Inclusion Now Articles Issue 39
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As I Say Goodbye to Headship
UN to Scrutinise UK on Convention
Time to Reclaim Education
A Matter of Respect
An Inclusive Approach
What's Happening with Inclusive Education Around the World?
Shame on ISAAC for Rejecting Facilitated Communication
Book Review - Peter's Asparagus
I have a copy of a letter on my wall which I regularly read to remind me of my moral purpose:
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians; infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmann's. Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane." Haim Ginott
I am proud of the achievements of Bromstone School, where I have been Headteacher for the past six years. We have received Artsmark and International Gold awards; we have developed lasting links with a school in India and with the Turner Contemporary and the Powell-Cotton and Beanie museums; my children have visited the Houses of Parliament several times, met and debated with the local MP, and we have established a residential trip to France and trips to many places of interest which form the stimulus for our termly topics. Our weekly philosophy sessions have taught the children to debate and confidently question. As a pathfinder school for Packtypes our children have developed excellent self awareness leading to visitors to the school regularly commenting how confident and happy the children are. Far from being an “enemy of promise” (Michael Gove, Daily Mail, March 2013), I have given my children and staff, in the words of our school motto, the ‘tools to lead a wonderful life’.
Earlier this year, due to the school’s excellent reputation for inclusion, BBC radio 5 live asked if they could present a live outside broadcast from Bromstone on the subject of the changes to the Children and Families Bill. At the time this seemed like a great way of promoting my inclusive school and the subject of inclusion in general. In the programme Nicky Campbell asked Joshua’s mum what her son had gained from being at the school. She told him that we had changed his life as we were the first school that actually wanted her son and made him feel welcome. Joshua confirmed this. Nicky then turned to me and asked how I felt about that. To everybody’s amazement, I broke down in tears.
I told the listeners that I was broken hearted. During the Pesach period, when Jews remember their escape from slavery, I had finally made my decision, after 23 years, to leave the profession that I love.
What was heartening was the generosity of colleagues (many of whom I did not know) in phoning, emailing or sending messages of support. What was shocking were the stories from people who had been crushed by the system – particularly teachers and parents of children with SEND (Special educational needs and disabilities) who have borne the full force of the dehumanising reforms we have all been implementing. Only today I have had a heart-breaking conversation with a parent whose four year old daughter with special needs has been rejected by several schools who said that she has no future, would never amount to anything and would ‘not be welcome’ in their school.
Many people have asked me what was the final straw. I have found this an amazingly difficult question to answer. Even weeks later, I still cannot identify one single event which made me finally decide that ‘enough is enough’.
Education in much of the world is now controlled by, what Pasi Sahlberg has termed, the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement - http://pasisahlberg.com/global-educational-reform-movement-is-here/). It has a set of principles and practices which are being replicated across the world and is becoming the received wisdom about how we ‘improve education’. Like many right wing ideologies it suggests simplistic interpretations and quick answers to complex problems. Schools in England have suffered at the hands of different Governments in being forced, often against our will, to adopt practices that we know are bad for teachers and for students. The GERM focuses on standardisation; overemphasis on narrow core subjects; minimising experimentation through low risk strategies; economically based corporate organisation and, most damaging of all, high stakes test based accountability.
As a creative, risk taking Headteacher, willing to challenge the status quo, I, and many like me have been at the vanguard of fighting the system: boycotting SATs, refusing to do ‘optional SATs’; resisting the worst excesses of performance management; developing a creative experimental curriculum; leading the way on developing Philosophical understanding and higher order thinking; promoting the arts, cultural exchange, and a broad curriculum experience. Even raising standards in the very narrow way that is measured! And yet, like many of my colleagues, I am feeling worn down, exhausted, and generally disillusioned with the system.
The fragmentation into a pecking order of schools, from highly regarded public schools through to free schools and academies and then down to the ‘bog standard’ maintained schools like my own, is causing inequalities in the system which are seriously disadvantaging schools like mine. I spent the whole of the last summer holiday planning a building for 210 new pupils only to be constantly reminded ‘you can’t have that, you are only a basic needs build – not an academy’. Why should my children, many of whom come from families living in poverty, be treated less equitably than children in a school next door just because it has a different name? The recent revelations that the Department has diverted 400 million pounds from ‘ordinary schools’ to free schools simply rubs salt into an already festering wound.
During Pesach I realised that I am working in an atmosphere in which I can no longer breathe the air. There is a new vocabulary in education where children have been reduced to statistics. Headteachers live and dream percentages of children at particular levels; they set targets for teachers based on numerical analyses and all to reach the nirvana of an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted. The system has lost its way. Children are officially no longer at the centre of the process. The pursuit of ever increasing exam results is the only valued goal of education in England in the 21st Century.
Children with special needs, whom I passionately believe should all be welcomed into their local inclusive schools, are being marginalised, illegally excluded and concentrated in a minority of schools. With the ‘bias for segregation’ approach led by the current Government many are being sent away from their local area into special schools with Local Authorities spending as much on taxi fares as they do on SEND provision in mainstream schools. My school has ten times more children with statements of special educational needs than the majority of the thirty one schools in my area. We have welcomed 100 additional children over the past two years – many from academies – the majority with special needs. I have even had parents come to me saying that an academy could no longer meet her child’s needs and suggested they looked around Bromstone – because she had been diagnosed with dyslexia! Many stories like this have been sent to me by many parents of children with SEND over the past couple of weeks and I believe it is the tip of a very large social iceberg which will have serious long term negative effects on an already deeply divided and unequal society.
If I have to pick one event which has provoked my decision now – I would cite the forty five minutes I recently spent with a hysterical ten year old child who was threatening to commit suicide because he had let his parents down because he was only working at level 4a in the middle of year 5. A system which does this to a child is profoundly unwell. Rather than continue to be contaminated by the GERM, I have chosen to leave the heart of the battle until I see that the system is, once again heading in the direction of the child.
I do not believe there is an educational Utopia which we can simply transport into England. Finland and Alberta appear to be doing better in a more human way and we have much to learn from those systems. But ultimately we must come up with our own solutions to improve our broken system.
We need to:
1. Put children at the heart of a fully inclusive education system which values and builds lasting communities. Fully fund SEND provision which follows the child and make it illegal for a school not to welcome a child with open arms.
2. Rebuild trust in the teaching profession. Stop the assumption that all teachers are bad and need to be punished to make them good. Attach inspirational professionals to support and encourage schools to get better. Restore excellent teacher training colleges which work closely with schools to give both academic and philosophical rigour and practical experience of the amazing job that is teaching.
3. Stop high stakes testing and league tables as a method of measuring a school’s performance. Allow children to prove competencies in different subjects when they are ready, much in the way that musicians take their music grade exams today. Trust parents to make decisions about their child’s school – by visiting them!
4. End the inequality in provision between different types of school. Allow all schools the freedom to innovate, share excellent practice, make mistakes, learn and improve together.
5. Give schools the space to innovate, experiment and improve.
I once told myself the day I stopped enjoying the job – for the sake of the children – I would give up. That day has sadly come. I leave my role as Headteacher with a heavy heart. That particular battle is lost – but for me the war continues.
Article first published in ‘Expert View’ at NUT Online: http://www.teachers.org.uk/expertview
Over the last few months ALLFIE has been balancing our campaigning work here in the UK whilst also contributing to the drafting of the UK Civil Society Shadow Report for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in June 2009 and now the UN Committee, as part of a formal UN process, is preparing itself to scrutinise the UK Government about how well the UK is doing to implement the Convention text and spirit.
ALLFIE is part of a disabled person led coalition called the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance which has been gathering evidence since the beginning of the year. The draft Shadow Report is being submitted to the UN at the end of September with the scrutiny of the Government likely in late 2015.
This is an important and exciting opportunity because it ensures that disabled people, our organisations, and our allies can show the real picture about how our human rights are being protected and respected or not.
For ALLFIE the important area for us to focus on has been Article 24 – The Right to Inclusive Education (of course) – and there’s lots to say!
Since the UK Government submitted its Initial Report to the UN in 2011 about how well it’s doing in implementing the Convention, the foundations of the Government’s ‘disability’ strategy has shifted from realising disabled people’s aspirations and expectations for education to a Strategy now that seeks “to promote the development of inclusive and accessible communities… enabling disabled people to participate in their communities, whether through employment, education, local services or social activities has wide ranging benefits for society”.
However, and despite the Government rhetoric of developing inclusive and accessible communities, the situation for disabled people and our human rights has got significantly worse. In terms of education, fundamentally, the legal situation in England does not comply with Article 24. It is true that the very latest SEN legislation, the Children & Families Act 2014 contains a principle that there must be a ‘presumption for mainstream’, but this principle is significantly undermined by Section 316 of the 1996 Education Act.
In 2011, 17.8% of the school population were identified as having a Special Educational Need (SEN). Figures for children with statements of SEN (soon to be Education Health & Care Plans), not just those in schools, show that the number of statements maintained by Local Authorities has increased by nearly 3,275 to 233,430 at January 2013. Of those, 41% of children with statements of SEN were placed in early years settings or in maintained mainstream schools (including in resourced provision or SEN units in maintained mainstream schools). This compares with 45.5% at January 2012. Disabled children and young people with SEN have a 57% chance of getting into a mainstream school against 100% if you are non-disabled or do not have a statement.
The Department for Education SEN statistics reported in July 2012 that during 2011 there was a drop in SEN school pupils attending mainstream funded schools, from 54.3 to 53.7%. The biggest drop is in mainstream early-years and nurseries provision. There continues to be huge variation in the proportion of disabled children with SEN regularly sent to special schools by each Local Authority in England. This ranges from 0.2% (the equivalent of 2 in 1,000 children) to 1.4% (the equivalent of 14 in 1,000) sent to special schools each year by different local authorities. These differences bear no simple relation to the size of a local authority or its social or geographical characteristics.
An increase in the numbers of SEN school pupils not participating in mainstream education is a worrying trend that needs urgent attention given that it demonstrates a weakening of successive Governments’ commitment to inclusive education and a clear breach of the aspiration and spirit of the Article 24 text.
As part of ratification of the UNCRPD, the UK Government registered a Reservation and Interpretative Declaration on Article 24. The result is that the UK has made an open ended commitment to retaining a separate education system (special schools, units, classrooms and courses) for disabled children and young people (including those with SEN) in the UK.
Since ratification there is no evidence to demonstrate progress in the development of a truly inclusive education system in the UK. In fact as the evidence shows it is quite the reverse. Since the General Election in 2010 there has been a Government ideologically driven commitment to ‘reversing the bias towards inclusion’.
Any plan to implement the commitment to inclusive education in the Interpretative Declaration text has been utterly undermined by the political fudge that is ‘parental choice’. Choice by any adult - disabled or not - should not usurp the rights of children to inclusive education with all appropriate supports and accommodations. Children's rights to properly supported inclusive education, as stated in Article 24 should therefore be protected by Governments. Rights of parents to choose education for their children in international law referred only to the right to remove a child from State-provided education, not to choice within it.
The situation is no better for post 16 students who are increasingly being placed on segregated learning foundation courses, that do nothing more than tell future employers that they have failed to gain ‘proper’ qualifications.
The cuts to SEN budgets will no doubt increase the risk of greater numbers of disabled learners with SEN being excluded from mainstream education. The combined result of the Government’s recent education reforms will have a detrimental effect upon the inclusion of disabled learners in mainstream education. The reforms are focused on elitism and standardisation of provision, such as attainment based targets, less flexibility in the qualifications process, the loss of a broad and balanced curriculum and changes to education building design which have reduced accessibility for disabled learners.
The UNCRPD covers all levels of education and so we have also included the real concerns that disabled students have about the planned cuts to Disabled Students Allowance. In recent years there has been a surge in numbers of disabled students attending higher education. The support currently is far from perfect, but with cuts to DSA (not to mention the closure of the Independent Living Fund – see Issue 38 for more on this) this trend is very likely to be put into reverse gear as those disabled students who require additional support disappear from higher education opportunities.
So this is a flavour of how little progress has been made since the ratification of the UNCPRD 5 years ago. It is hugely disappointing when you consider that the UK is still a rich country with huge knowledge and expertise that could deliver a fully inclusive education system for all learners if the political will and commitment was there and genuine.
In terms of what next - we need to gather strength from the opportunity that the UNCRPD creates for the future, whatever the current situation is, and we must find ways to use the evidence from the Shadow Report, and what we know works in terms of real and effective inclusive education practice, to create a renewed aspiration for what is possible in our nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.
When the Coalition Government came into power Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, immediately wrote to all schools inspected by OfSTED and graded 'outstanding' asking them to consider becoming an Academy. Many secondary schools did. This was followed by the Academies Bill which became an Act in six weeks - one of the fastest pieces of legislation ever. It was clear the direction the Government was going.
CASE (Campaign for State Education) was extremely concerned and decided in January 2011 to bring together a wide range of organisations and individuals to discuss what to do. This was followed by a further meeting in March looking at what were considered to be the key issues - privatisation, accountability, equal opportunities, teacher education, the curriculum.
By this time Mr Gove had introduced an Education Bill giving him enormous powers to decide all aspects of education. There were mounting concerns also about Free Schools - their cost and lack of any requirements currently essential in all maintained schools - any building would do and no outdoor space required. It was clear to us in CASE that organisations working together would be more effective than many individual organisations lobbying on their own particular issues. So the 'coalition' was born and has organised three Conferences: ‘Caught in the Act’ in 2011 - looking at the dangers of the Education Act 2011, ‘Picking up the Pieces’ in 2012 - outlining the ongoing fragmentation of the education system as a result of Gove's policies and ‘Reclaiming Education’ in 2013 - considering what we could do. In June 2013 we launched our document ‘A Better Future for our Schools’, with ten key issues identified and suggestions about what a future government might do. In April 2014 over one hundred people attended our meeting in the House of Commons to determine the key priorities needed for change - these are the seven outlined in the leaflet we have recently produced and are distributing widely in the run up to the 2015 Election. We now have almost one thousand organisations and individuals on our mailing list.
We desperately need an education system which has clear aims and objectives, meets the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, listens to children and young people, does not discriminate, is accountable to parents and the local community (not the Secretary of State), inclusive of all children, provides a curriculum which is creative and meets the many different needs, provides teachers at all levels with excellent training and education based in Universities as well as ongoing professional development, an inspection system which supports and helps schools to improve.
The huge number of private companies which now run our schools as Academy chains and sponsors is a massive concern, especially as there are growing examples of financial malpractice, and Academies and Free Schools failing their OfSTED inspections. Mr Gove, now gone of course, massively overspent the budget he had been given by buying buildings - wholly unsuitable in many cases - for those wanting to open a Free School. Allowing these schools to have their own admission arrangements - and preventing local authorities from building schools or being able to send children to academies or Free Schools has caused massive planning problems for local authorities still responsible for all the children living in their area. There may well be children who do not have a place in any school. The Children and Families Act has made huge changes for disabled children and those with special educational needs which are not likely to provide the support they need. The curriculum changes are personal to Michael Gove - who showed no interest in listening to anyone, even dismissing a team of experts - equally will not be in the best interests of many children and young people.
We are planning a further Conference on November 15th 2014 in Birmingham, it’s title: ‘Reclaiming Education - Using the Election to Change Course’. We all have to do everything we can to convince politicians that further changes have to be made if we are to restore our education system to be fair for all - it is blatantly unfair for too many now. Despite signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 no Government has enshrined its articles in law and few efforts have been made to comply in any way. The same is true of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified in 2009. There is much to do and the only way we can succeed is for all of us to be arguing for the same key changes - too many documents have been produced which are wordy and not read, however valid the points being made. That is why we have simplified our campaign to seven 'asks' and we want all organisations to join us in arguing for them:
1. The National Curriculum should be what it says - a curriculum for all children in all English schools. As originally promised, it should be a curriculum to which all children are entitled, broadly based, balanced and designed to promote children's emotional, as well as intellectual, development.
2. No school should be allowed to choose its pupils. Admission to schools should be fairly administered according to well understood rules drawn up by a locally elected education service. Selection tests must end. No child should be branded a failure at 11.
3. Inclusion and equal opportunities need to be at the heart of education provision and discrimination and segregation tackled in all their forms. The needs of every child, including those with SEN and disabilities, should be fully met.
4. All schools should be treated equally and funded according to a common formula which responds to pupils' needs.
5. All schools within the same area should work together, rather than compete against each other. A locally elected education service should guide, support and monitor schools as well as take decisions on school places.
6. The inspection system, perceived by schools as hostile and threatening, should be replaced by one which is supportive, as well as rigorous. Standards should be agreed through a national consultation process and inspectors should help schools by developing and sharing successful practice.
7. All those whom we employ to educate our children should have qualified professional status. Continuing professional development should be an entitlement and requirement for all staff. Unqualified staff should be given appropriate training to become qualified.
The ‘Picking up the Pieces’ coalition is supported by the Campaign for State Education, the Socialist Educational Association, Information for School and College Governors, Forum, Comprehensive Future and the Alliance for Inclusive Education in conjunction with other campaigning groups and trade unions.
Melian Mansfield is the Chairperson of CASE (Campaign for State Education). CASE is the founder of the Picking up the Pieces Coalition: www.pickingupthepieces.org.uk
The main issue I have had at school is the lack of respect shown by teachers towards students. Judging by the teachers that I have personally come across, the vast majority have a complete disregard for the students who they are meant to be teaching. While of course there are the few teachers that are dedicated to their pupils, many of them make very little effort to try and understand or even listen to the students they work with.
From what I have seen, when students such as myself first meet a teacher or first join a new school or college, we do not have a bad attitude towards the teachers or try to disrespect them, but the main conflict between students and teachers is generally created when the institution or teacher fails to show interest in or respect back to the pupil. Many students who display “challenging behaviour” or find themselves in trouble at school behave this way because they are unhappy at school. As much as this is no excuse to misbehave, if schools paid any interest in their students and their needs then I believe that they would not misbehave and display such “challenging behaviour”. This is an issue that I believe is deeply rooted in the setup of schools, as it is often dismissed and almost acceptable for teachers to show complete disrespect to students, but if the students do the same back to teachers it is seen as very bad and students are often very heavily punished for it. This can lead to a complete breakdown of communication between the pupils and staff, also opens a door to general bad behaviour within the school as it often creates a feeling of disinterest and almost detest amongst pupils towards the school, as they believe they are out of place there and do not benefit or develop in any way by being there. Many believe they are uncared for and misunderstood, and allow their behaviour slip due to this. It can even have a heavy effect on the pupils’ future, as it can lead to the pupils losing interest in their education entirely due to the way they have been treated by their schools.
Another problem I have witnessed in schools is the way they deal with students who behave in a manner that the school does not like. From my experiences in school, undesired behaviour warrants a form of detention, and a worse, or repetition of the behaviour, or skipping one of these detentions can lead to an internal exclusion or exclusion. There are no attempts to support or help the child and see why they are behaving this way, just a half-hearted punishment which I have seen given out far too regularly and easily. Often the same punishment is given out repeatedly without any change in the behaviour that is being punished but there is no thought to the fact that it is not having the desired effect of the pupil or about whether an alternative solution could be used. This again can often lead to the attitude of resentment towards schools and can often prompt more of this “challenging behaviour”, especially if the pupils feel they have been given their punishment unfairly and that they did not deserve it.
Schools generally seem to give a lot of value to rules and regulations but not to relationships and respect. I, and others, have succeeded best at school where there has been a good relationship between teachers and students – sometimes these can actually be the harshest teachers but the harshness is not an issue because pupils know the underlying relationship is positive and the teacher wants the best for them. Respect from teachers – for the student as an individual and for the student’s potential – also provides an atmosphere for pupils to grow academically and as a person. In my experience, teachers who model the behaviour and respect they would like to see from their students have usually created the classes I have benefitted from most.
This article was written by a 17 year old student who wishes to remain anonymous as he is still in education.
My daughter Amy has just recently celebrated her end of Year 11 prom at The Weald School in Billingshurst. We moved with Amy when she was four years old from London to West Sussex so she could attend a special school that specialised in conductive education.
After three years in her special school we took a long, hard look at Amy’s realistic future and decided on a more personalised approach, taking the long view on her education with achievable outcomes, including her health and wellbeing. She started mainstream schooling aged nine, and started at The Weald when she was eleven. Apart from a few wobbly times, Amy’s bubbly personality and a handful of wonderful PAs and Learning Support Assistants has meant that she has thrived in her mainstream setting.
The main benefits of mainstream schooling, apart from access to many learning opportunities in a language-rich environment alongside children from her local community, is the hustle and bustle of an ordinary life. The whole process of including a wheelchair user with no speech has not been easy. It has taken many frustrating years to help people understand our purpose to get our daughter included. We believe she is bright and has a good understanding and awareness of the world around her and the few good communication partners in her life have been able to demonstrate her ability. Due to her communication difficulties there were on-off battles to get the right speech and language therapist who would use her limited time efficiently, the right PA, the right training for staff, skilled Assessors, a high tech communication aid that worked and so on. We wanted to alleviate the stress but not the opportunities for Amy. It was about teaching, not about testing and being in a classroom where she could absorb her learning through her eyes and ears just like everyone else. We felt it was wrong to have her prove herself before she could move on with her learning, especially when she was at the mercy of a system that was not working.
Amy’s inclusion has got better as the years have moved on where everyone has learned. Her outcomes have been achieved by a team of wonderful PAs recruited and trained at home and funded by an education, health and social care combined budget, which we hope will support her transition into adulthood. Amy’s PAs work alongside staff at school to meet her outcomes which included access to her local pool, switch practice to operate her power chair, and access to school trips. They call themselves The A-Team and meet every month to discuss what works well and what could be improved and the best example of an outcome achieved was her trip to her prom.
With the help of her PA, Amy communicated:
“A highlight was Mr Pollard pushing my wheelchair up the ramp”.
First published in Independent Lives Newsletter, Summer 2014
148 countries including the European Union have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and 158 have adopted the Convention.
In December 2013 a Report - ‘Thematic Study on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Education’ from the UN Human Rights Council made clear inclusion and inclusive education is one of the key provisions of the UNCRPD. Article 24 commits State parties to developing an inclusive education system, where disability should not prevent people from successfully participating in the mainstream education system. But this study demonstrates that although there have been moves towards inclusion such as by the provision of statutory rights to inclusion in Spain and Portugal (joining the long standing practice in Italy), there are still many barriers including lack of adequately trained teachers, accessible buildings, peer support and challenging bullying, with much more integration than inclusion.
The observations of the CRPD Committee on the first 13 Country Reports also demonstrate a wide variation in practice, for example China is criticised for only integrating those with physical and mild visual impairments and for an expanding programme of special school building. Austria, which had developed moves to inclusion a decade ago, is criticised for lacking continuing momentum in this process. All 13 countries are urged to do more and reminded that the duty of making reasonable accommodations in education for disabled people is not a progressively realised right, but must be implemented from the point of ratification. In March 2014 the Human Rights Council passed a resolution urging more to be done to implement the right to inclusive education. As these Reports point out, implementing full inclusive education is a matter of political will and where that consensus has been built, as in New Brunswick Province, Canada, it can happen. In New Brunswick, Policy No 322 on inclusive education states:
“6.2.2. The following practices must not occur: 1) Segregated, self contained programs or classes for students with learning or behavioural challenges, either in school or in community based learning opportunities. 2) Alternative education programmes for students enrolled in kindergarten to grade eight.”
In England, we may feel that we are losing the battle in the argument for inclusion. Despite the weakening of the presumption of inclusion in the Children and Families Act (2014), it is still there, with more than 90% of the two million disabled pupils and students attending schools and colleges, in mainstream provision. Domestically the struggle for inclusion must continue.
However, worldwide, despite 14 years of the Millennium Development Goal (2) requiring that all children should complete primary education, this will not be achieved next year. There have been big advances in many countries in getting millions of children into school, but the nature and quality of that schooling has not been adequate with a recent survey of 350,000 pupils in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) showing only 15% achieved expected literacy and numeracy levels.
When it comes to disabled children, the numbers in school in most developing countries, though there are no accurate figures, is likely to be less than 10% and numbers completing primary education is less than 1%. So as more children are successfully enrolled in school, the proportion of those out of school who are disabled, is rising. Schools and learning are not generally accessible and teachers do not know how to make reasonable accommodations or provide the right support, so the drop out of enrolled pupils with disabilities is high. There are many reasons. Negative attitudes of parents and teachers are the biggest barrier, followed by poverty - parents need children to work and can’t afford school fees, long distances to school, lack of accessible schools and then lack of adequate teacher training.
In 2012, there were about 28.9 million primary teachers working in classrooms around the world. With universal primary education high on the political agenda, countries have made great efforts to boost the supply of teachers, by 16% globally since 1999. At least 20 countries have more than doubled their teacher workforces.
Training All Teachers for Inclusive Education
However, as demonstrated by my recent work for UNICEF on preparing teachers for disabled children, most teachers in developing countries get no training on including disabled children. If they do get training, it is based on a special education needs model, where the focus is on separating the child from their peers to segregated classes and schools and focussing on what they cannot do from a ‘medical model’. There is an urgent need for all teachers pre-service and in-service, to get twin-track training on including disabled children.
Track One: Education based on Principles of Equality and Child Empowerment involves foundations and inclusive values which apply and are beneficial to all groups of marginalized learners and children, e.g. girls, nomads, rural, poor, child soldiers/orphans, those with HIV/AIDS, disabled children, linguistic and ethnic minorities, traumatised and displaced children. The principles to enable a child friendly educational environment outlined by UNESCO are:
Equality and Valuing Difference
Identifying Barriers - Finding Solutions
Collaborative Learning - Peer Support
Differentiation & Flexible Curriculum and Assessment
Stimulating and Interesting Multi-Sensory Learning Environment
An Anti-Bias Curriculum
Child Centred Pedagogy, Creative with Reflective Teachers
Quality education requiring rigour and effort for each child to achieve their potential (UNESCO)
Track Two: Education accommodating the different impairment specific needs of disabled children and/ or children with special needs will require teachers to be familiar with and able to make accommodations for:
a) Blind and Visually-Impaired pupils/students (Braille, tactile maps and plans, tapes and text to talk, mobility training, large print, magnification, orientation, auditory environment & talking instruments.)
b) Deaf & Hearing-Impaired pupils/students (Sign Language taught & use of interpretation, oral/finger spelling, hearing aid support, visual and acoustic environments.)
c) DeafBlind-Language (Use of interpreters, tactile environment, aids and appliances, orientation.)
d) Physical Impairment (Accessible infrastructure, toilets and washrooms, furniture adjustments, equipment, prosthesis, use of personal assistance, diet, transport, medication.)
e) Speech & Communication impairment (Facilitated communication, augmented communication [high and low tech], social use of language switching, talkers, information grids.)
f) Specific Learning Difficulty (Coloured overlays & background, Easy Read, tapes and text to talk, spell-checkers, concrete objects.)
g) General Cognitive Impairment (Pictograms, small steps curriculum, easy read, scaffolding, Makaton, use of symbols & information grids, using concrete objects.)
h) Mental Health and Behaviour (Counselling and personal support, differentiated behaviour policy, empathy, quiet chill-out space, circles of friends, collaborative learning and structured day.)
i) Introduction to screening, identification and key adjustments for main impairments.
UNESCO Bangkok have produced a very useful online guide on how to go about implementing Track Two in mainstream schools: http://www2.unescobkk.org/
This said, there are many examples of teachers developing the above expertise and including disabled children successfully. They are the exception rather than the rule and nowhere have come to scale.
Adolf is visually impaired and can be accommodated in his class in Tanzania due to Sightsavers providing a telescopic sight so he can read the blackboard (see front cover). After several false starts, Tanzania is now working towards a more system wide approach to inclusion of disabled children. Action on Disability and Development International (ADD), have taken on overall responsibility for design, fundraising, implementation, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and dissemination with the MOEVT. Modelling Inclusive Education (MIE) project expects to cover three districts in Coast region with 265 primary schools. These are demonstrating how disabled children can be fully included, teachers trained and curriculum adapted so they get quality education.
The prospects for the coming period could change the few examples of inclusive practice into the norm, but there are two obstacles. Firstly, that as the pressure to marketize education increases and more businesses view education services as a means of profit, rather than a public good, then those who are seen as difficult or different from the norm will become an inconvenient truth and, as the currency of the market becomes standardised test scores, those who achieve differently or at a different pace will be squeezed out and old models of segregation will re-assert themselves. Secondly, as the world moves closer to all children being in school, the decreasing minority still out of school will not be funded. Against this is the agreement that in what replaces the Millennium Development Goals disability should be specifically mentioned. The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights have issued guidance to countries that they must consider disabled children when reporting on progress in establishing human rights. UNICEF have prioritised disabled children and are holding the first global meeting of disabled children and young people in New York in June. This follows the publication of a useful series: ‘Take us Seriously’, about gathering disabled children’s views and the Global Report on Children last year focused on disability. So it is now about mounting sufficient political pressure to turn fine words into reality.
Facilitated Communication (FC), sometimes known as Facilitated Communication Training (FCT), involves giving physical support so that a person who needs it can access a communication device, such as a keyboard. The intention is to provide steadying support usually in the form of backward resistance. The person offering support (a facilitator) may hold the person’s wrist or elbow creating tension which produces steadier movement so that the person reaches their intended target. The long term goal is that the person will, through a process of fading support, become independent.
ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) have agreed to release a position paper which advises the international AAC community to refuse to support people who use FC. This decision has been taken on the basis of a review which focussed mainly on old, often poorly designed research that had negative results in regard to FC use. Only 7% of the qualifying studies that the Committee relied on were published after 2000. All but 3 of the studies date from the 1990s. 44 articles submitted for consideration were ignored. They would have raised the number of articles reviewed from 79 to 103. AAC techniques and technology have changed since 2000, as have strategies used for assessing the progress of people who use communication aids with facilitation. Research using eye-tracking technology was ignored. The committee was only concerned with examination of authorship ignoring all other factors that might support the use of facilitation.
Clinical practice relies on Evidence Based Practice. Professional’s experience and the client’s preference make up two thirds of what should be considered - scientific enquiry only occupying one third.
ISAAC’s decision is based on scientific evidence only; even worse, it would appear, only on scientific evidence that supported their desired outcome. This makes a mockery of scientific investigation. No consultation has taken place with clients, patients, caregivers or clinical experts in the field of FC. The UK chapter of ISAAC (Communication Matters) has expressed concern with the process. Communication Matters has a commitment to supporting all AAC users regardless of their preferred method of access to communication aids.
People who rely on AAC as well as FC can be influenced. People who do not use AAC can be influenced. Influence is a fact of life that is even sometimes considered desirable. Yet it is the danger of influence that most professionals who argue against the use of FC rely on. This is despite the fact that there is a growing number of former FC users who now communicate independently. If you can’t speak the only way to say what you want is by writing or typing. Practitioners in AAC resort to the provision of symbol based communication devices to support those who are unable to spell. Symbol based systems are limited and susceptible to influence yet no objections are raised in regard to their use by professionals.
One vocabulary offers the number of words used by the average 6 year old but is in use amongst an older population of AAC users. A technique where the student hands over a symbol card in exchange for a desired item involves the use of physical support and insistence on the “correct” card being offered. These are accepted practices within many professional AAC environments. Is prejudice operating against those who use FC? Some users of FC have, once physical support was provided, been able to express higher levels of ability than they have been formerly assessed at. Could it be that FC poses a challenge to widely held beliefs about capacity and capability? Does this threaten the status quo in clinical practice? Proponents of FC are calling for a new paradigm that presumes competence rather than examining deficits. Further research is needed.
Researchers need to widen the brief if they are genuinely going to examine FC to include possible benefits such as:
- Improved motor skills
- Independent access to communication aids
- Improved learning/skills
- Increased social inclusion
- Improved behaviour and/or emotional status
- Improved relationships
Syracuse University is involved in research around the efficacy of Facilitated Communication including:
- the monitoring of conversations in natural settings where people have provided information unknown to the facilitator;
- video eye tracking research showing that the participating users of FC looked at the intended target before it was selected;
- evidence of speech before typing;
- linguistic analysis of individuals’ typing, demonstrating that the individuals with disabilities employ different patterns of word use and sentence construction than their facilitators.
Rosemary Crossley and Chris Borthwick state:
“Science does not consist of a particular set of laboratory procedures; it consists of using those procedures when they are appropriate and using other procedures when they are not, and applying thought to what makes them appropriate or inappropriate in any given situation... An AAC intervention requires us to work with an enormous number of variables that are not constant, not susceptible to numerical measurement, and not subject to our control. The appropriate recording method for such situations is rich description, and the appropriate format is the case study or case series.”
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) has issued a statement, written by Adam Barrett, criticising the flawed methodology used by the Ad Hoc committee advising ISAAC. It states:
“This outcome appears to have been contrived to protect the power of professionals and academics whilst ignoring the rights of communication for disabled people using FC.”
The UK FCT practice standards have protocols which may minimise influence by ensuring that facilitators are properly trained. They urge the use of independent means of communication so that the person who can type with facilitation can independently verify their communication by, for example, pointing to a YES or NO card. They also expect facilitators to have knowledge of techniques in the wider AAC community so that FC has a place within that sphere rather than becoming marginalised.
Peter’s Asparagus is the first book in a series of short stories which are easy reading, sensitive, yet entertaining for all ages. They tell the story of a young boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and some of the difficulties that surround him on a daily basis in particular within a school day.
I am impressed when people are willing to take their frustration and anger and turn it into literature. This is particularly impressive when your family life is being turned upside down by schooling systems and you create short stories, accessible to others who may be experiencing a similar emotional roller coaster.
The author of these stories is Angela Nicole Krause, a mother of four children, one of whom is a young man who has Asperger’s Syndrome. With each book, Angela provides wonderful and accessible insights into the classroom struggles of ‘Peter’. She has illustrated in words and pictures the laughter and the pain when disabled children are subjected to ignorance during the typical activities of a school day. Peter has had to manage schools that are unwilling to listen and learn.
However, the teacher, Mrs Arkwright, in this series of short stories, has a desire to learn from Peter, and his mum. Mrs Arkwright encourages other children to engage in the struggles that Peter has to manage in the classroom, whilst at the same time he is having to cope with his own sensory and movement issues, which come from his Autism.
The solutions are not presented as: "they all lived happily ever after" but that teachers and parents have to listen and learn from each person who experiences the world through the prism of Autism.
Series available from: http://www.ypdbooks.com/
Venue: IHWC, Kitts Green, Birmingham
Date: 22nd November 2014 (11-4pm)
Join us as we celebrate the achievements of disabled people and prepare for the struggle ahead.
This Midlands ALLFIE (MALLFIE*) Event will bring together disabled people, our families and our allies to plan our campaigning activities in the lead up to the General Election in May 2015.
To Book: http://buildinganinclusivesociety.eventbrite.co.uk
or call LCiL Events on: 0116 222 5005 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*MALLFIE is a collaboration between disabled people, their allies and organisations across the North and Midlands of England.
UK Disability History Month in 2014 has formed an Alliance with Unite the Union (the largest UK Union) and is working with the Anti Bullying Alliance on the theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week - with a focus on disabilist bullying.
The theme of UKDHM 2014 is ‘War and Impairment: the Social Consequences of Disablement’. At a fringe meeting at the TUC in Liverpool in September, a 12 page Broadsheet written by UKDHM and jointly published by Unite was launched - available from UKDHM at: www.UKdisabilityhistorymonth.com
Disability History Month runs from 22nd November to 22nd December every year. With the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, the treatment of war disabled people casts a long shadow, with an unprecedented number of newly disabled people created by the world’s first industrial and total war. How did the self-driven activity of disabled war veterans challenge the negative way they were often treated, and what are the employment issues facing disabled veterans today? UKDHM launches at Unite on Tuesday 18th November in the evening. This year we will have a day’s seminar on the theme at the University of London Union, Mallet Street, on Saturday 6th December.
The Broadsheet demonstrates that as the weapons of war have become more sophisticated and lethal, at the same time battlefield medicine improving enormously, the numbers of veterans surviving injury and becoming disabled people has multiplied by 10 compared to those killed. In Europe 9 million had life-long impairments and were disabled by society’s response. More recently the appalling involvement of civilians in total war means many millions more are traumatized and develop life-long impairments. Self activity by disabled veterans after the 1st World War was soon replaced by Charity. In contrast the State in Germany provided much greater rehabilitation and pensions, but did not value the veteran’s sacrifice resulting in them later becoming staunch Nazi supporters. After the 2nd World War Britain had learned the lessons and introduced widespread benefits, training and employment opportunities for all disabled people. These have only recently been taken away by Governments.
A separate Broadsheet is being produced for use with the Anti-Bullying Alliance on the Roots and Causes of Disabilist Bullying, for use in schools. So also within this year’s theme are developing methods of conflict resolution and challenging disabilist bullying. You can:
Get materials from UKDHM,
Hold a meeting,
Bring disability into curriculum work on War
Take part in anti-bullying week
Do local research on what happened to disabled War veterans in your family/area.
Let UKDHM know what you are doing: email@example.com
New Anti Bulling Resource
ALLFIE has produced a new resource for the ‘How Was School?’ Education Pack for schools. The worksheet, ‘We can Stop Bullying’ has been created in collaboration with the Anti-Bullying Alliance for Anti-Bullying Week and is available to download FREE from:
"We have applied to all of our local schools and have been told by them: “we cannot provide for your child’s needs”. Is this legal?"
The answer to this question will depend on whether your child has a statement or not.
If your child does not have a statement, any school applied to should admit if they have places available. The School Admissions Code states that ‘all maintained schools...that have enough places available must offer a place to every child who has applied’. If a school refuses to admit you should be given a right to appeal and will potentially have good prospects of success as the decision is likely to be unlawful.
If you apply outside of the normal admissions round the situation is slightly different. Each LEA must have something called a Fair Access Protocol which sets out how unplaced children, especially the most vulnerable such as those with SEN, are to be offered a place at a suitable school. Where a governing body does not wish to admit a child with challenging behaviour outside the normal admissions round, even though places are available, it must refer the case to the LEA for action under the Fair Access Protocol. The LEA has the power to direct the school to admit a child even when the school is full. Before deciding to give a direction, the LEA must consult the governing body of the school and parents. If unhappy with the decision, objections can be made to the Schools Adjudicator.
The situation is different if your child has a statement. If you are seeking placement at a particular maintained school your choice should be accepted unless the school is unsuitable or your child’s attendance would be ‘incompatible with the efficient education’ of the children already there (e.g. if the school have no places or your child’s behaviour is particularly demanding).
If you are seeking placement at any mainstream school (as opposed to a particular one) the law states that this must be granted as the presumption is that all children with statements will receive mainstream education unless parents do not want this. There are only very limited exceptions when LEA’s can place children in a special school against parental wishes (for example, if the authority consider that your child’s behaviour is so challenging that there are no steps that can be taken to remedy this and prevent the other children in the class from being distracted from their work).
If you disagree with the school named by the LEA you should appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal. Any appeals must be brought within two months of the final statement issued by the LEA.
The final thing to be aware of is that if your child is of compulsory school age, the LEA are under a duty to ensure they are provided with suitable education. Therefore if your child has not been offered any place the LEA must put arrangements in place until a place is found (such as home tuition).
You may be aware that SEN law has changed with the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014 in September. This will see statements gradually replaced with Education and Health Care Plans. However, the key legal principles will be unchanged and the advice set out above will be same, regardless of whether your child has a statement or EHC plan.
James Betts, 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.