value - otherwise how could they believe in themselves?"
We think there is a difference between a parent, a carer and an ally. An ally acknowledges the needs of a young person to grow towards self-determination. The ally stands back from the roles of parent and carer, takes the young person's perspective, and supports the young person to make choices, to become who they wish to become. An ally knows about the damaging effects of inequality to all our relationships and that is why they choose to become one.
What can Parents do to be Allies to their Young People?
- Welcome their young people into the world and assert their right to be
- Respect and protect the need for their children to be loved and cherished right from the start
- Assume that their children have a place in their communities as equals
- Create opportunities for play and friendship - always asserting their children's need for ordinary experiences
- Adjust the pace of family life
- Stand up for their children's rights to participate in every aspect of life
- Support their young people to learn to speak up for themselves
- Listen to their young people
What can Professionals do?
- Listen to the young person and listen to the families
- Treat each young person as an individual not as a label
- Value and respect the family's cultural perspective - and the parents' expertise
- Welcome babies and young people right from the start
- View families as ordinary families with the same ordinary aspirations and wishes
- End low expectations of young disabled people and what they are able to achieve
- Champion personal budgets and person centred planning
- Work with young disabled people and their families to stop outdated and disempowering services
- Fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Train in disability equality and learn to apply Social Model of Disability thinking
Find the film on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuAjxJ-cE9k
Let us know what you think!
The Children and Families Bill (CFB) is now moving at a fast pace into the House of Lords, where members will have the opportunity to debate and propose any changes to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) legal framework.
Our observations are that disabled children and young peoples' rights will be substantially weakened under the proposed CFB's SEN reforms compared to the current arrangements. ALLFIE has identified where the possible gains and losses might be for the rights of disabled children and young people to access mainstream education under the CFB:
The right to be on the roll of a mainstream nursery
The presumption of mainstream education covers nursery provisions for SEN children. However under the CFB, the presumption of mainstream does not include nurseries and early years.
The right to be on the roll of a mainstream school
Local Authorities (LAs) cannot place SEN children and young people in a special school on a permanent basis without a SEN statement. This means that SEN children and young people have legal safeguards in place, including the right to appeal if, at a later date, they want to seek a mainstream school placement. In other words a (state funded) special school cannot enrol SEN pupils without having a statement and the accompanying rights that come with the SEN legal framework.
It's proposed in the CFB that special academies will be able to admit SEN children and young people without having an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), also know as the Single Plan. Potentially this means that SEN children and young people can be placed in a special school outside the legal framework.
During the yearly schools admissions round, there would be nothing to stop the LA from offering a special academy instead of a preferred mainstream school placement requested by the parents. By offering a special academy placement, the LA will absolve itself of any duty to provide, review and monitor the SEN provision and whether or not the school is actually meeting the needs of the SEN child or young person. In fact, there is huge incentive for the LA to place a child or young person into a special academy, as it removes their financial responsibility and the need to use their own money to provide SEN support, which would be required at a mainstream school.
Mainstream academies cannot place SEN children and young people into their special academies. This will, however, change under the CFB. Academies will be allowed to transfer their SEN pupils from the mainstream roll to a special academy outside the legal framework.
We anticipate that mainstream academies will 'dump' their SEN pupils into their special academies so that their academic performances will not impact upon the mainstream academy's overall performance.
The right to enrol onto a mainstream course
SEN Children and young people have had a right to access the national curriculum if they attended a mainstream school roll. However as increasing numbers of schools are becoming academies, children and young people's rights to access mainstream courses is being eroded as academies are not required to provide the National Curriculum. We are noticing that academies are now offering segregated life skills courses for their SEN pupils.
When 'presumption for mainstream' was included in the legislation under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, it was based on an assumption of attending mainstream courses as children and young people had an entitlement to study the National Curriculum. So 'presumption of mainstream' included a de facto right to attend mainstream courses while at a mainstream school. However under the CFB, 'presumption of mainstream' is restricted to just getting through the door of a mainstream school or college as SEN children and young people can still be placed onto segregated life skills courses, which in our view is completely unacceptable.
The right to an appeal against a special school placement
SEN Children and young people placed in a state funded special school must have a statement, which allows parent(s)a right to appeal against it sometime in the future.
However if a SEN child or young person can be placed in a special academy outside the SEN legal framework under the CFB, then there is no automatic right to appeal for a mainstream educational placement.
The right of families to expect LAs to plan Inclusive Education practice on a strategic level
Inclusive Schooling Guidance, under the 2001 act, makes it clear that LAs play a strategic role in developing inclusive education practice. The proposed SEN Code of Practice accompanying the CFB removes all references to the strategic role of LAs in promoting and developing inclusive education practice. While more schools are becoming academies, the LA should not be relieved of its responsibility to support disabled children and young people wanting to access mainstream education. LAs still have a SEN budget, and this funding, we believe, must be used to ensure disabled children and young people have the same opportunities to access mainstream education as their non-disabled peers.
LAs and education providers will find it easier to refuse a mainstream placement for disabled children and young people with SEN
Inclusive Schooling Guidance is pretty clear about the limits there are on Local Authorities in terms refusing a mainstream educational placement. Whilst ALLFIE does not want LAs to have any power to segregate pupils, without guidance in terms of refusals LAs and schools will be able to exploit the new gaps in the guidance and use all sorts of excuses to argue against SEN children and young people being included in mainstream education
On a more optimistic note, there is one note of cheer - direct payments in lieu of support services for SEN young people in post-16 education.
SEN young people have no right to individualised support packages or direct payments for support while attending a post-16 institution. This has meant that SEN young people have been placed on segregated life skills courses where additional support is available. While personal budgets are a central feature of CFB, young people will not be able to benefit from direct payments unless the college gives permission to release the support funding. We do not expect too many colleges will want to 'give up' any funding, especially when it is being used to subsidise segregated provision.
On balance, we believe the CFB will substantially weaken the rights of SEN children and young people to access mainstream education despite the Government's intention to promoting choice. We believe that the CFB provision breaches both the United Nation a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities article obligations and Equality Act 2010 duties.
We have prepared more detailed briefings on how the rights of SEN children and young people will be substantially weakened under the CFB. Go to:
The 'How Was School?' project looks at Disabled People's experiences of education over the last 100 years through the telling and recording of personal memories and histories of school. This truly unique collection designed and delivered by disabled people has produced an oral history resource that will serve as an archive in the public interest but will also be a practical tool for schools, colleges and other education providers to bring to life debates on citizenship, equality and diversity.
In uncovering an invisible and vital part of our society's history, this project captures 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 'ineducable' to a more inclusive and empowering approach where disabled children and young people are valued and welcomed into their local school and communities.
Visit the 'How Was School?' website at howwasschool.org.uk. Here you will find audio and video excerpts from over 50 interviews of disabled people, recorded by 10 disabled volunteers between 2012 and 2013. The full audio interviews are now part of the British Library National Sound Archive.
Kevin Caulfield, Project Coordinator of the 'How was School' project interviewed Clenton Farqhuarson about his experience of education. Here are some excerpts from that interview. More can be found at howwasschool.org.uk and Clenton's full interview can be found at the British Library's Sound Archive:
One of my first experiences was them sorting us out into bands; we used to have A, B, C bands and then D band. I was in the D group, which was later known by the whole school as the dunce's group. And that's how I started my education. No teacher at that time spotted I had Dyslexia.
So everyone in my group did nothing. So we didn't really learn and the teachers didn't try and encourage us to learn. I remember a teacher, my first teacher said everyone in our class would either be in prison or do a labouring, low skilled job. They didn't try and help us to gain, you know, our aspirations or anything like that.
Another strong memory of school is the teachers asking me to read out loud. I remember the book was Tom Sawyer and it was to read it out to the school. I got like, a panic attack because in my head, all the teacher was saying was, 'Now, Clenton, read out your paragraph, read out to the class'. This just made me so anxious. I also remember we had a girl who used to sit next to me called Amanda and I remember punching her. I remember punching her right in the face so I could get out of reading. And I remember the headmaster, the teacher, everyone jumped on me to pull me out of the class. I just was so frightened of the power of the words on the page and that didn't help how they saw me at school. But nobody asked me why. And the worst thing was this was constant. Every time I was asked to read, the same behaviour happened. I'd punch whoever was next to me, but no-one picked up this pattern. This started me being classed as having behavioural issues and they labelled me as a slow learner but with behavioural issues.
I went back to a school reunion because I wanted to see what other people had got up to from the year of 1986, so it was a reunion of that year. I went and I remember seeing Amanda, who I'd punched as that horrible little child then. I explained to her what I know now, that part of my behavioural issues was down to my dyslexia. And she said she remembered saying to me that she thought I was a lot brighter than most people thought, but I just found it difficult if someone asked me to write it down.
It was only a great teacher, Mr Hebden, he was a sports teacher that spent time with me to coach me to play rugby. I ended up representing England under twenty-one's playing rugby. He didn't realise I was dyslexic. He taught me, took the time to get my coordination going and that's why I preferred sport to formal education. He saw me, he saw a person. I remember him saying to me 'You just think differently.' And he said, 'There's nothing wrong with you, you're not stupid.
He asked me, 'Is anyone else at school helping you?' I said, 'Well no, nobody's interested.' And he said 'Clenton, you've got to believe in yourself.' And I said, 'How can I believe in myself when everybody in front of me, all the teachers, are telling me I'm stupid?'
I am left-handed but when I was going through school they told me it was wrong to write left-handed. So what they did was they tied my hand behind my back and made me write right-handed, but I'm not naturally right-handed, but if you do something enough times, it becomes the norm. I found this out later in life when I was playing sport, like cricket. I used to play left-handed and they couldn't understand that and I'm right-handed, but later on they found out it was because of the school. School in the early days made me fit into the system even though one size doesn't fit all, especially in education.
At school it just seemed I was on my own and I didn't like how I felt, but I couldn't express that in words. The only tool I had to express it was fighting because that was the only time that people took notice of me when I was doing things wrong.
Thinking back now - there is a quote by Mark Twain, 'Don't let your schooling interfere with your education'. I haven't let my schooling interfere with my education but it's only now, after really thinking about it because I was labelled as a slow learner and that affected my schooling and how teachers perceived me and treated me and their behaviour towards me. And that whole culture within school affected my education.
The most bitter and annoying thing about the education system is I was put out and stopped to really get my life chances. It stopped my progression, my aspirations, because I didn't even have an aspiration, because I thought what's the point in dreaming, or hoping you can do something when it's been crushed?
Education and school are two different things, but a lot of people assume that because you go to a school, you're being educated. They are two different things for me.
Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires Governments around the world to develop inclusive education systems, where disabled children and students receive reasonable accommodations, support and individual programmes to achieve their full potential. The vital element of achieving this transformation is teachers capable of making the adjustments necessary. These include a working knowledge of Braille, sign language, augmented and alternative communication, differentiated curriculum and assessment, removal of barriers and providing local solutions.
In response to this, UNICEF 'Rights, Education and Protection' (REAP) Project, funded by the Australian Government, carried out a survey amongst teachers, teachers' trainers and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Over 5000 questionnaires were sent out by e-mail, with an 18% response rate. 603 questionnaires were completed and were used for the analysis. Respondents were from 111 countries with a good spread across the regions. The key findings were:
There is an encouraging policy environment for inclusive education in many places.
There are many small to medium scale examples of inclusion and disability issues being included within teacher training programmes, across a range of settings.
A mix of operational barriers are preventing teachers from putting inclusive principles into practice.
Lack of access to practical information on inclusion for teachers and trainers is a major concern.
Some good practice in taking more comprehensive approaches is available to be investigated further.
Inclusive principles are increasingly being articulated within policy and teacher training curricula, but that translating these principles into practice is not widespread for various reasons. These include trainers with a lack of experience of inclusive strategies, not enough investment in time and resources for practice-focused training, and, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, major challenges with education infrastructure and resourcing, which are making the basic conditions for inclusion difficult to realise.
Two other strands of the REAP were a Literature Review and investigating how UNICEF and non-UNICEF experts approached the issue of inclusion of disabled children and how teachers should be prepared for this task.
Strongly emerging from this work was that the concept of Inclusive Education had over the last 20 years undergone a transformation, from a primary focus on including disabled children/ students and those with special educational needs (SEN) to a broader concept of ensuring that all excluded and marginalised children are included. The key motivators for this shift have been the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Education for All. While the evidence is clear that these measures have led to some 60 million more children enrolled in primary school with a much greater focus upon girls and linguistic minorities, SEN has remained a specialist area outside most teachers perceived competence and still firmly rooted in a 'medical/deficit model' of disability.
For years this has been viewed as a specialist study area, leading to special education in separate schools, while teachers of mainstream classes received inadequate or non-existent training and professional development. Many teachers are influenced by exclusionary attitudes and cultures in their countries towards people with physical and mental impairment. Teachers feel ill prepared and often unwilling to make the changes necessary to include them. Governments add to these problems with inaccessible buildings, rigid curricula, assessments and failure to provide sufficient inclusive teaching materials and support.
The work of UNESCO and the use of the Index for Inclusion in over 70 countries have drawn on the 'social model' of disability and generalised it to all excluded groups. In the process, the knowledge and need for impairment specific adjustments has been lost and a very high proportion of disabled children with significant impairments remain out of education in the majority world.
Teachers need to understand the paradigm shift underlying the UNCRPD - from a traditional/medical model approach to a social/human rights model, so this is reflected in their flexible pedagogy and practice, where they value all learners. The Convention marks a change in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It moves from viewing them as 'objects' of charity, medical treatment and social protection, towards viewing them as 'subjects' with rights, who are capable and making decisions about their lives.
These findings led the project to propose a twin-track approach to training for including disabled children/ students, in the education and training of teachers. The first track focuses on general inclusion principles and practice, and their impacts on children with disabilities; the second track looks at the impairment-specific accommodations and support that are needed for them to access the school, curriculum, social situations and to thrive.
Serving teachers are by far the largest group who need educating in the above approach through in-service training, continuing education and support. This should be practical, based in real-life situations, contextualised in the local culture, and 'managed' so that teachers are not overwhelmed. It works most effectively as school-based and continuing education. If cascade training is used it needs effective follow-up and monitoring. Ensuring at least 5% of all teachers are disabled people will help this process and provide role models for young disabled people.
Adequate training and support is needed for head teachers or school principals, who are the key catalyst for school improvement. Their leadership should be mobilised through local head teacher collaboration groups, kicked off by a major programme of training with support from district administrators to provide the flexibility to allow teaching staff to develop. This must include the development of inclusive education in which children with disabilities are fully included. The type of leadership needed is different from the traditional, authoritarian role - leaders need to be role models, creative, supportive, problem-solvers, able to learn from mistakes and failures and have high expectations for everyone.
Resource centres are needed in each local district, staffed by experienced and effective teachers engaged in both tracks of inclusion. The role of their staff should encompass: locating and getting children with disabilities into school; supporting and developing teachers in the district; providing advice; regularly visiting schools; developing/providing support materials; linking with health and other professionals to provide habilitation, rehabilitation, aides and appliances; engaging with DPOs, the local community and parents to promote and support the development of inclusive education.
Governments need to encourage training of teachers based on the skills, knowledge and understanding of including the wide variety of children with disabilities, as a mandatory component of pre-service and in-service training. They need to ensure adequate training, recompense and conditions of service to attract and retain a high quality teacher workforce. Curriculum and assessment needs to be flexible and child-centred. States need to ensure that university faculties understand inclusive education and the paradigm shift. Their thinking can lag behind but intensive training can reverse this, as in Vietnam.
We know from research how to educate teachers to successfully include children with disabilities. The problem is one of political will, organisation and the allocation of sufficient funding to build a self-renewing infrastructure and training system. The re-negotiation of the MDGs this September in New York provides a focus for global discussion and action. It is hoped that some of the solutions emerging from REAP will be taken up consistently and to scale, in an effective way, so that we genuinely have education systems that hold out the promise of Education for All, regardless of impairments.
[Richard was the lead consultant on this project, the results of which will be found on EENET]
'A Unique Project Supporting Successful Primary to Secondary Transition'
Funded by the Walcot Foundation
The Transitional Inclusion Group project (TIGs) run by Parents for Inclusion (PI) supports Lambeth families with disabled children with the transition from primary to secondary school. It is a unique project operating in an area of huge need.
Transition to secondary school is a stressful time for most families. For families with disabled children, the process is more complex, and the demands on the parent and the child are greater. (By "disabled" we mean children with physical impairment, learning difficulties, sensory impairment, children in distress, and those under the threat of exclusion). For families with low incomes, and families whose second language is not English (migrant and refugee families), the difficulties are further compounded.
Research shows that families with disabled children are disproportionately likely to be in poverty. Families from black and ethnic minorities are at particular risk of poverty because services do not meet their needs. Current poverty statistics indicate that over half of all disabled children live on or near the margins of poverty. Three in ten lone parent families have a sick or disabled child, and these families are particularly likely to have no adult in work. Many parents have to give up paid work to care for their child and the additional cost and time spent on securing the right support creates unbearable stress for many families.
(see Disabled Children and Child Poverty - Every Disabled Child Matters 2007; Out of Reach - Child Poverty Action Group 2006; and Disability & Caring among families with children- DWP Resource Centre report No 460 2007 for details and references)
In addition, research also shows that disabled children - pupils with SEN with statements are 9 times more likely to be permanently excluded than those with no SEN (see Dept for Education School Exclusion Statistics 2010-2011) and this is despite the fact that so-called 'support' through a Statement is in place. For many parents, negotiating any kind of support for their children is increasingly hard, they have to deal with many professionals and often have to do this alone. All of this increases parental stress, anxiety and isolation which is compounded by an often negative assessment focused on what is 'wrong with the child', their impairment, or behaviour, and often misses the real child, and what is wonderful about them.
In direct contrast, TIGs offers support that places the child or young person in the centre of all planning and discussions, whilst supporting families at this crucial time of transition.
Using a uniquely collaborative approach fully-facilitated Transition Inclusion Groups are offered as a service to schools free of charge for all parents of children in years 4,5,6 and 7. They are facilitated by experienced parents who listen and build parent confidence to ensure that the children and young people are at the centre of the transition process.
The Transition Inclusion Group (TIGs) project began in October 2009 in 9 Lambeth schools (7 primary, 2 secondary) and will end in September 2013. Semi-structured sessions are run by trained parent facilitators that provide a safe place for parents to discuss any issue about their child enabling them to positively engage with the school and ensure good outcomes for the child. TIGs also includes Diversity Training for school professionals as an integral part of the programme with the aim of embedding a legacy of improved transitional support within and between schools once the project completes.
Parents for inclusion developed the Transition Inclusion Group project to meet a need. The service has been created by and is delivered by parents who have been through the transition process, who have found support from other parents and have found the confidence to assert their needs and their joy in their child and his or her abilities.
- 3 Transition Inclusion Groups per school per year.
- A stall at parents meetings, school conferences and welcome evenings.
- Annual Disability Equality/Parents Perspective training, for all the schools (staff and Governors) we are working with and additional schools.
- TIGs evaluation shows how the project improves the outcomes of the families with disabled children, especially those with children at risk of exclusion. By building parent confidence and their ability to work with schools and by enabling children to remain at school with the right support to ensure a good transition to secondary school, TIGs ensures that stress and anxiety are reduced for the family.
TIGS also contributes to better educational outcomes for the young person, reduces the likelihood of exclusion and supports families with training and grant applications.
What Do Parents Say?
- Parents tell us that TIGs support has improved their confidence and ability to ask the right questions from professionals in preparation for the transition of their child.
- Parents report that they have more knowledge and understanding of the barriers to their children's full participation (in both primary & secondary at the transition stage) and of the possible solutions.
- Parents tell us that they have increased confidence in supporting their child through the transition process. And on into secondary school and beyond.
- Parents often take up PI's offer of accredited training thus furthering their own life chances.
- The TIGs project leads to raised aspirations for every child and the parents.
For more information about the TIGs project and or PI's work please contact:
Parents for Inclusion
020 7738 3888
Jeannette Delaney and Lucy Bartley
The recent Easter Conferences committed the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and National Association of School Masters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), representing 85% of teachers in England and Wales, to a programme of joint strike action. The first strike took place across the North West of England on 27th June. This will be followed by a strike across the Midlands in September, the South (including London) in October and a National strike in November. If Mr Gove does not come to the negotiating table the action will escalate right up to the 2015 election.
The issues that teachers are taking action over are ones that will weaken and destroy state education, inclusion and lead to a much poorer education system, especially for children with Special Educational Needs. Firstly, from September the Government wants Governors, Academies and Local Authorities to pay teachers by the results of their pupils as measured on standard tests and examinations. Research from around the world has demonstrated that this does not work. Secondly, they are introducing a series of measures which destroy the current national pay structure. This means that there will not be annual career progression in pay, with instead pay increments only being awarded if all children taught have made sufficient progress. Thirdly, whatever level on the pay scale a teacher has reached when they change jobs or take a career break to have children or study, they will no longer come back to work at the same pay grade, but could go back to the bottom of the scale. Pay progression for classroom teachers can more than double starting salaries at present and retains teachers by rewarding their experience. If teachers' performance is found wanting there are currently powerful appraisal and capability procedures that can lead to their dismissal if they do not improve. The September arrangements also allow schools to vary the length of terms and school days and teachers' workload.
The NUT/ NASUWT are currently seeking to get every governor/director to sign up to an agreement which will maintain the status quo on salary structure and conditions. If they do not agree there is likely to be prolonged strike action school by school.
So why are Mr Gove and the Government so keen on introducing these new teachers' pay and conditions? He has made no secret of his wish to make all schools academies, independent of local authority control with much reduced accountability to parents and the local community. Increasingly, academies are being run as chains which are replacing the support role that used to be provided to schools by Local Authorities. Already schools are charged large amounts for these services. The Conservatives have said if they win the election in 2015 they will introduce the right for academy owners to take a profit. 85% of the costs of running a school are staff costs, clearly if the costs of teachers can be reduced, so public money will be channelled to the private sector as profit. Individual headteachers will determine the pay level of teachers. The headteacher will be working to the dictats of governors or academy directors. This will create a climate of bullying amongst staff, with an adverse effect on children.
Will this improve education? It will not improve the quality and breadth of education as teachers will be forced to teach to test. Support for disabled pupils will be weakened, as the focus is more on results than individual progress and breadth of learning. Experienced teachers will leave education and schools and our children will suffer on the altar of privatisation. Now is the time for parents to show their support for teachers in their historic struggle to save state education. The Unions are also opposing the new narrow primary national curriculum, the severe and unfair OFSTED regime, the destructive changes in Early Years and many other measures designed to wreck state education.
Richard was awarded the Blair Peach Award at the NUT Conference for his exemplary work on equalities in Hackney and across the country.
Austerity measures and so-called welfare reform are increasing the barriers disabled learners face to accessing mainstream education.
Disabled children whose families are forced to move as a result of the bedroom tax, face disruption to their schooling, and, if there is no mainstream provision available in the new area, may have no option but to accept a placement in a segregated school.
Disabled students in further and higher education are disproportionately affected under the current economic climate. A recent report from the NUS on the finances of disabled students found more than half had seriously considered leaving their course.
Providers are restructuring courses to fit tightening eligibility for benefits with job seekers needing to be available to look for work for increasing amounts of time. This means packing learning in to shorter course time reducing accessibility.
Costs are also taking education out of the reach of disabled learners. Concessions for mainstream courses have been tightened while fees have gone up. Disabled people in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance are no longer entitled to concessions for mainstream courses.
At the same time disabled people increasingly have to pay charges for social care. Disabled Student Allowance does not cover social care needs yet realistically disabled people require social care support to enable them to access education.
A consequence of these impacts is a rise in reliance on segregated learning provision.
Campaigns and Communications Officer
“I am applying for a Secondary Academy place for my child who has a Statement of SEN. Are Academies under the same legal obligation to admit children with SEN/D as a priority? And what advice can you give parents of children with SEN/D applying for a place at an academy to strengthen their application and if the application is refused - what should parents then do?”
Academies and the law
All schools, including academies, must comply with the Equality Act. The law regarding academies and statements of special educational needs is more complex and continues to develop. Academies are independent schools and so the law is slightly different. Academies are still publicly funded and must operate in accordance with the funding agreement they have with the Department for Education. This confirms which statutory provisions apply to the school.
The funding agreements can be overridden by changes in legislation. For example, all academies now have to comply with the latest Exclusion Guidance regardless of what it says in their funding agreement. This means that in practice academies now have to comply with most, if not all, of the SEN obligations that maintained schools do. Under the proposed Children and Families Bill all SEN obligations will apply equally to academies.
Children that have statements should not be considered for a secondary school place through the usual admissions process. Instead, the Local Authority (LA) and the parent should consider schools that might be suitable for the child well in advance of their anticipated transfer.
Parents should be given the opportunity to express a preference as to which school they want their child to attend. The LA must consider the parental preference and, if the LA agrees that the school would be suitable, then it should be named unless it would be an inefficient use of public resources, if substantial additional costs would be incurred due to travel, for example.
The LA must then issue an amended statement naming the secondary school it considers appropriate for the child. This must be issued no later than February 15th of the year in which the child is due to transfer to secondary school. Once the final amended statement has been issued, the parent has a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND). This is the best way to challenge the LA's choice of school if you do not agree with it. Any appeal must be lodged with SEND within a strict 2 months of the date of the covering letter sent with the final statement.
Both the LA and SEND can name an academy in the statement even if the academy objects. If named by the LA, the academy can ask the Secretary of State to intervene and it can ask the LA to reconsider. If the matter is decided by SEND, the academy must comply with the tribunal order.
Academies are legally bound to make the provision set out in the statement of any child on their school roll.
If a parent is concerned about their child's attendance at or admission to an academy school, they would be wise to seek legal advice at an early stage. It can become complex and time is often of the essence.
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.
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.