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Inclusion Now Articles Issue 36

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An Inclusive Passage to India

         
Reclaiming our Education Futures

'Special' for all the Wrong Reasons

The SEN Code of Practice Consultation

Hear Us Out!

Inclusive Education at Blackburn College

SEN Reform and Inclusive Education

New Anti-Bullying Programme Planned for Schools

'The Reason I Jump' Book Review

Legal Question No. 10



An Inclusive Passage to India

This year, having left a crisp and sunny England in April, thanks to the British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’, I arrived in the searing 38 degree heat of Bangalore.  I was warmly welcomed by my hosts Pampa and Brunda, both teachers at Delhi Public School (DPS) North in Bangalore.

I had spent a short sight-seeing weekend in Mumbai where I had read in the Times of India of the Tulip Children (www.tulipchildren.org). As I understand it, the group is closing its special schools and promoting truly inclusive education in India instead. This set a very positive tone for my whole visit.
 
While English education, with its obsession with ‘measureable outcomes’, is rapidly turning its back on inclusion, pockets in India are pushing rapidly towards an inclusive future.

Manju Balasubramanyam, Principal of DPS, is the driving force behind the commitment to inclusion at her school. By English standards the school is enormous with five thousand students from age three to over eighteen.

Manju was determined to use my ‘expertise’ during my two week stay and organised a mini inclusion lecture tour for teachers, students, parents and the school counsellors.  It was a whirlwind of activities – doing what I love best – promoting inclusion, and also getting in time for sightseeing around Bangalore with my personal yoga teacher, Satish who teaches yoga throughout the school.

Following one of my first assemblies for approximately eight hundred Year 8 students, a Muslim girl came up to me and politely said that she enjoyed my talk but that I had got it wrong. In India, she told me, the main issue around inclusion is not disability, impairment, sexuality or difference, it is about poverty and particularly the caste system.  Until that is solved she said that inclusion will never happen. As an ignorant white Englishman, I did not feel in a position to lecture the Indians on their caste system or poverty but she certainly put me straight and I won’t be so shy in future.

The Indian culture that I saw (albeit only in one small part of this huge sub-continent), was passionately striving for material success.  Parents wanted their children to be engineers or doctors. They wanted them to have high grades in the rigorous examination system and they wanted them to be ‘normal’ – anything ‘less’ was considered failure. I was told (quietly and privately) that women/mothers are often blamed for any shortcomings in their children. Hence there was a double pressure on mothers to force their children to practice for tests and keep up with their peers. This was exceptionally hard on pupils with intellectual or physical impairments, or who are neurodiverse.  Fathers were stressed because they saw their children not doing as well as they thought they ought to; mothers were feeling guilty that they felt somehow responsible for their child’s difference and, most heart-breaking, the children were stressed because they felt they were letting everybody down.
I was asked to lead a session for children who were considered as having ‘special needs’ and their parents. Some teachers and the school counsellors also attended the session. After a brief presentation about the Social Model of Disability I invited the young people to the stage and asked them in turn to talk about their experiences of school. A minority of children chose not to speak initially but did come and sit near the front, and when they saw how safe the forum was, all of them told their stories to the parents and teachers.

They each laid out their experiences of social exclusion, feelings of rejection from their parents and how they did not feel included by their peers.  Each of them, however, was very clear that they loved their school and felt a deep warmth towards their teachers and counsellors. After the children spoke (and many of us wept!) the parents then had the opportunity to talk about how they felt – and finally the school counsellors. It was a hugely moving experience and was a cathartic moment in the lives of those young people. One very proud grandfather, a highly respected engineer, who was putting huge efforts into ensuring that his grandson would follow in his footsteps, shed a tear at how the pressure he was exerting was not helping – but actually hindering his grandson’s progress.

I loved every minute of my time at DPS but I think the most transformational moments were my one-to-one sessions with Year 13 students, the Principal’s biology class, who had chosen to do practical and research projects on inclusion. My digestive system rebelling at the amounts of chilli that I had consumed, I was able to spend one day ‘resting’ which gave the Year 13’s the chance to have one-to-one and small group discussions about their inclusion projects with me. Their hunger for knowledge and to gain an understanding of inclusion was something I had never experienced from discussions with adult students. They challenged me to the absolute limits of my understanding and the discussions were profound and sometimes heated. Some of the students were hoping to be doctors and had the Medical Model of Disability at the core of their beliefs. We had deep discussions about whether people with intellectual impairments could and should be included in mainstream school (The Indian curriculum approach makes this almost impossible). We discussed the Eugenics movement and why people have been categorised into different values as human beings – those we can abort, those we can selectively create. These discussions were some of the most fulfilling I have had on inclusion, challenging my understanding and, hopefully, giving the students a new way of looking at the world.

Manju assures me that my visit to DPS has made a difference to the understanding of inclusion in her school. Her parents, teachers, counsellors and students certainly taught me profound lessons about inclusion and how a person can be warmly welcomed and made to feel special and loved. I hope I was able to return that love through the interactions I had with them and look forward to continuing our inclusion journey together.

Nigel Utton
Head Teacher and Chair of Heading for Inclusion


Reclaiming Our Education Futures

With under two years to go before the next general election, disabled people are getting organised to tell all political parties what they want, including the reversal of the austerity cuts that are hitting disabled peoples’ rights to live, work and be educated in their local communities.
       
The publication and launch of the ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ Manifesto, which includes ALLFIE’s six demands for Inclusive Education, came at the end of a week of action coordinated by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Inclusion London, Equal Lives and ALLFIE. We wanted to take to the streets to make public the fact that disabled people will no longer tolerate the constant attacks on disabled people that are being proposed by the Government and supported by the right-wing media.

The ‘Reclaiming our Futures’ campaign took to the streets on September 4th  - hundreds of disabled people and our allies from across the country answered the call to action, taking the Manifesto to Government Departments. ALLFIE organised the protest outside the Department for Education  where disabled people and allies came together with banners made from workshops and sang inclusion songs written by activists.

“It was nearly twenty years ago that I was standing at the very same spot in front of the Department for Education, campaigning for my daughter to be included in a mainstream secondary school. It was a highly emotional experience for me to be back, all this time later shouting again for inclusive education. We have moved on in 20 years, but very sadly this government's emphasis on competition, exam results, and the move away from LEA support presents an enormous threat to inclusion. I was saddened about still having to campaign for the rights of disabled children and young people to be included in their neighbourhood schools, but also heartened by the number of disabled people and allies who are absolutely determined to not let this government push things back into the very nasty past. We know inclusion works, and we will continue shouting, singing and campaigning until this is a reality for all children and young adults.”
Zelda McCollum, parent and retired Head teacher

“I feel passionate that all disabled children and young people are fully included in their local mainstream schools. I attended the event because our current government are trying to take the right of inclusive education away from disabled children and young people.” Lucia Bellini, ALLFIE trustee

While we were at the Department for Education, we attempted to present Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, with his own school report card highlighting his failure to support inclusion. We also handed in a letter demanding a meeting with Lord Nash, (the Minister responsible for the SEN reforms in the Children and Families Bill 2013 in the House of Lords) who has refused to engage with disabled people and their organisations. 

We will be planning to meet all the political parties over the next few months to seek their support for the Manifesto and in particular ALLFIE’s 6 demands for Inclusive Education. Watch this Space!

Simone Aspis

Link to Manifesto:
http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/UK_Disabled_peoples_Reclaiming_Our_Futures_Manifesto


'Special' for all the Wrong Reasons

Some reflections on special schools in special measures
Earlier this year, Woodlands Special School in Nottingham was judged ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures following its recent Ofsted inspection. In one of their headline findings, inspectors said the school did not ‘adequately safeguard pupils’ because some classroom doors were ‘locked inappropriately’ to prevent students walking out. Details of this Ofsted judgement duly went national on 28th July 2013 in The Observer.

A special school being judged inadequate is not in itself newsworthy (special schools are nearly four times more likely to be placed under special measures than mainstream schools, according to research by Professor Gary Thomas at The University of the West of England). What has attracted more than local media attention in this case are the locked classroom doors. Ofsted inspectors only have access to a limited adjectival vocabulary that they can use to write about what they have found in a school. ‘Inappropriate’ can hardly have done justice to what one imagines they were feeling when classroom doors were locked during their visits. Words like ‘punitive’ or ‘dangerous’ would surely have been a better fit to what they witnessed at Woodlands.

In understanding what has gone so wrong in this purportedly ‘special’ place where the needs of disabled students are supposed to be best met, we need to be clear that this troubling scenario could only have arisen within a special school. Imagine if you will the Headteacher of your local mainstream school announcing that classrooms will now be routinely locked to prevent children leaving them inappropriately. The outcry from parents and from the young people themselves would be immediate and final. It would never happen. I have tried to imagine under what circumstances it would be appropriate to lock classroom doors in an ordinary school (assuming there still were working locks on any of the doors). I could only think of two scenarios – one is mundane – the school is closed for the holidays; the other is an emergency – there has been a breach of security and there is an intruder on the premises who is already causing harm.
In general it is almost impossible to criticize these kinds of institutions – special schools – and see them as unnecessary and wrong, without also seeming to criticize and disrespect the staff that are paid to work there. That is not my intention. True, there may well have been individual failures of conscience within the wider team and, for some, a sense of unease that went unexpressed because the majority appeared to be accepting of the classroom lockdowns. It is also true that the large majority of people in these places mean well and do the best they can, but the context we give them to act in is severely limited. In short we give them an impossible job. Writing as an educational psychologist with nearly 40 years of experience in the special educational needs arena, I have passed many hours observing the work of special schools and classes. I wish I had more fond memories of the time spent doing this.

The typical situation encountered in a special school class is broadly as follows. There will likely be somewhere between 7 and 10 children in the group and at least 2 adults (sometimes 3 for certain parts of the day). The children will have a very wide range of impairments; some will be unable to use their voice, others will talk a lot - often about the things that fascinate or worry them; some will have limited mobility, others will need to move a lot before they can be comfortable. Some will need adult support with their self-care, others will manage with reminders. All of them will be unlikely to engage with the curriculum (the set of learning experiences) that has been prepared for that day without their involvement being prompted and overseen by one of the adults. Because of this, much of their time in class is about waiting for an adult to get round to them. Moments when the whole group is truly engaged as a group are very rare. What kind of learning environment have we created here? How can we expect children to learn communication in a context where everyone is struggling to communicate? What kind of behaviour incentives have we created? If you were one of those young people, what might you discover that might be effective in increasing your share of the direct connection available in the room? So ‘the centre cannot hold’ because there is no centre in this context, just 7 – 10 hugely different sets of needs and agendas. Little wonder that ‘things fall apart’.
Surely by now we know that such unproductive scenarios are a predictable consequence of the segregation and congregation of disabled students. In fact there is an implicit risk whenever we take any group of human beings labelled with needs out of ordinary life and group them together in a separate place. The exposure by a BBC Panorama team of the systemic abuse of residents at Winterbourne View Private Hospital is a recent high profile example. But similar stories make the press weekly.

Such episodes generally conclude with the dismissal or prosecution of individually culpable staff and calls for more robust inspection regimes. This type of conclusion fails to properly conceptualise the nature of the risk inherent in segregation. Placing the blame solely onto individual actions – a few ‘bad apples’ or maverick managers - does not help us understand why this kind of abuse simply continues and continues. Moreover, the ‘one bad apple’ explanation does not do justice to what we are witnessing here. Something much more fundamental is amiss. Any apple tree planted in this segregated ground will produce bad fruit. Segregated settings have the unfailing effect of enabling staff to make and act upon judgments that would never see the light of day in a mainstream school. In these places, the worst in people is reliably brought out. The way forward is not about better inspection or greater punishments for abusive staff; the way forward is to stop separating and segregating people in the first place. Segregated settings are just not safe places - either for those meant to be receiving support or for those meant to be giving it.

Back to the locked doors at Woodlands School, surely the only meaningful response to the issue of young people trying to escape their classrooms was for the staff to ask – Why do they need to do this? What might be the reasons for this behaviour? Possible answers might be:

With a little more thought you could no doubt add to this list. But it is obvious that locking classroom doors is not a solution that addresses any of these possible underlying causes. Locking doors is a fundamentally punitive response and belongs in the prison system not the school system. Locking doors is driven by other kinds of judgments about what underlies the behaviour. You lock people in when you believe they are being ‘manipulative’, ‘attention seeking’, ‘naughty’ showing ‘non-compliant behaviour’, are ‘out-of-control’ etc. It shouldn’t need saying that all these ‘explanations’ only pose another set of questions and amount to little more than airing one’s prejudices.

The research evidence on the effectiveness of segregated education was summarised thus by Mary Falvey in 2004:

‘Since 1977 hundreds of rigorous research studies have been undertaken to determine the effectiveness of integrating and including students with severe disabilities. As a result of a comprehensive review of the extant literature by myself and my colleagues, we were unable to identify even a single research article that found that segregated delivery models are more effective than integrated models for students with severe disabilities’

Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities Vol. 29, No. 1 Spring 2004

All of this is not to say that there is no need for or purpose to special education. Of course there are many, many disabled young people who need support and curriculum modifications and all the rest in our schools. What we must be clear about is that special education is a service not a place. This is the guiding motto behind special education law in the United States – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This Act also makes much of ensuring that disabled students are educated in ‘the least restrictive environment’ - although actual practice is doubtless still a long way from ideal across the USA. If we are to learn anything from the events at Woodlands School - we could do worse than to take these mottos to heart here.

Derek Wilson
Inclusive Solutions
www.inclusive-solutions.com


The SEN Code of Practice Consultation

The Children and Families Bill (CFB) 2013 is now in House of Lords Committee and being debated by Peers. Alongside the actual Bill, the Department for Education has now published the draft revised Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (SENCoP) and regulations. As regular readers of Inclusion Now will know we have real concerns about Section 3 of the Bill and now those concerns are also reflected in the accompanying SENCoP and regulations.

Sadly the revised Code and Regulations will also, like the Bill, undermine disabled learners’ access to mainstream education. The SENCoP is not law, but it is there to give strong guidance to education providers, parents and other stakeholders on how the law should be interpreted.  

One big omission from the SENCoP is any reference to the Inclusive Schooling Guidance - which currently sets out the role for Local Authorities in developing inclusive education practice at a strategic level. This is despite the ‘presumption of mainstream education’ principle remaining in the Children & Families Bill. 

What is the SEN Code of Practice?
The SEN Code of Practice (SENCoP) is guidance on how the SEN legal provisions should be interpreted on a day-to-day basis by education providers, public bodies and court judges and tribunal panels. The SENCoP is useful for parents and young people, because it explains SEN law and provisions using straightforward language instead of legal terminology.
 
ALLFIE’s concerns about the SENCoP

Getting Involved in the SENCoP Consultation
The closing date for the SENCoP consultation is Monday December 9th 2013. ALLFIE’s London Voice for Inclusive Education network is meeting about the SENCoP at ALLFIE’s offices in Brixton on 21st November so please contact us for more details. 
 
ALLFIE is also planning a consultation event with young people in late November/early December and we will be specifically looking at the impact of the omission of the Inclusive Schooling Guidance from the SENCoP. Check out the ALLFIE website for more information – www.allfie.org.uk

This table highlights what is missing from the revised SEN Code of Practice and what the impact will be:

Current Inclusive Schooling Guidance

Proposed SEN Code of Practice

Impact

Inclusive Education Practice Principles

Omitted

Without a set of clear Inclusion principles children and young people with SEN will be expected to fit into an education system, which is designed for children and young people without SEN. 

Local Authority (LA) strategic role in developing inclusion

Omitted

There will no longer be an expectation for the LA to have a strategic role in developing inclusive education policy. The LA will only have to give consideration on a case-by-case basis, and within a budget related to the SEN High needs block.  
Whilst the Equality Act public Sector Equality Duty is still in place, there is no explicit mention about the role of LAs in promoting inclusive education. 

LAs can only refuse to provide mainstream education in a small minority of cases

Omitted

The omission of a ‘small minority of cases’ will allow LAs and schools to rely upon the incompatibility, and the efficiency of, education for all, to deny a larger number of pupils access to mainstream education. 

‘Efficient education of other children’ caveat is confined to the children that the child will be in contact with on a regular day-to-day basis.

Omitted

LAs and schools will no longer have any guidance on how ‘incompatibility of efficient education of others’ should be interpreted. Money that could have been spent on developing inclusive practice will be diverted into an increase in legal challenges.

Section(316) caveat must not be abused - trivial and inappropriate reasons should not be used to deny children who should, and could, benefit from mainstream education.

Omitted

There will be no warning to LAs and schools attempting to misuse the S(316) caveat.

It is unacceptable for schools to refuse to admit a child thought to be potentially disruptive or exhibiting challenging behaviour, on the grounds that the child should first be assessed for SEN.

Omitted

There will be no clear guidance on whether a school can refuse a child or young person a mainstream education place without an SEN assessment. 

OFSTED monitoring of ‘efficient education of others’ caveat. 

Omitted

There will no longer be any scrutiny of how LAs and schools use the ‘incompatibility of the efficient education of others’ to deny children and young people with SEN a mainstream education place. 
 

Advice on when the ‘efficient education of others’ caveat can be used (an example given is pupils whose behaviour systematically and persistently, impedes the learning of others).

No change, despite clear abuse of the advice i.e. Mossbourne Community Academy case in 2012.

With all the omissions, we anticipate that more schools will ignore the SENCoP guidance and use spurious reasons to deny children and young people with SEN a mainstream education place.

N/A

Young people are expected to meet the post-16 institution’s entry requirements. 

This gives Post-16 institutions the opportunity to abandon their Equality Act 2010 ‘reasonable adjustments’ duties in relation to course admissions criteria. As a consequence, increasing numbers of young people with SEN will be placed on segregated courses

Teacher training emphasis is inclusive practice training

Teacher training emphasis is impairment specific training

Newly qualified teachers will not be confident in delivering inclusive education practice. Instead will be encouraged to take a pseudo medical approach when faced with children with SEN. This will have an impact on the overall confidence of schools in admitting children and young people with SEN which will in turn have an impact on the numbers of children with SEN included in mainstream schools. 



Hear Us Out!

VIPER has just come to the end of a three year research project involving 16 young people aged between 13 and 25 from all over England. The project investigated how children and young people participated in decision making about the services they used such as health, education and leisure.

In April of this year, the VIPER project launched their research findings at an event attended by 75 people.  The event was chaired by VIPERs and gave the audience the chance to meet the VIPERs, learn more about how the VIPERs had carried out their research and what they had found out. The audience were shown a short video put together by the young people of VIPER, then the audience was split into teams to talk to members of VIPER. 

This was followed by a guest interview and a video of an interview carried out by a small group of VIPERs. Paralympic athlete and member of the House of Lords Tanni Grey-Thompson was interviewed by VIPERs Thomas Rowson and Yewande Omoniyi.  Tanni Grey-Thompson was very pleased with the research project and hopes that people with continue to work for the participation of children and young people with disabilities.

The ‘Hear Us Out’ Report was launched following the findings of the research project and highlighted within it the group's recommendations for future participation projects. These recommendations included:

Find the full report at:
http://viper.councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/media/7834/hear-us-out.pdf

Marti Hayes


Inclusive Education at Blackburn College

Blackburn College is a large general further education college situated in East Lancashire.  It offers programmes of study from Entry level to Level 3 and if students wish to progress further it has a University Centre offering Degrees and Postgraduate study.

‘Inclusive’ at Blackburn College is simply that we see every person as a student first and then we look at the support that student might require to achieve their goals. This is undertaken without a discrete or segregated curriculum, the focus is on how we provide the diversity of support required by the person.

Blackburn College started to dismantle the segregated classes and curriculum for students with the label of learning difficulty and disability in the early 1990s. At that time the Gateway building was the focus of this activity. Dedicated teachers and classrooms offered a special curriculum aimed predominantly at 'independent living skills'.

The classes were disbanded in response to our taking part in a report on the 19+ provision by the North West Training Development Team. The evaluation of our service gave me a completely different understanding on what I thought was my personal inadequacy as a teacher and as a programme leader. The report was the foundation for the College’s shift to inclusive practice.*

To become inclusive means essentially changing a culture. This takes time! However, I would say that it needs to be supported by the Principalship and Governors if it has a chance of working effectively. The second change would be to transfer from a curriculum based model for supporting students to a cross college support model, where support for ALL students is recognised as the responsibility of ALL teaching staff. The funding of programmes might initially suggest there is no alternative to funding students with the label of learning difficulties other than in a segregated class, Blackburn college has demonstrated over twenty years this is not the case. Having clear values and principles about the rights of each student, having students and staff in the organisation who are committed to ensure human rights are applied in practice.

The benefits for disabled students is that they are an integral part of the College, as for all students. This of course will be claimed by many institutions. However, by not providing segregated provision for students with significant support requirements the College alters the curriculum and offers support to allow all students to take a full part in College life. This benefits non-disabled students also in that they gain the benefit of additional teaching and learning strategies that are used by the tutors to include students who may require alternative support strategies. Often support staff will work across the whole group to avoid stigmatising any particular individual, this is often of benefit for those who need additional help but not in any sustained way. Activities designed for the group tend to have accessibility designed in and so ensure that students are aware by direct experience of the varying needs of each other. In vocational studies students will often use each other as models or in role plays, for example in the hair salons, where this allows for greater diversity of learning in customer needs and adds to the student’s employability.

The teaching staff benefit from having others working with them in the classrooms and outside. Support tutors will bring a range of different strategies with them and develop ideas to deliver topics.  Specialist tutors will adapt materials into alternative formats and support workers will offer help to all in the class when meaningful. It offers ongoing professional development in the classroom and the crucial understanding of diversity as a central element of good teaching and learning.

If I was to be able to influence the education of people with additional support requirements in an inclusive way through legislation it would be to ensure that ALL students, including students labelled as having intellectual impairments will have an entitlement to a service from primary through secondary and higher education. This inclusive approach would ensure the educational journey is inextricably linked with appropriate and meaningful support throughout. 

Inclusion to me is simply: a Human Right. I cannot see the value in segregating some people from other people in a learning environment. It is not good for either party. Segregation can promote anxiety and ignorance, it diminishes an educational culture. If we want an inclusive and caring society we have to have an inclusive educational service.

Anne Harwood



SEN Reform and Inclusive Education

As many parents will tell you, if they want their disabled child to be included in mainstream school, it is an uphill battle. Despite the Equalities Act (2010), a supposed presumption of inclusion in the 1996 Act as amended by the SEN and Disability Act (2001), the Academies Act (2010) requiring academies to operate the Equalities Act and equivalent SEN (Special Educational Needs) provisions, it is becoming increasingly harder to gain admission to mainstream school and to successfully continue there.

The increasing pressure from government and OFSTED on crude league table results, threats of forced academisation, increasing delegation of SEN funding and lack of support and training for schools to develop their capacity to be inclusive, are all barriers.

On the other hand, if parents want a special school this choice is respected, though they may also have to battle for more expensive residential and independent schools. So there is not a ‘bias to inclusion’.

The government’s stated position of ‘reversing the bias to inclusion’ is not directly made reference to in Section 3 of the Children and Families Bill currently in the Lords. However, many of the provisions contained in the legislation and equally many of the omissions, will make it harder for those parents and schools that want to include disabled children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs.

We need to be clear that working for inclusive education is not an ideological plot. It is about fairness, equality and natural justice. The development of a segregated special school system grew out of a wish to keep disabled young people away from non-disabled young people under a eugenicist ideology that to socially mix certain people would weaken the gene pool. It was based on false science and has had a long and devastating impact on the lives of disabled people. More recently it has been said that special schools offer specialised pedagogy but where there is good practice, this can operate in any school. Disabled children with every type and degree of impairment have been shown to be successfully included, where staff  have the right attitude and training and peers are encouraged to have a welcoming attitude. Inclusion does not mean treating everyone the same. It means providing children and young people with the support and curriculum they need to thrive.

The Green Paper and draft SEN Bill held out a promise to parents of moving away from the difficult adversarial position many found themselves in as they struggled for the support their children needed. There would be one seamless Education, Health and Social Care Plan (EHC Plan) for those with low incidence or complex needs, replacing the statement. For the bulk of children and young people with SEN, the current phased provision of School Action and School Action Plus was to be replaced with a single school based stage.  The EHC Plan would run from 0-25 years, Post 16 provision being brought into a single system with a person centred approach to planning and the possibility of direct payments. This legislation was meant to apply to the more than 2 million disabled children and young people or those with SEN. In fact the legislation as proposed does not currently include those who are disabled but do not have SEN.

Such radical reform was always likely, despite Ministerial assurances to the contrary, to lead to a weakening of parental rights. The SEN system had been built up with cross party agreement over more than 30 years. It was by no means perfect, but Brian Lamb’s enquiry for the last Secretary of State had shown considerable parental support for the system, provided some 60 proposed improvements were carried out. Instead the Coalition Government set about a root and branch change with little or no evidence of the benefit of such changes. 21 Pathfinder projects involving 30 Local Authorities were set up and run by Mott MacDonald - a private conglomerate construction company with little expertise or track record in education. The Pathfinders will report in September 2014, the same date the new legislation is to come into force.

A fudge occurred in previous legislation (2001). At this time the Government of the day accepted that there should not be a position where large numbers of children and young people were segregated in separate special schools and colleges against their will and the will of their parents. In Section 316 (1996 Act) two caveats were removed which had prevented choice of mainstream schools. These were that ‘the education provided was appropriate’ and ‘the efficient use of resources’, only leaving that the choice of mainstream ‘interfered with the efficient education of other children’. However in Schedule 27 the existing caveats were left intact and the schools provision for age, aptitude and special educational needs were also included. Schedule 27 was to apply to Local Authorities in demonstrating that there were no schools in their area or surrounding areas that could not accommodate the child. The DFES issued the guidance on Inclusive Schooling to demonstrate that schools had to consider all reasonable adjustments prior to saying they could not include.

The development of Academies meant that Section 316 and schedule 27 were brought together and allow schools to say that they cannot meet needs. This formulation has now been brought into clauses 34 and 39 of the Bill and will further weaken the presumption of inclusion.

Academy and Free Special Schools in Clause 34.8 will have the right to admit children without a Plan not just for assessment, but on an ongoing basis. This move will increase segregation and undermine inclusion.

Local Authorities as the Bill is currently, have no powers to enforce the ‘local offer’. This will mean they cannot require their mainstream schools or local academies to admit disabled children and those with SEN. The Bill does not currently apply to many children and young people with long term impairments who do not have SEN. This is unjust and breaks a government promise. Equally, many of the detailed legal rights parents currently enjoy in primary legislation, with regard to appealing statements, are not in the Bill. For example there is no longer a time limit on Local Authorities to complete assessment or issue a Plan (Statement). Clearly this will lead to a situation where budgets are reducing, money is running out and the child will not get the statutory provision they require.

There are some gains in the legislation: the extension to post 16, though this does not cover Higher Education; the emphasis on person centred planning, though this does not appear in the primary legislation but only in the Draft SEN Code of Practice; the mandatory nature of health provision.

However, the legislation as a whole loses many rights that have been developed over years (see IPSEA website for details); makes it easier to segregate children and young people; does not move forward in implementing the international standards of inclusive education as outlined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

From the point of view of enhancing inclusive education and developing schools and colleges which are welcoming of difference, where the staff have the capacity to include a wide diversity of learners in academic and social activities, where each student can optimise their potential, this legislation does not take us forward. The government will have achieved their aim of ‘reversing the bias to inclusion’, but 1000s of children and students will be worse off and a great opportunity will have been lost to develop disability equality in our education system.

Richard Rieser
World of Inclusion
rlrieser@gmail.com

 

New Anti-Bullying Programme Planned for Schools

It looks like a piece of algebra. (DFE + ABA) x AFA = ABP. In plainer English it signifies that the Department for Education has funded the Anti-Bullying Alliance to commission Achievement for All 3As to develop and deliver an Anti-Bullying Programme. The importance of this for readers of Inclusion Now is that the strategy is to be targeted at the bullying of young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

On the face of it another strategy that singles out this group and differentiates these young people from the mainstream may not be particularly welcome. A set of procedures devised and delivered largely by non-disabled educationalists could well produce another set of things ‘done to’ rather than ‘done with’ the young people in question.

In mitigation, the implementation of the strategy is built upon the active involvement of young people in difficult situations and their families in finding solutions. In addition, a series of findings by organisations concerned with the wellbeing of young disabled people point towards the need for a specific strategy in this area:

The above will not be news to young disabled people and their families. Some years ago I helped to facilitate consultations with young people with disabilities and researchers from ALLFIE on the then proposed Disability Discrimination Act.  What struck me forcibly in their accounts was the number of young people who were placed in special schools not, as the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice states, because that is where their educational needs could be best met, but as a refuge from the relentless bullying they experienced in the mainstream. Effectively this meant putting them into protective custody rather than dealing with the problem. Bullying is emphatically an Inclusion issue.

Not that special schools are a safe haven, there is ample evidence from ALLFIE’s own research project, ‘How Was School?’ of bullying cultures in special schools. As one of the participants, Simone Aspis, notes, ‘You know, bully somebody else and make someone else feel bad and, you know, you kind of feel better yourself. So there was a lot of bullying that went on, quite nasty bullying…’ The Equality and Human Rights Commission noted in 2012 that ‘the Commission believes that setting may also be important and that separating disabled children from their peers at an early stage may have a long-term impact. We suspect that this could be in terms of social isolation and resilience of disabled people, attitudes among non-disabled children and adults, and the capacity for positive interaction.’

In terms of implementation, the Achievement for All 3As charity will deliver training and support in 1500 schools over the next fifteen months to help them develop robust anti–bullying procedures. The schools’ progress in measuring and reducing bullying will be monitored. The well-being of young people with special educational needs and disabilities will be measured and tracked. Additional sources of training in specific strategies will be identified and delivered, whether that is Disability Equality or Restorative Justice Training.  The core input is free to all Achievement for All 3As partner schools.

The numbers are significant, and the ambition of the project is to be flexible to the needs of individual schools and learners, so the process will not be identical for any two schools. Out of this will come a body of evidenced practice that can help more schools develop better practice and, more important than the numbers, a change in the daily lives and experiences of young people and the growth of positive relationships across whole school communities.

Over thirty evidenced strategies have been included in the training, and more are being added, divided into Quick Wins, Medium and Long term responses. These include simple things; a provision that, if anyone has to be removed from a bullying situation, it should be the person exhibiting the bullying behaviour, not the person who is on the receiving end of it, to longer term changes in language use so that people who are bullied get accurate messages about the scope of the problem, that it is a specific difficulty in one aspect of their lives which is capable of resolution, not that they are ‘Victims’ – a distinction that can limit the damage done.

Schools make an initial plan involving a range of strategies and are given support in implementing and monitoring their effectiveness. They are encouraged to work in partnership with other schools to share experiences and good practice. The first training sessions were delivered in October, and schools are now conducting audits and deciding which of a raft of short, medium and long term strategies, from increased supervision of lunch times to whole school training, they are going to implement.

In the longer term the aspiration is to move beyond short-term fixes to the creation of inclusive, rights respecting and safe schools. This includes the acknowledgement that a great deal of what is termed anti-bullying practice is actually the process of resolving bullying incidents after they have happened. This is the equivalent of describing the doctor who sets your broken arm and puts it in plaster as an anti-accident strategy. The damage has already been done.

The work of resolving bullying behaviour and making young people safe is of course important and vital, but how much better to have school environments in which the culture, beliefs and behaviours are such that bullying is an unthinkable outcome? This is long-term work, the slow accumulation of interventions, consistency of response, constant watchfulness and deep optimism. The Achievement for All 3As programme is the beginning of the journey.

We invite the readers of Inclusion Now to share their experiences and suggestions to help mould the programme. What would you like to see as part of a programme to change schools into safe places for young people with special educational needs and disabilities? Please send ideas to the email address below:

Peter.Keane@afa3as.org.uk

Peter Keane
Peter Keane is a Lead Coach on the Achievement for All’s 3As’ anti-bullying initiative.


The Reason I Jump - Book Review

by Naoki Higashida, Sceptre Books, London, 2013
Book Review
With the publication of this remarkable book, the gap - between what paediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists have theorised about the underlying impairments that produce autism and what people with autism themselves tell us about their inner experience and struggles - grows ever wider.

The Reason I Jump is a major addition to the increasing number of autobiographical accounts by individuals with the label of autism. As Paula Kluth remarked in 2004:

“The function of the autobiography in contributing new voices to the fields of special education and disability studies, in shaping how educators understand disability and people with labels, and in inspiring new cultural awareness cannot be underestimated.”

Naoki Higashida is a Japanese teenager with autism who communicates by pointing to letters on a cardboard keyboard. He cannot use his voice reliably.

The Reason I Jump provides its insights through Naoki’s answers to a series of 58 questions that address many of the least easy to understand ‘autistic’ behaviours. Thus Naoki provides his personal answers to questions such as:

Why do you echo questions back at the asker? 
Why do you dislike holding hands with people?  Why are your facial expressions so limited?
Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes? What’s the reason you jump?

And many others. It is not always easy for him to be clear about the reasons why and often what he describes is the effect on him of doing the things he does. It is often about restoring a sense of order or wholeness to his being in the world. We should not be surprised that Naoki cannot always fully explain himself. Many of the difficulties he is grappling with are occurring below conscious awareness and are only known by their effect on our mood or behaviour or our sense of well-being. But the fact is none of us is able to say much about how we move our bodies; if you were asked to try and explain how you produce words to talk or how you reach out and pick up a coffee cup – you wouldn’t need long - there is virtually nothing we can put into words about these actions – we just do them and take their smooth execution for granted in the process. What Naoki is often trying to tell us is that he cannot assume these kinds of actions will be unproblematic; that all kinds of accommodations and internal routines might need to run before he can do the seemingly simplest things. 

Interestingly, the professional writers whose work on autism chimes best with what Naoki tells us are: Martha Leary and Anne Donnellan (2012). Since the mid-nineties Leary and Donnellan have stressed that autism is most accurately construed as a movement disorder, individually nuanced, that leads to difficulties for individuals in any or all of the following aspects of movement: starting, stopping, executing, continuing, combining and switching. Leary and Donnellan define ‘movement’ in its widest sense and include ‘internal’ movements such as retrieving memories or registering emotion as areas of human performance that can be affected by a movement disorder. They have also been relentless in their assertion that movement difficulties effectively mask competence in individuals with autism and that this should make us highly sceptical of any assumptions we might make about ‘ability’ based on psychometric testing – all we may really have assessed is the movement difference not ‘intelligence’. Here is one of Naoki’s attempts to help us understand what it is like (from the inside) to experience movement disturbances (p.68):

‘There are times when I can’t act, even though I really, badly want to. This is when my body is beyond my control. I don’t mean I’m ill or anything. It’s as if my whole body, except for my soul, feels as if it belongs to someone else and I have zero control over it. I don’t think you could ever imagine what an agonizing situation this is. You can’t always tell by looking at people with autism, but we never really feel that our bodies are our own. They’re always acting up and going outside our control. Stuck inside them, we’re struggling so hard to make them do what we tell them.’

Almost all of what Naoki writes about is movements of the mind - his urges to do something in a certain way, the perceptual shifts, disappearances of memory, the welling up of illusory threats that compel him to escape. It is his accounts of the inner life behind the confusing (to us and often to Naoki too) outward behaviours that are most revealing. Each of Naoki’s answers go some way towards detonating the many myths that are implicit within the ‘triad of impairments’ narrative of autism* - Not least the myth that people with autism lack empathy or a theory of mind – Naoki’s short story ‘I’m Right Here’ which features at the end of the book shows he has the storywriter’s gift of being able to take the reader step-by-step to a place of understanding and make them feel what he wants them to feel as he goes. Likewise, it is clear that often Naoki is only too aware of other’s feelings and is sometimes overwhelmed by them; he also has an accurate awareness of how he is likely to be perceived by others when he is at his most challenged.

The Reason I Jump is translated from Japanese by the author David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida; they have a son with autism themselves and therefore a particular stake in what Naoki is saying. David Mitchell is unequivocal about what he has learned and how his learning has transformed his understanding of and relationship with his own son; crucially this has been about the realisation that the behaviours described in the ‘triad of impairments’ ‘are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism’ (p.10). And - if that last sentence made no sense to you whatever – you need to read ‘The Reason I Jump”.

Derek Wilson
Inclusive Solutions

*The ‘Triad of Impairments’ refers to the fact that individuals must show apparent difficulties in 3 areas of their functioning – communication skills, social skills and imaginative thinking skills before they can be given a diagnosis of autism. In itself, the triad has no explanatory force in as much as it does not tell us why individuals are experiencing these difficulties. People receive the diagnosis of autism because they have a particular set of difficulties – why do they have these difficulties? - Because they have autism. Clearly we need to do better than this circular and empty explanation…

References/Further Reading:
Paula Kluth: Autism, Autobiography and Adaptations, ‘Teaching Exceptional Children’, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 42-47

Martha Leary and Anne Donnellan:  Autism: Sensory-Movement Differences and Diversity


Legal Question No.10

"My child is in year 6 at Primary School and his year will soon do their SATs. The headteacher approached us today and said he didn't think that our son should do the Maths test like the rest of his class, as his maths isn't that strong. Can he do that?"

Most children in year 6 will take national curriculum tests, often known as SATs. There are limited circumstances when a headteacher will choose not to enter a pupil for these tests.

SEN
Children with special educational needs should, if working at level 3 or above, still be entered for these tests.

If a child is working at the appropriate level but there is a reason why they cannot access the tests, the school is under a duty to make suitable arrangements to allow these children to take the tests. This may apply to children with a sensory or physical difficulty for example but can also apply to a wide range of other difficulties. 

If you consider that this may apply to your child then you should start by talking with your child’s class teacher about appropriate arrangements to be made.

Failure to put appropriate arrangements in place means that the school is failing to comply with the Department for Education’s statutory guidance but could also constitute disability discrimination. You may want to seek legal advice on this matter.

Those working below level 3
Children who are assessed by their teacher as working below level 3 of the national curriculum and who are unlikely to reach that level by the time of the tests (these usually take place on set days in May each year) should still be registered in the school’s data but should not sit the tests.

A child should not generally be registered for individual parts of a test if they are not working at an overall level 3. This means that if a child is particularly skilled at mental arithmetic but not able to achieve a level 3 overall in Maths, they should not be entered for the tests.

If children working below level 3 do sit the tests, such tests must be sent for marking and will be included in the school’s reporting/statistics.

Decision over sitting the tests
Where a headteacher has decided not to enter a child for the tests, parents can make a request that this decision be reconsidered. Parents’ views should be fully considered but the decision of the headteacher is usually deemed as final. Headteachers are under a duty to fully explain the reasons for the school’s decision to parents.

The above rules and requirements may mean that some children may not take the relevant tests until they are older. Those who have not taken the tests in year 6 must be entered to take them at the end of the year in which they complete the key stage 2 programme of study, if the headteacher considers the child to be working at level 3 or above.

If you are concerned over your child’s up and coming SATs tests, then it is important to speak to the school as soon as possible. Should you think you need legal advice or assistance, then contact a solicitor sooner rather than later to ensure that the case can be fully explored before the relevant tests are taken.
Sarah Woosey
Maxwell Gillott Solicitors

Maxwell Gillott is a firm of specialist solicitors, providing legal advice and assistance for clients who face difficulties with the key public services of education, health and social services.                         
www.maxwellgillott.co.uk

If you have any legal questions send them in to Inclusion Now and we will see if we can answer them.