Inclusion Now Articles Issue 37
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Talking to Professor Gus John
Major Differences in How Local Authorities Respond to Diversity
Socio-Economic Segregation at Faith and Non-faith Secondary Schools Revealed by New Online Mapping Tool
The Importance of Inclusion
The Education System and Me
Ghosts of Segregation & Lord Nash
Professor Gus John was born in Grenada in 1945 and has lived in the UK since 1964. He is an associate professor of education and honorary fellow of the Institute of Education, University of London. He became the first African Director of Education and Leisure Services in Britain in 1989 and has been Chair of the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) since it's beginning in 1999.
What led you to be a champion for young people at risk of exclusion?
I became involved in supporting children’s learning ever since 1965 when I was studying Theology at Oxford, having arrived in England one year earlier. The children of Caribbean car workers, mainly men, at the Austin-Morris car plant in East Oxford, and their wives/ partners who worked as health workers at the Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals, were facing massive prejudice and race discrimination, especially from teachers who expected them to do badly. Many of those children had recently arrived to join parents who had left them behind in the Caribbean while they sought work and suitable accommodation, so they had huge adjustments to make at home, in school and in the community round about. Then, like now, they were punished in school much more harshly than their white peers, as well as being subjected to much racial harassment and bullying.
I felt then that the schools had scant regard for children’s rights and the regime of schooling was almost entirely about demanding conformity and silencing children’s voices. What is worse, teachers had a notion of some assumed ‘norm’ and were intolerant of children and parents whom they placed outside that ‘norm’. They showed no appreciation of ‘difference’ (the term ‘diversity’ was not part of the lexicon then) and acted in a manner that suggested that the difference in pigmentation and in cultural background of those children was tantamount to immutable, genetically based, difference in cognitive development and academic ability. I therefore mobilised parents and students to confront that oppressive system and not be cowed by school managers and teachers.
I was able to expand that work when the following year, aged 20, I became the Chair of the education sub-committee of what would now be the Oxford race equality council but was then called the Oxford Committee for Racial Integration. On leaving Oxford and the religious order I had joined, I maintained my interest in schooling and education, youth development and the empowerment of marginalised groups within communities and became a community activist.
What was your own education like?
I enjoyed my schooling, but I enjoyed my education even more. The latter at its most profound came from the adults and elders in my village, especially my father who was functionally illiterate and my mother who had received the most rudimentary schooling. The book learning I got from school was complemented by the wisdom and philosophy my parents shared, both by living the values they espoused and would have us their children adopt and make our own, and by ensuring they taught us how to ‘BE’.
My primary schooling took place in one large open space, without partitions. The only thing that divided one class from another was a blackboard which was matched by a corresponding board on the opposite side for the teacher of the class facing us. We therefore learnt to study and learn in a cacophony of high pitched sounds, spoken and sung.
At the age of 12, I won a scholarship (fees and books) to one of the two prestigious secondary schools for boys, Presentation Boys College, in the capital, St George’s. There I came face to face with issues of class, caste, wealth and privilege and with what Pierre Bourdieu was later to call ‘cultural and social capital’. The deference paid to, the privileges extended to and the automatic validation conferred upon the children of white former colonialists, of dual heritage parents, of the black middle classes were singularly absent when it came to black African, village boys like me, sons of poor, illiterate peasants.
From that early age, therefore, I developed an acute sense of injustice, especially as I saw my peers in my village, who were at least as bright as I was, drifting into a culture of low aspirations because of lack of opportunity and on account of structural neglect.
At the age of 14, I was stealing books regularly from the public library and school library and running a reading club on my parents’ veranda for children in my village. I worked out that it was cheaper and easier to pay the fines to the libraries than to save up and try and purchase the books. My father, who was glued to the radio and especially Pathe News and the BBC World Service at every opportunity, used to come to the book club and tell us about African and Caribbean politics and about workers’ and civil rights struggles in the USA.
My parents ran a grocery store and rum shop, at the back of which, and upstairs, was our living quarters. The men gathered to drink rum, discuss national and world politics and ‘talk stupidness’, especially when they were tanked up. That was a school in itself and one learnt even more from them than from teachers at school.
When at the age of 17, I joined a seminary in Trinidad, I was exposed to a different level of education which was to continue when I transferred from that seminary to the Theology programme at Oxford. If the Dominican Order taught me and my fellow friars anything, it was independent and critical thinking and the importance of having an open and inquisitive mind and treating certainties and given ‘truths’ with caution.
What does an inclusive education system look like through a Gus John lens?
My starting point as an educationalist and a teacher is that the Alpha and Omega, the primary and ultimate purpose of schooling and education is to humanise society. Education and schooling is forever preoccupied with what children are learning and should learn, how and what teachers are teaching them, how excellent their schooling outcomes are and how competitive our schooling and education system by global standards. Its focus is hardly ever on ‘how children are’ and should be. Consequently, learning is about doing and achieving and not about ‘being in the social world’. Every child has developmental needs as a person and as a learner. Giving that child their educational entitlement and making sure they are treated as if they matter just as much as the other person who might be automatically validated and not marginalised by the system and the society is, for me, the task of schooling and education.
Inclusive education means therefore that the individual capacity for self expression and self development of every child must be nourished and developed. It means that the schooling and education system, society itself no less, must be seen to do two things. First, to abandon notions of ‘normal and ‘abnormal’, see each child as having needs that are as unique as their DNA and educate society to understand and accept the uniqueness of each individual. Whether in mental health or physical ability, we all sit along a spectrum, we are all on a journey, each contributing to what makes us all human and capable of realising the best in ourselves, and yet capable of the complete opposite. Second, we need to stop seeing children as economic units in which we invest through schooling and education (inputs) so that they could emerge at the other end as economic actors (outputs) with the capacity to boost the nation’s economic competitiveness and secure its place in the global market. The commoditisation of schooling and education based upon that model will see it as futile and wasteful for society to invest in and give their entitlement to those whom the society deems incapable of performing in a manner that would enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness. This means that those who are considered to be surplus to requirements, or incapable of becoming high performers would be a lower priority in terms of education spending than those who are expected to end up at the top of the totem pole. People with disabilities, underachievers, school resisters and those who challenge and set their minds against a curriculum or school regime they consider irrelevant are all likely, therefore, to disappear from the radar, or be pushed to one side as being of less societal value and more of an economic liability than the rest.
What are your thoughts about current education reforms?
Current education reforms are logical and consistent, given the type of society the government is seeking to build. It is one of rampant individualism, greed, xenophobia and a shameless attack on the poor and marginalised that are grouped as a grabbalicious (wonderful term that is much in use in the Jamaican vocabulary), scrounging, amoral, feckless and socially irresponsible section of society.
It epitomises the model of schooling and education I described in the foregoing section. Those of us who see ourselves as facilitators of children’s learning and holistic development (physical, emotional, cultural, social, spiritual) see childhood as a period of intense socialisation. Early years is a time when children learn how to be; how to share; learn the value of play; the joy of self expression and being able to communicate with others and get a meaningful response; the joy of discovery; how to develop insight and to know that actions have consequences and that some actions can cause them and others great harm; how to understand the impact that what they do has on others and that others could hurt them, or love and cherish them. This is all part of becoming a socially adjusted human being and reining in the instincts we have as human animals and the behaviours that flow from them. In short, learning how to BE and learning the values that make us fit for living in civil society; learning how to live those values in all aspects of our daily being in the world. All of that should ideally be punctuated by the learning that is derived from books and formal teaching, etc. Sadly, the current government wants all of that informal learning, learning through play, learning by doing and learning in sharing environments to be measured, with God knows what baseline and what benchmarks.
What is worse is that it is assumed that whatever you measure and test at the age of two or four would be a reliable predictor of what a child will become, or the level at which they will be performing at 11. This crude input and output/outcome model further assumes that the school will be the only major influence, or the most powerful influence in the child’s development between the ages of 4 and 11. Nothing is said about how you would measure and test the other influences outside school (often much more powerful, whether positive or negative) on the child’s early development.
Again, all of this arises from the view that children’s worth and the quality and extent of their learning at any age are to be judged only in terms of their preparation for academic excellence to drive economic competitiveness, irrespective of how hedonistic, selfish, individualistic, intolerant and uncaring society becomes in the process.
The commoditisation of schooling and education that the current reforms represent is inherently divisive, particularly on the axis of race and class. Academics and free schools do not ensure that there is a good school for every child in every community. Well heeled middle class parents are able to establish ‘free’ schools and guarantee places for their own children, irrespective of a local authority’s ability to meet its statutory responsibility to ensure that there is a school place for every child. State funding enables such parents to provide ‘free’ schooling and tuition and preparation for ‘the common entrance’ for their own children and others like theirs without having to fork out the usual £50 to £60 per hour. Meanwhile, like the academies, they are answerable only to themselves. There is a symbiotic relationship between them and their governing bodies or advisory councils and, like the police, they investigate themselves. Independent Appeal Panels, once the only forum of redress for parents, can no longer compel them to reintegrate excluded students.
In order to guarantee such schools plain sailing without the irritation and diversion caused by having to meet the needs of disrupters and non-conformists, a set of intermediate providers have been factored into the system, namely Pupil Referral Units. For too many students, those simply serve as a staging post between the mainstream schools that rendered them surplus to requirements and the young offender institutions and adult prisons that are ever creating more spaces for them. A number of studies, including those conducted by the Children’s Commissioner, have noted the number of students with special educational needs, with disabilities and in the care of local authorities that are excluded and placed in those units. There are some 135,000 young people of school age who are not in mainstream provision and for whom the government is commissioning all sorts of providers to cater. This is the equivalent of 135 secondary schools with a roll of 1,000. Schooling outcomes for that section of the schooling population will never match those of the improving comprehensives, let alone be ‘as good as independent schools’. This two track system is compounding social exclusion and sowing the seeds of social unrest. Yet, most parents appear to find this ‘dog eat dog’, everyone for themselves, individualistic approach to schooling provision rather beguiling.
What else does the unfettered and totally bonkers Michael Gove have to do before the nation’s headteachers and teaching staff, let alone parents, tell him they will not sit by and let him run schools by remote control from Whitehall?
NHS reforms have met much public resistance. Why do you think there hasn’t been a similar resistance to education reforms?
For almost 50 years of campaigning for children’s rights and educational entitlement, I have been driven by hope and belief in collective action to bring about change, rather than being overcome by despair. I have to say, though, that in the last couple decades or so, I have been struggling. I was director of education in Hackney in the 1990s when there was a massive movement across the land against the spread of grant maintained schools and the whittling away of LEA’s powers and responsibilities. Since then, academies have created not just a massive democratic deficit as far as public accountability for the provision of education is concerned, but an illogical imbalance in what constitutes state education. State schools must follow the National Curriculum, academies and free schools don’t have to.
The sad thing is this. Such is the woeful state of political education in schools and of collective resistance in communities, that students themselves have bought into the tiering and grading business and have not organised their collective voice. They forge ahead in their various silos, disengaged from one another’s struggles and are increasingly adopting the same rhetoric as the likes of Michael Gove.
It seems to me that although students are no more a homogenous group than parents are, the only thing that will stop any of these hopeless political parties in their tracks as they seek to mess with the nation’s youth and lay the foundations for a turbulent future is the self organisation of school students up and down the country, with progressive parents and teachers acting in solidarity with them. This is evidently a more urgent imperative than registering young people to vote, or lowering the voting age, for it is not just a matter of how the nation elects Gove or Tristram Hunt, David Laws, or whoever, and who elects them, but who holds them to account for what they do with that mandate before the next opportunity presents itself to mark a ballot paper, hoping that by electing the same or a different lot you won’t be equally done for.
How did you get involved with CEN?
I got involved with CEN through the work I had been doing over many years with the pioneering and dynamic defender of children’s education rights, the late Gerry German. I had joined Gerry in campaigning on education issues when he was the principal education officer at the Commission for Racial Equality. In that capacity, Gerry drew national attention to the damaging and discriminatory nature of school exclusions generally and in particular the exclusion of disproportionate numbers of Black Caribbean boys. We jointly supported a number of community initiatives to raise awareness of the issue and challenge government to hold schools to account.
Gerry then joined the Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources and began to focus more directly on the schooling experiences of black school students and their parents. Gerry brought a small group of us together and we founded the Communities Empowerment Network to be an effective campaigning group against the practice of excluding scandalous numbers of Black Caribbean students, boys in particular. I was CEN’s first Chair and Gerry and I effectively led the organisation until his untimely death in 2012.
What makes you angry?
I am angered by indifference to injustice and denial of fundamental rights. I am angered by the smugness and arrogance, the sense of automatic entitlement of those like Michael Gove, Cameron and Osborne who assume the right to demonise the poor and marginalised and purport to do so on behalf of the majority, while that ‘majority’ simply let them get on with it. I am angered that despite the impact that successive waves of education reform have had on the life chances of school students, at least since the Education Reform Act of 1988, there is still not a national association of school students, let alone one with an agenda to reclaim schooling and ensure that it serves the interests of all the nation and give every child their educational entitlement.
What gives you hope?
The fact that young people are generally more at ease with one another and with people who are not like them (in ethnicity, ableness, sexuality, social background, etc) and much less tolerant of bigots, racists and homophobes. I am hopeful that that generation would put an end to the hegemony of those in political, corporate and institutional leadership in Britain who, despite their rhetoric of ‘diversity and inclusion’ make sure that they employ people like themselves and groom their clones to succeed them and maintain the ‘status quo’. If there is to be any change in the civil service, in the senior command of the police service, in the judiciary, etc., that new generation will have to work together and set an agenda for the new society and break those moulds.
What are you working on right now?
I am working to encourage schools to adopt my Learner’s Charter and to build more effective partnerships with parents in support of children’s learning. I have just completed a research report for the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on disproportionality in the number of BME solicitors who are subjected to regulatory action, as well as in regulatory outcomes.
I am about to return to working in Africa on development issues, especially on school improvement and working with communities on economic initiatives that would free girls from raising income from their families and enable them to attend school. Also, working as a member of the African Union’s Technical Committee of Experts to determine the modalities for making the Global African Diaspora the Sixth Region of Africa.
Professor Gus John
3 February 2014
The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) has recently completed research on school placement trends of all local authorities in England for the years 2007 - 2013. We have worked with researchers from the University of Exeter, who have analysed data provided by the Department for Education and have revealed the proportion of children placed by each local authority in an ordinary local school and the proportion of children being sent to separate "special" schools. The report, which is now being prepared for publication, shows that a 'postcode lottery' for inclusive education continues to exist throughout England.
The school place for each child with a statement of special educational need is determined by local authority officers, who have to take into account the views of the child and their parents, as well as the views of a wide range of professionals. CSIE has been analysing and reporting local authorities' school placement trends since 1988. The Department of Education publishes information at national level, but local variation is only obvious by analysis at local authority level, which is unique to CSIE.
Even though every local authority has to comply with the same laws and national policies, CSIE Trends reports have brought to light disturbing local variations. For example the forthcoming report will reveal that as many as 1 in 100 children are regularly sent to separate "special" schools in one local authority, but only 1 in 500 in a neighbouring authority of similar size. Such extreme differences in the way local authorities respond to diversity bear no relation to the size of the local authority or its social or geographical makeup. Instead, they are more likely to reflect differences in strategic leadership which, in turn, seem to depend on different ways of understanding disability and on varying commitment to inclusive education in principle.
These glaring discrepancies need to be made explicit, so that everyone interested in the development of inclusive education can have such intriguing information at their fingertips. Clear knowledge of the status quo in other parts of the country can be a powerful lever for change. It can help parents make better informed decisions about their child's school placement, by being able to see what is happening in neighbouring authorities or further afield. It can also empower parents of disabled children and their allies to influence policy and support the development of more inclusive provision in their local area.
The report is due to be published in late February and will include detailed information on school placement trends for each local authority in England. It will show, for each local authority, for children aged 0-19 for whom the local authority maintains a statement, the proportion that is sent to: maintained, non-maintained and independent special schools; pupil referral units; and other units or resource bases attached to mainstream schools. It will also show which local authorities have shown the most significant changes in their own patterns of provision and, depending on local authorities' response to CSIE's call, may include comments from the local authorities whose patterns have changed most significantly.
Following publication of the report, CSIE will work with Parents for Inclusion and, together, will hold a series of workshops for parents in each of England's nine regions. The workshops will offer up-to-date information on local authorities' school placement trends and suggest ways in which parents can use of this information constructively. These workshops will be free for parents to attend and will take place in spring and early summer 2014. They will be advertised as widely as possible, including in www.csie.org.uk and through the National Parent Partnership Network. For more information please contact the CSIE office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 3533150).
Socio-economic Segregation at Faith and Non-faith Secondary Schools Revealed by New Online Mapping Tool
The Fair Admissions Campaign has published a new online mapping tool and associated statistical analysis revealing the extent of religious selection in every state funded secondary school and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language. Users are also able to compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different schools are by their denomination, diocese and local authority.
The Fair Admissions Campaign is an ecumenical campaign focused solely on reducing and preventing state funded faith schools selecting pupils by faith. The tool was produced for parents, schools, and individuals concerned about segregation in school admissions. The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories.
The research's most eye-catching finding was a strong correlation between the degree of religious selection and how socio-economically schools were. The comprehensive school sector (with no religious character) was found to admit 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals (a government indicator of deprivation) than would be expected given their local area. Religious comprehensive schools that do not select by religion however admitted 3% more, while those schools that permitted all their places to be allotted on faith grounds typically admitted 27% fewer. Evidence of covert social selection at religiously selective schools has since been suggested by two more findings.
The week before Christmas a survey from the Sutton Trust revealed that 6% of all parents in England with children currently at a state school admit to attending church services, when they did not previously, so that their child could go to a church school. For parents from socio-economic group A this figure rose to 10%. This is despite most Catholic schools only showing preference in their admissions policy to children who are baptised, rather than on Church attendance. Research by The Daily Telegraph in the first week of January then highlighted how late Catholic baptisms in England and Wales had surged over the last ten years, which the paper suggested was due to parents trying to get their children into top performing Catholic schools.
Other key findings from the Fair Admissions Campaign research include:
99.8% of places at Catholic secondaries are subject to religious selection in admissions criteria if the schools are oversubscribed. For Church of England schools the figure is 49.7%, though some Anglican schools do not have the ability to select by faith; for those CofE schools fully in control of their own admissions policy it is 68%
19% of secondary schools are faith-based and 16% religiously select to some degree, with 72% of all places at faith secondaries – equivalent to 13% of places at all secondaries – being subject to religious admissions criteria
The campaign estimates that 17% of places at primaries are similarly religiously selected, or 1.2 million primary and secondary places across England, meaning that 16% of children at state schools are subject to religious selection criteria. This compares with 5% of secondary-age children in grammar schools, 5% in single-sex schools and 7% in independent schools
Despite this schools that select by religion made up 46 of the 100 schools worst for not admitting local children eligible for free school meals and the 50 of the worst 100 in terms of not admitting local children who speak English as an additional language
Central government collects data on the number of children by ethnic group and with special education needs, both at schools and by geographical area. Later this year the Campaign hopes to reveal how inclusive secondary schools in England are of children on these grounds. The mapping tool and statistics can be viewed at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/map
I am in my final year of the BA Primary Teaching course, at Kingston University, London. Although I have not yet started my career in teaching, I feel studying at the institution I am in has been beneficial for me; this is because it allows me to gather my aims and build a positive ethos for teaching before I have a class I can call my own.
This three year course has provided me with a variety of contexts for working with children which offers different perspectives to children's learning. In this course I also specialise in English, this specialism module allows me to be critically analytical on current and past research to build up my own knowledge of teaching and learning strategies, but also getting the perspective of the child at work. For example, when we were focusing on creative writing, we had to take part in writing a short story for children and also had the opportunity to read to a group of children, gaining critical feedback from the children. This not only gave us an awareness of being in the role of the child but also an opportunity to develop our creative writing skills.
In my limited experience, the schools and classrooms that I have worked in have provided me with a positive approach to inclusion. However, I am aware that this is not the case for all of my fellow students. I feel therefore that inclusion is something that we as student teachers have to accommodate for our learners. As part of the University programme, we are expected to reflect on inclusion. One of my modules involved me writing an assignment on inclusion and how I planned for and accommodated inclusion on placement in school. As a result of this, I have learnt that inclusion in schools holds value for children to develop not only in their learning but also in their well-being. However, I do understand that there will be circumstances where children's needs are not easily accessed in a classroom of 30 children- some children do work better in a learning environment where there is more one to one work and they are the focus of teaching and learning to ensure progression.
When I am on placement I am required to differentiate my teaching explicitly for all learners. The idea is not - can I include all children in their learning, but rather how can I include all children in my teaching. Inclusion is not easy, however, it is possible, it may take a few attempts of lessons that did not go down so well, but those lessons are vital for us as teachers to critically reflect on our teaching and evaluate the strategies we use for our learners. Student teachers need to be prepared for setbacks and failures - these will be the stepping stones for our development.
Inclusion, from my perspective, is all children in the classroom all working towards the same objective- the support you use as a teacher can be differentiated in how the pupils in your classroom will achieve the objective. Although the role of the teacher is vital, inclusion is not just differentiated by the class teacher; it is the environment of the classroom, the school and the attitudes of pupils in the whole class setting where differences should be celebrated and valued (Loreman and Deppeler, 2005).
I aim to be a teacher who provides an environment which promotes positive attitudes with children who are willing to work with one another and value differences. Children should not be excluded from lessons, but lessons should be differentiated for their individual needs. Excluding children from the classroom deprives them from the appropriate teacher support as well as peer support. It is vital that children get the chance to work alongside peers and adults in the classroom to ensure a rich, contextual learning. In essence, I feel that all children are individuals- regardless of whether they have a disability or SEN; all individuals have the right to be included.
Loreman, T., Deppeler, J. & Harvey, D. (2005) Inclusive Education: a practical guide to supporting diversity in the classroom. UK: RoutledgeFalmer.
I first heard the term 'factory school' used by a disenchanted comprehensive school teacher about 20 years ago, but I don't think he coined it. He also said that if people asked him what he did he no longer described himself as a teacher but as 'a professional box-ticker'. The last time I saw him he was heading out to South America to work in a privately-run international school. I don't think the term was ever intended as an attack on teachers but on the system, which another disenchanted teacher described as being run on the 'stack 'em high, teach 'em cheap' principle.
I've since heard it used several times by Sir Ken Robinson, most recently during his appearance on Desert Island Discs. At an event I attended in November, one of the guest speakers, Albert Lamb, described comprehensive school pupils as:
'factory workers tied to a system of testing and attainment, in ways similar to the past, and nowadays, in addition to parents and the state, the corporate world has a handle on them. They have no time to be kids.'
It's true to say that practically all the teachers I've spoken to, and liked as people, are those who've got out or would like to get out of the mainstream, either by moving sideways into working with excluded kids or transferring to alternative schools. A member of my extended family who took early retirement a couple of years ago on stress-related medical grounds was head of department in a large comprehensive. He has since recovered and is enjoying life. Like many teachers his opinion is that assessments, targets and the swelling tide of form-filling has degraded education and continual interference from the current powers-that-be is making it well-nigh impossible in any meaningful sense.
If you set targets people will inevitably cut corners and massage figures to reach those targets, as happens in the NHS (I have another relative in this organisation) and used to happen in Communist Russia and China. Top-heavy bureaucratic totalitarian organisations and countries always set targets. As a head teacher your job, level of pay, status and grant depend on you reaching your target, so inevitably for many heads this becomes their primary focus. No wonder that stress-related early retirement amongst secondary head teachers is more common than in any other profession. They are top of the league table in this respect.
Several years ago people even stopped talking about education. Teachers were expected to 'deliver the curriculum' to 'pupil units' or sometimes 'customers'. Perhaps this terminology is out of fashion, like 'Total Quality Management', but the process continues.
The fact is that, no matter how dedicated and inspired, teachers in these non-human-scale institutions are not free to teach to individual needs, let alone educate in a rounder sense, but are controlled and manipulated by a hideous bureaucratic machine subject to the latest whims of whichever Secretary of State for Education happens to be in power, whose principal concern is making a name for himself (or herself in the case of Margaret Thatcher, lest we forget) and furthering his/her own political career.
But nobody has to dance to the tune the state plays. After all, we pay the pipers. If sufficient numbers of disenchanted teachers, parents and students banded together and demanded change, then it would come. We make, or endure, our own reality.
Reproduced with permission of Lib Ed. Original article found at www.libed.org.uk
To start with you need to know a little bit about me. First of all I have Cerebral Palsy, which affects all my physical movements. All my life I have wanted to be a part of my community, which is why I have campaigned so hard and for so long, and why I went to mainstream schools.
Reflecting on my time spent in Infant and Junior school, I recall being taken out of lessons frequently. This was because I had to have physiotherapy and speech and language therapy often. This made me feel angry and not part of my class or community. Even though I did not like these interruptions I really enjoyed school. There were times when other pupils were not very nice in what they said and made comments about me having no right to be there but for most of the time I was included in everything, educationally and socially.
When I was 11 years old we moved to a new area and I moved to senior school. I didn't know anybody but I made friends very quickly. I went through a wide range of teaching assistants before finally settling for the perfect, life-long TA who has moved with me from school onto college.
Moving to a new area and knowing no-one could have been really difficult but the new school has a system that a Buddy is provided for anyone who is new to the school and area. The Buddy is responsible for making sure the new pupil gets around the school and is introduced to people. I still have my Buddy as a really close friend. During the first year we went to a Centre in Derbyshire for three days so we could all get to know each other. It was fantastic as I got to climb and do all sorts of activities I had never done before and I made some friends.
I had mixed experiences at this school. Some of the staff seemed unwilling or unable to have any understanding, like the one who patted my head one sports day and said, 'it's great you can join in, even though your legs don't work'. And the one who repeatedly told the class, 'mind your toes everyone, Brandon's coming through'.
On the other hand, there was a science teacher who, every time the class did experiments, let me sit near enough to see but not participate with the class because of safety, but also recognised the importance of actually doing the experiment for one's self. After the lesson he would keep me behind and we did the experiment together so I could experience it. Another teacher frequently commented on my achievement in his class and recognised how much effort it took to keep up with the rest of the class.
My worst experiences at school have been when I have been ganged up on. These have not been frequent, but nevertheless quite frightening when they occur. For most of the time they were threats that did not develop into anything more sinister.
Despite this, my experience of education has been positive. My very best experience was when I received my GCSE results. That was great! I had worked hard and it paid off. It meant that I could enrol at college to study a level 3 extended diploma in Business Studies – and that's what I am doing now.
October 2013 saw the first meeting of New Voices - ALLFIE's new Young People's advisory group. New Voices has 11 members, from across England, with a wide range of educational experiences. The group, aged between 12 and 18, are all young disabled people who are interested in how to make the education system in the UK work better for disabled young people.
The aim of the group is to ensure that the voices of young disabled people are at the heart of all of ALLFIE's work. New Voices will also make sure that what we campaign on reflects what young disabled people are experiencing right now in education.
The New Voices group are going to directly feed into ALLFIE's Manifesto for the next general election. We are also hoping to create some resources for young people looking at issues related to inclusion.
At the first meeting we introduced the group to our work and we talked about the Medical and Social Models of Disability. The group thought about what was good about being disabled and what was not so good and what was good, what was bad and what needed to change in education.
There were lots of different experiences and everyone had lots of ideas about how the education system could be improved.
New Voices members talked about their negative experiences of disability. Some of the issues they raised included being excluded, or finding it hard to make friends, being treated differently from their nondisabled peers and being underestimated. However, it wasn't all negative, the group like that having a disability means that you can challenge perceptions and that it gives you a different insight into the world, allowing you to think freely.
When it came to education, the New Voices members showed that they are a force to be reckoned with.
New Voices want:
- The exam system to be changed so that everybody's skills and contribution can be recognised - the value in education needs to be moved from exams to people
- The assessment system to be flexible to suit individual learners
- Assessments and qualifications to be based on what a pupil does all year round, not just at exam times
- School and college staff to have the right training to support disabled students
- To be able to work alongside their nondisabled peers in class
- A scheme to help prepare young disabled people for school
Three very strong feelings that came out of the New Voices meeting were: the need for better support in school; that work needs to be done to tackle bullying, particularly bullying done by teachers and staff; and that the current exam system isn't working.
The things that were identified as being good about school at the moment were: opportunities to make friends and getting consistent support.
New Voices have just had their second meeting looking at how we can develop inclusive schools and what they would like to tell the United Nations about their experience of education in the UK. We particularly looked at Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as this looks in detail at education.
New Voices members are a great addition to ALLFIE's membership and we will keep you posted on what they get up to in the coming months.
During six months of the Children and Families Bill in the House of Lords, the Minister Lord Nash, responsible for the bill, has continued to refuse to meet us and other disabled peoples organisations. Rather than meeting with inclusionists, Lord Nash, it seems preferred to get to know the SEN sector a little better by visiting special schools. No wonder our continued requests for meetings with Lord Nash were being ignored.
During the "Reclaiming Our Futures" day of action in September, we handed in a letter with ALLFIE's Manifesto requesting a meeting. If a meeting was not forthcoming we advised Lord Nash's office that we would be back to warn him about the ghosts of segregation that will haunt this and future generations of disabled children and young people if the current SEN reforms go through unchanged. As part of our attempt to keep the pressure on Lord Nash and the Government to retain the Inclusive Schooling guidance in the revised SEN Code of Practice, ALLFIE launched an online petition. In just a few weeks, the support is staggering, over 2,000 signatories. Add your signature at:
On International Human Rights Day (December 10th), ALLFIE took its 'Ghosts of Segregation' campaign to the Department for Education where we demanded a meeting with Lord Nash. Over 30 protestors from ALLFIE, DPAC and Inclusion London came dressed as Ghosts of Segregation and blocked the Department's entrance for the second time until we finally got a meeting with Lord Nash.
The following week, an ALLFIE delegation including parents and disabled young people attended a meeting with Lord Nash at the Department for Education. Lord Nash asked us whether we liked the SEN reforms. Lord Nash was shocked to hear we didn't like the reforms and it was clear from our discussions that he hadn't spoken to disabled people before or families who want inclusion! Whilst the Minister listened to the parents' stories, he didn't want to know how the Bill will undermine disabled and young peoples' human and civil rights to mainstream education.
After the meeting Melanie Hibbert-Bown, who has two children with learning difficulties, said, 'I think Lord Nash was gobsmacked that people were opposing his legislation, which makes me wonder who he's been speaking to. There's a good quote about disability, "Nothing about us without us", which I think is true in this case. You have to understand what disability is and what inclusion means to contemplate making changes, and how can you implement new legislation if you haven't spoken to people at the heart of the issue?"
As expected, Lord Nash and the Government have steam rolled the Bill through the remaining stages of the House of Lords without any real engagement with disabled peoples' organisations. Shame on the Government for breaking their promise that children and young people with SEN rights to mainstream education will not change under the Special Educational Needs Reforms.
As you should all hopefully know by now, UK Disability History Month runs from 22nd November – 22nd December each year. 2013 was our fourth year and saw a continued growth in activity and interest. We kicked off the month with our launch event in Central London.
Once again we were thrilled by the turn out – it was great to see so many people there! The speakers included academic Mike Oliver who spearheaded the social model of disability, chair of Inclusion London Kirstin Hearn, our very own national coordinator Richard Rieser and comedian Liz Carr. There were also contributions on the night from Baroness Jane Campbell and MP John McDonnell, who both affirmed the need to explore disabled people's history: to learn from it and to use it to challenge the current discrimination we are facing. Kevin Courtney Assistant Secretary of the NUT gave a rousing supportive speech and announced that the NUT had developed a website resource for teachers.
Our theme for 2013 was 'Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation'. This is very topical – particularly in light of the governments increasing attack on disabled people's ability to live independently, and the Winterbourne View scandal. We were also pleased that the theme gave people with mental health issues a space to explore their history.
Activities which took place throughout the month included school projects, academic talks at universities, guided walks around historic buildings which were significant to the struggle for independent living. Once again our friends in Newham put on another action packed Together Arts Festival including an exciting range of events and activities, and Eleanor Lisney organised a fantastic event at the Transport Museum in Coventry which explored the history of accessible transport – and what impact that had on disabled people's ability to live independently.
We are now planning for our fifth year and are hoping that as many people as possible will join us in raising the profile of UK Disability History Month, and ensure that it is a permanent fixture on the calendar! We are also planning for 2015 as we understand some organisations plan events up to two years in advance.
Therefore the theme for this year will be 'War and Impairment: The Disabling Affect', which will tie in with the 100 year anniversary of World War One. We want to address the social implications of disability and war throughout history and compare it to the contemporary experience of injured veterans and civilians. Then in 2015 we will explore 'Images of Disablement: Then and Now' which we hope will receive attention from different galleries, museums and film festivals.
We have ambitious plans for UK Disability History Month, but are an extremely small team. Therefore we are reliant on organisations and individuals like yourself to help us. There are many ways you can do this. Firstly by organising and supporting events or inviting other organisations to get involved – why not go into your local library and see if they have anything planned? Now is a great time to start doing this as it gives people lots of time to plan! Spreading the word is also really helpful – whether it be starting a conversation, blogging or on social media – It will be great to build our profile! Finally you can help us by affiliating with us or giving a donation towards planning Disability History Month, developing our website and producing resources. This is extremely important as we currently receive no official funding.
The history of disabled peoples struggle for rights and inclusion is rich and interesting. It is important to acknowledge how far we have come – but also what is at stake if we start moving backwards. Please join us and help put UK Disability History Month on the map. Check out our website www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com, like us on Facebook and tweet using #ukdhm.
For more information please contact Nancy Maguire: email@example.com
Since February 2013 Parents for Inclusion has been running the second Inclusion Training Pathway – an accredited 18 month course for parents of disabled children, funded by Trust for London, accredited through LASER Learning Awards and totally unique in this country and - dare we say? - the world.
It is an 'all-that-you- need -to- know- about- inclusive- education' and 'how -to-be an ally' course for parents. It covers the principles of inclusion, the legal framework and talks about how inclusion can work. Disability equality is at the very centre of this course. Parents learn active listening skills for mutual support and confidence when advocating for their young person. It is easy (and understandable) that parents get drawn into the medicalisation of their children's lives and society's dim view on disabled people's place in society. As parents for inclusion we benefit from being with other parents who remind us of the love for our children and their value to the community. Together we can work out ways which support our children on the journey towards self determination and figure out how to work with people and communities to become welcoming and accessible to all.
The students have monthly training sessions and monthly mentor groups. During the mentor groups the parents create the work for the accredited element and practice what they have learnt: listening. Just why such a course is needed and continues to be needed is best expressed by some of the parents who are registered on the Accredited Inclusion Training Pathway:
'I found out about Parents for Inclusion through our local Parents Forum. It sounded like a great idea, as we have three adopted children, all with special needs and had, and still have, plenty of ongoing issues with schools. Once your child is a round peg in a world of square holes, they stand very little chance of fitting in and are very often forced to do so.
I never realised, how much there is to learn about Inclusion, and the sense of empowerment I have gained is wonderful. We are currently heading for one Tribunal and going through an assessment with the likelihood of a second at the end and I feel no longer frightened and powerless. On the contrary, I have a much better understanding of our children's rights, which enables me to meet professionals on a level playing field rather than being the underdog.
The Mentors and Mentoring groups are a great way of supporting our learning, as not everybody may feel comfortable with a lot of paperwork and words. Parents for Inclusion understand that there is more than one way of learning and adjust their expectations and ways of validating work accordingly.'
'The course has been interesting; equipping me to have tools, helping me as a parent of a disabled child. It's helped me to not let things bother me so much; like when we're going out and people stare. It really used to hurt. Even educated people give a prolonged stare, and they still don't think it's offensive. Actually the stare still hurts. Whilst they're looking at Trevor, they don't realise I'm looking at them. I would prefer it if someone would talk to us, look and smile. It's not just children that stare, it's also adults. Children look and then speak to their Mum, and it's the reaction from the parents which is key. Children don't know anything; but a negative reaction from their parents leads to prejudice, that's how it starts. Although there are strange reactions out and about, the course has equipped me to know that's their problem, not mine. I have a beautiful wonderful child.
It can be lonely being a parent of a disabled child. Through the course, I've made friends with like-minded people who will not judge me and Trevor. I know no one will bat an eye if he makes a noise. Most importantly the course gives me confidence as a parent of a disabled child to face the outside world, apart from all the education.'
'This course has so far given me a huge tool box, this is what I like about this course, It's straightforward and involve the parents with Q/A. It's well organized and that matters to me knowing that I can share my ideas and my experience with other people's stories. I have learned how to be in control, how to have meetings with schools and get the best outcome for my son. I would recommend Parents for Inclusion to any parent, as the more of us there are, the more chances our children stand of being truly included.'
'What I really like and appreciate about the course, is the mentoring sessions and being able to listen intently to other parents experiences. I also look forward and enjoy the teaching sessions where we meet as a group and learn more about the disability rights movement. I am learning all the time, about the disability movement, and how to challenge schools, local authorities. I am being armed with information and tools to empower not only myself but also speaking up for the needs of my disabled child.'
To give parents an understanding and knowledge of inclusion and the rights of their children is key to widen the support for those issues right from the start. This course is proving in its second round just how successfully and well it does that. And as an accredited training it has the additional benefit of giving parents also a recognized acknowledgment of their own learning which may help – and has helped - towards finding paid work. One of our main priorities now is to find a way to sustain this group as a lively and active network beyond the end of this course acting like a magnet for other parents.
While the parents on the course appreciate the accredited training course facilitated by Parents for Inclusion, Parents for Inclusion appreciates the privilege of working together with such a diverse group of parents rich in experience and willing to engage so openly.
Sadly there are no immediate plans to run a third round of this training. However there may be in the future! Please do contact us if this is something you would be interested in. Contact: Cornelia.Broesskamp@parentsforinclusion.org
It's Raining Cats and Dogs
An Autism Spectrum Guide to the Confusing World of Idioms, Metaphors and Everyday Expressions
by Michael Barton
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012
This delightful book not only amused and entertained me, but also taught me some valuable lessons in thinking about the language and expressions I use in my everyday life. It made me realise how much of my own upbringing was filled with these expressions and how they are still so prevalent in my culture today: 'I was over the moon', 'It was a piece of cake', 'I bent over backwards' - deeply confusing and misleading, if you take the time to think literally about the language!
Writer Michael Barton's own frustration with phrases such as these led him to create this guide. At school one day he was told by a teacher to 'pull his socks up'. He obeyed, only to be told off for being cheeky. Incidents like this prompted him to start drawing pictures with explanations to help him remember what the phrases meant. "Before long, I had filled a whole folder and people started asking for copies," he explains. "When I was older, I started writing a column for the Bromley Autistic Trust newsletter, which proved very popular, and people suggested that I put all the pictures together in a book."
Michael designed the book both as a useful and fun guide for children with autism, and to help adults to understand autistic children better, but I think this book is suitable for anyone and could easily have been called 'A Guide to...', rather than 'An Autism Spectrum Guide to...'. The pictures are funny and thought provoking and each saying has the 'translation' included underneath. I think it would be a useful 'tool' for inclusion in any classroom and a great way to encourage children and adults alike to think about language and context. When the book arrived in our office I showed it to my colleague Davide from Italy. He sat and read it from cover to cover and could be heard exclaiming 'Ah!' and 'I always wondered what that meant!' So clearly it could be a very useful resource for anyone studying English language or teachers and trainers supporting those who are learning English.
I shall certainly be more aware of when and how I use expressions and sayings from now on, thanks to the message coming through loud and clear in Michael Barton's book.
In June 1994 representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organisations formed the World Conference on Special Needs Education, held in Salamanca, Spain. They agreed a dynamic new Statement on the education of all disabled children.
The Salamanca Statement said:
"Regular schools within this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.
Moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately cost-effectiveness of the entire education system."
Salamanca then called on all governments to make inclusive, well-resourced mainstream schools the norm for all children and, after vigorous lobbying by disabled people in the UK, the New Labour government, guided by the blind Secretary of State, David Blunkett, slowly began to introduce some Salamanca Principles.
It opened the door for Allfie and other organisations to advance the Social Model of Disability, and demand that the voice of disabled people be heard. It also encouraged all schools and Local Education
Authorities (LEAs) to take some responsibility and promote inclusive education. In this positive climate, about a third did so.
Many LEAs sent their education psychology (EP) staff to the newly-established Educational Psychologists for Inclusion (EPsforInclusion) Seminars, and various initiatives, of various qualities, took shape. After all, shouldn't EPs and all LEA staff be promoting educational inclusion?
Some would argue that there was a Golden Egg of Progress towards inclusion in the late 90s and early 2000s. But, with the coming of David Cameron's government in 2010, that Golden Egg was rudely smashed. Vowing to end the trend towards inclusion, his government have put in place educational arrangements that praise and embed competition, first and foremost, and inclusion is just tacked on the end.
It's now time to evaluate what progress educational psychologists, and others, have made towards carrying out the Salamanca Principles. Do EPs listen to disabled people and the parents of disabled children, and have they embedded inclusion in their day to day practice? What barriers are holding us back? Are EPs allies within the inclusion movement?
EPsforInclusion (along with other educational psychology organisations and working with Allfie) is hosting a Conference to explore progress:
Salamanca: 20 Years on
London British Psychology Society Offices
To find out more email Keith Venables: firstname.lastname@example.org
"My local authority has said that I can't seek a statement for my child at the moment because the law has changed and that I'll have to wait until my child can be considered for an Education, Health and Care Plan once the Children and Families Bill becomes law. Is this correct? I've been told this could mean a wait of more than 12 months"
The simple answer is no, what the local authority has told you is not correct.
The Children and Families Bill will bring in major reforms to the SEN system and will introduce Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments and plans. These will replace statements of special educational needs and learning difficulty assessments, effectively creating one system and one document that will apply to children and young people from 0 to 25 years of age. The legislation is currently going through parliamentary approval and the new system is expected to become law in September 2014. Until then the current system, which is, provided for by the Education Act 1996 (as amended) remains law and local authorities must continue to comply with their statutory duties under that.
If you think your child may have special educational needs and may benefit from the protection of a statement you can request that your local authority conducts an assessment (known as a statutory assessment) to determine your child's special educational needs and the special help that he or she needs. The request should be made in writing and should be sent to your local authority's special educational needs department. By law the local authority must make a decision on whether they are going to carryout an assessment and notify you of that in writing, within six weeks of the request. If they decide not to conduct an assessment and you disagree with the decision you can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. The tribunal must receive an appeal within two months of the date of the local authority's decision letter.
Some local authorities are piloting the new system- these are known as 'pathfinders'. If your local authority is a pathfinder they may propose that your child is considered for an Education Health and Care Plan rather than a statement. It is up to the parent which process to follow and this should be made clear by the local authority. Until the new legislation comes into force EHC assessment decisions and plans have no statutory basis and so cannot be appealed to the tribunal. The Department for Education has advised that where there is disagreement on the content of an EHC plan the local authority can convert it to a statement allowing an appeal to then be made to the tribunal. However, it is not clear whether the same would apply should a parent disagree with a decision not to assess or the decision not to issue a plan following an assessment.
If you believe that your child might have special educational needs and might benefit from the support and protection of a statement you should not delay in asking for an assessment. The statement of special educational needs process usually takes around six months. However, this can be greatly increased if the local authority decision or decisions need to be challenged through the tribunal.
Thomas Mitchell, Trainee Solicitor
Maxwell Gillott Solicitors
Maxwell Gillott is a firm of specialist solicitors, providing legal advice and assistance for clients who face difficulties with the key public services of education, health and social services.
If you have any legal questions send them in to Inclusion Now and we will see if we can answer them.