Accessibility options: Default text size Larger Text size Largest text size Black text on yellow background Black text on pink background Dark blue text on light blue background Default colour scheme White text on black background scheme Text Only

donate button

 




Inclusion Now Articles Issue 40 - Election Special

You MUST ask us for permission before copying any article from this archive.

Inclusion - Reviewing the Last Five Years:

CEN: Exclusions
ALLFIE: Beyond School
CSIE: Making Equality Real
Children's Commissioner
What do UK Government Statistics Tell Us?

What the Teaching Unions Say (NUT & ATL)

Training for Teachers

Looking Ahead

What the Political Parties Say

Disabled Students Allowance - An Update

The Impact of the DSA Reforms

Choices, Open Days and Universities

Interview with Sherann Hillman

Disability Equality in the Classroom - A Celebration

See it, Say it, Change it

Legal Question No.14

 



Inclusion - Reviewing the Last Five Years:

CEN: Exclusions
The Education Act 2011 took away the responsibility for school Governors to reinstate a pupil if the exclusion was considered unlawful or procedurally flawed. Therefore the local authority owned responsibility for finding another placement for the pupil although this wouldn't negate the disruption, other challenges associated with transition to a new school or the family’s perception of institutions following an unjust sanction.

The Education Act (Section 45) also removed the power from the local authority to consider complaints from parents or pupils, transferring this responsibility to the Department for Education. Individuals now have to complain to the Secretary of State for Education if they believe that a governing body is acting ‘unreasonably’ or is failing to carry out its statutory duties with the caveat of a possible 6 month wait for a reply to their complaint.

During September 2014 head teachers were given the authority to direct pupils to Alternative Educational Provision without parental consent, a sanction that would disproportionately affect the pupils referred to in the education sector as ‘the bottom 25%’ comprising mostly of pupils with SEN and/or representatives of BAMER and White working class groups. Alternative or off site provision is considered by many as exclusion by another name and is the fastest growing sector in Education.

Also included in the amended legislation were newly granted powers allowing schools to search pupils and the removal of Ofsted's duty to assess a schools contribution to community cohesion. These amends are significant if considered against the backdrop of stop and search - a community initiative that has proven divisive, antagonistic and yielding little outcome in the reduction of crime and arrest rates and that without cohesion equality is an unrealistic aim. Both amends indirectly lend themselves to increasing exclusion rates.

Going forward, an independent inquiry is needed, evaluating how the aforementioned amends have affected these groups.

Marc Lorenzi
Education Advocate
Communities Empowerment Network (CEN)

ALLFIE – Beyond School
Post 16 education for disabled young people has had a radical shake up. During the passage of the Children & Families Act 2014, the Government promised that their SEN reforms would deliver greater choice of 16 plus education for disabled young people with SEN. This should mean that young people can choose between attending courses run by schools, dedicated 6th form centres, Further Education colleges or with a training provider. Additionally, young people will have an entitlement to support whilst in Further Education settings. 
The important thing to remember is that Post 16 education and its providers have new obligations in terms of support for disabled learners. Where previously a Statement of SEN stopped when a disabled young person left school, disabled young people are now eligible to be assessed for an Education Health & Care Plan as long as they are in education, right up to the 25th birthday.

The new Local Offer must include Post 16 education options although the revised Code of Practice says nothing about the need for Local Authorities to highlight inclusive education options. This is despite the ‘presumption for mainstream’ principle now applying to any state funded post-16 institution (including training provider and 6th form settings). There is also a presumption that young people with low level SEN support needs without an EHC Plan, will be placed in a mainstream post-16 setting where support can be funded within the Post-16 provider’s budget. Even though the new Code states that FE colleges should offer an inclusive approach to learning and teaching, with high quality teaching which is differentiated for individuals, it also states that young people with SEN must first meet the college course admissions criteria. 

The new legal obligations still allow for Post 16 providers to push disabled young people onto discrete ‘independent life skills’ courses rather than a new focus on developing good inclusive practice. We have to wonder then where the new Post 16 choices are for disabled young people. A new right to individualised support, via an Education Health & Care plan is welcome but unless young disabled people can choose the course they want – realistically what’s new or radically different.

Tara Flood
Director
Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE)

CSIE: Making Equality Real
Reflecting on developments in inclusive education over the past five years, I find some cause for joy and much, much cause for concern. The passage of the Equality Act in March 2010 is certainly among the highlights of this period, as is the move towards more person-centred planning introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. What has been missing, however, is any indication from the government that these laws will be enforced and will make a real difference to children’s lives. 

Since publication of CSIE’s Trends report, which revealed a postcode lottery for disabled children in England, the Centre has been working with schools to create a new resource for busy school practitioners. ‘Equality: Making it Happen’ is a practical guide for schools to make sure everyone is safe, included and learning. It has been developed in collaboration with schools and has pull-out reference cards organised around equality strands and around aspects of everyday school life.  Materials include: equality monitoring questionnaires for staff, pupils and parents; key information on full range of equality strands; succinct, practical advice and suggested activities; examples of good practice; and sources of further information and support.

The resource pack is relevant to children of all ages and will help schools address equality holistically. Materials will be useful for teaching & learning activities, assemblies, peer mentoring, school council, staff training, and whole school development. For more information, or to order a copy, please visit http://goo.gl/72beml or contact the CSIE office: admin@csie.org.uk or 0117 3533150

Artemi Sakellariadis
Director
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)

Children’s Commissioner:
It is still the case, in 2014, that Disabled children and young people in England experience higher levels of poverty and are more personally and socially disadvantaged than their peers says the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. In a report published in November this year, Disabled Children and young people talk about the difficulty in accessing education (particularly inclusive education), transport and vital services. They are concerned about not being involved in decisions about their independence and the lack of advocacy to support their decision making.

The OCC interviewed groups of Disabled children and young people over the summer in preparation for the Commissioner submitting a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Disabled children and young people feel the pressure from a society that in general holds negative stereotypes about disabled people, and underestimates their ability. This has been compounded by the fact there continues to be no government-led awareness raising campaign focused on the general public’s awareness of the needs and rights of disabled children.

Training for those services working with Disabled children and young people is important say young people because they feel at the moment professionals and service providers have no real idea about how to communicate with them.

Interestingly the research also highlights the impact that Disabled Children and young people feel in terms of the wider attacks on Disabled people with cuts to Local Authority budgets and the effect this is having on services as well as the changes to benefits.

‘They Still Need to Listen More’ - A report about disabled children and young people’s rights in England by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

What do UK Government Statistics tell us?
Each year the Department for Education collects data on pupils under the January survey of pupils on roll. The PLASC or Pupil Level Annual School Census and the statistics have been used for the data in this article.

The proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational need has remained at 2.8 % since 2008 until the latest figures for January 2014. Where these pupils attend school has been reducing from a high point in 2004 of 60.3% attending mainstream primary and secondary schools to only 51.9% attending mainstream schools in 2014. This swing against inclusion started under the last Labour Government whom after 2004 repudiated their previous policy of promoting inclusion.

The Children and Families Act Part 3 which became law in September 2014, allows pupils with SEN without Statements or Education Health and Care Plans to be admitted into ‘special academies’ for the first time.

The actual numbers attending maintained and non-maintained special schools has risen every year since the low point of 89,390 in 2006. In 2014 it had risen to 99,760. The figures since the coalition were in power have shown an acceleration:

2009 - 92,270
2010 - 93,230
2011 - 94,275
2012 - 95,915
2013 - 98,595
2014 - 99,760

However these figures do not tell the whole story. For the numbers with Statements in Pupil Referral Units and those with Statements in Independent Schools has also been increasing. In the last 20 years this figure has doubled from  7,151 in 1995 to 13,335 in 2014. This means that an additional 13,205 pupils with statements are receiving their education outside the mainstream in 2014 compared to 2006.

Children who would have gone to special schools with dyslexia, moderate learning difficulties, physical disability or who are hearing impaired or visually impaired are now much more likely to attend mainstream schools than 20 years ago. In contrast, numbers with autism and severe learning difficulty and profound and multiple learning difficulty in special schools has increased and those with BESD in special schools has remained constant.

In the recent CSIE ‘Trends’ report (see facing page) analysis of DfE figures shows huge variation in these national figures by a factor of 10 on whether pupils are in mainstream or special school. Certain Local Authorities such as Newham, Camden, Islington, Barnsley, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Cornwall had specific policies to encourage mainstreaming, others such as Newcastle, Liverpool and many others did not develop the capacity in their mainstream schools to include with resource bases and staff development. In the current situation Local Authorities no longer have the power to plan and academy chains and free school proprietors can set up special schools even where there is no need for them. What happens now more than ever will depend on building local campaigns for inclusion.

Richard Rieser
World of Inclusion


What the Teaching Unions Say:

National Union of Teachers (NUT):
What do you think has changed since the last General Election concerning the education of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

The education landscape has changed unrecognisably and significantly since the last election because of the radically reduced role for local authorities, the spread of free schools and academies and the further development of standardised assessment and monitoring of children. This means that there is no longer any national Government strategy on SEN or any national approach to building school capacity for inclusion - this increases the lottery for families rather than establishing entitlements and rights for their children.

In the same time period, do you think teachers feel better or less equipped to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

This will vary from school to school based on the approach of school leaders but teachers’ main and growing concern in this period has been that it is getting harder to consider children as individuals because all children are expected to make 'standard' rates of progress, for the purposes of floor standards and other accountability measures. Teachers remain very committed to meeting the individual needs of children but feel that school inspections take insufficient account of the context of pupil cohorts and that schools are penalised for being inclusive because accountability measures are inflexible and rigid. Teachers also identify that schools are having to paper over the cracks where local support services have disappeared and that schools are substituting for other services, at a cost to their budgets and to staff capacity.

What do teachers need, in terms of resources/training to be able to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

Teachers need to be able to seek and receive advice from sustainable expert services to form a team around the child - including speech and language therapists, educational psychologists and SEN support teams. Teachers need their SENCO to have time to advise them and develop and tailor appropriate interventions for pupils, and teachers need reduced workloads so they can collaborate and reflect on individual pupil progress together, and meet and involve parents and carers more fully. The number one urgent change which is needed is a more intelligent and fair school accountability system which celebrates inclusive schools rather than penalising them. The fragmentation of the education system poses unique risks for some children with SEN and disabled children; a coherent and unified service offers the best chance of equitable entitlements for these children.

What do teachers think the Government needs to do to increase the numbers of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

Teachers would want their workloads reduced so they can focus on individual pupils, engage with research about teaching and learning, and develop their pedagogy and practice. Ensuring every teacher has QTS and ensuring children with SEN are with qualified teachers is essential for fully including children with SEN in the classroom and the curriculum. To increase the number of children with SEN in mainstream, class sizes should be reduced, the narrowing of, and over prescription within, the national curriculum should be addressed, and the school inspection framework would need to be constructive and developmental rather than punitive and high stakes. Qualifications reform would also need to change direction - to ensure qualifications and examinations are accessible. Requiring and encouraging schools to compete, and then ranking and labelling them, is not desirable if we are to aspire to an equitable and inclusive education system based on local community schools.

Ros McNeil
Head of Education and Equalities, NUT

Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL):
What do you think has changed since the last General Election concerning the education of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

Since the last General Election, the education of disabled children and young people and pupils with SEN has been impacted by the SEN funding changes from Sept 2013 and SEN reforms from Sept 2014. We’ve welcomed the emphasis on across-agency accountability, particularly the extension of statutory requirement around provision to the health sector. However, in practice, as we know through our members, the positive intentions have often not resulted in the intended changes.  Some of that is down to the cuts felt across local authorities, and the health, social and of course, education sectors, and some through the pre-existing issues around differing professional priorities, language and understanding. Many schools have significantly cut their SEN teams, concerned that the ‘place-plus’ funding scheme is insufficient to continuing previous activities and provision. So, while the education of disabled children and young people and pupils with SEND has gained a higher profile through the SEN reforms, it is likely that many pupils with these needs will no longer be identified as such with limited provision for those whose needs are identified under SEN Support. Schools will also find it more difficult to show progress for pupils with SEND, with the removal of levels.

We welcome the principles within the reforms: what we don’t welcome is the assumption that the changes needed can be done on the cheap.

In the same time period, do you think teachers/lecturers feel better or less equipped to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

We believe that teachers/lecturers in mainstream settings feel less equipped to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN.  Teachers’ CPD has been hit by cuts and this area of CPD has often lost out to what have been perceived as more urgent priorities, reflecting some of the other seismic changes in education, e.g. around curriculum and assessment.  Key to teachers feeling equipped and confident to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings has been access to internal and external specialist support, both of which have been cut or have become less accessible due to the previously mentioned issues of staff and services cuts.  Changes to initial teacher education, which have resulted in increased school-based training and a weakened role for higher education institutions and theoretical learning within the process, have also resulted in new teachers having less knowledge of child development and SEN, both of which are key to supporting the learning of children and young people with SEN.

What do teachers/lecturers need, in terms of resources/training to be able to support the learning of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

Teachers need access to training, specific resources, time to consult and collaborate with expert colleagues, both internally and externally, and the opportunity to access evidence on effective teaching for disabled children and young people with SEN.  School networks can also provide valuable opportunities to share good practice and to challenge thinking, particularly those which include good or outstanding special schools.

What do teachers/lecturers think the Government needs to do to increase the numbers of disabled children and young people with SEN in mainstream settings?

This is a big question and the answer has a number of different elements.  The Government needs to:

Increase the capacity within mainstream settings to offer an excellent education for disabled children and young people with SEN: review the impact of funding changes in order to reduce negative outcomes; offer focused CPD to increase the expertise of the workforce; encourage partnerships between schools through an emphasis on collaboration rather than competition; and, place a far greater emphasis on child development and SEND in initial teacher education, whatever the route.

Increase local capacity to facilitate more effective multi-agency working: funding to services needed to support children and young people with ring-fencing around SEND; clarity around roles which belong to the LA as implementation has highlighted some bad practice in terms of LA offloading some of its responsibilities onto schools; and, funding for shared training at LA level involving LA, education, health and social care partners.

Review the impact of other educational changes/drivers, particularly in initial teacher education, curriculum, assessment and accountability measures, on the provision of inclusive and excellent education for all.

Alison Ryan
Senior Policy Adviser, ATL



Training for Teachers

It has always seemed to me that PGCE courses and other forms of initial training pay far less attention to issues of SEND than they should. I suspect that is true of lots of aspects of pedagogy. That's why at the beginning of the London Challenge we introduced something called the 'Chartered London Teacher' which made the assumption that teachers in London needed to extend their skills in five areas of expertise - knowledge about and developing skills in  'pedagogy', 'subject and phase', 'whole school issues', 'barriers to pupils' learning' and issues of 'race community and  home languages'.

So the expectation was that teachers over a two year period by mutual visits would build up a portfolio which would demonstrate each teacher's CPD profile and growing strength in the five areas, especially in understanding the complexities of barriers to some children's learning. Of these five the most neglected has always been 'barriers to children's successful learning' under which umbrella flies the flag of SEND.

It remains the Cinderella of both CPD programmes and of school practices. Too often SEND is left to a small group of experts to worry about and too frequently practice sees the needs of an individual left to a poorly paid assistant to think and worry about.

We are unlikely to put that right until the profession is enabled to think about CPD as something which informs and underpins every successful school and therefore is commented upon by Ofsted in individual school reports. Included in any worthwhile schedule of CPD would be this vital aspect of a teacher's repertoire of skills, knowledge and understanding.

In short, a prerequisite to inclusion has to be every teacher seeing it as their role to learn ever more about aspects of these issues.

Of course there are various ways of hastening inclusion, but teachers' CPD seems to me the most important.

Tim Brighouse

Professor Tim Brighouse has spent his entire career working in education. Most recently he has served as London Schools Commissioner, working to improve education in the Capital. The London Challenge was a five-year partnership established in 2003 to raise educational standards in secondary schools.



Looking Ahead:

Looking ahead to the General Election and beyond, ALLFIE, as the lead campaign organisation in the inclusive education movement, is calling for all prospective parliamentary candidates to pledge their commitment to support inclusive education practice. This must start with the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in particular Article 24: the Right to Inclusive Education.

ALLFIE’s 6 Manifesto Demands provide the template for delivering a fully inclusive education system at all levels that welcomes and supports all learners. See the Manifesto Demands at:
http://allfie.org.uk/pages/work/manifesto.html

For this Election, ALLFIE’s Manifesto Demands are embedded in the National ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ Manifesto which will ensure that education remains at the heart of wider campaigning work:
http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/uk-disabled-peoples-reclaiming-our-futures-manifesto/

For the General Election ALLFIE will have resources available to support your campaigning at the local, regional and national level. We are focussing on supporting individuals and organisations to make the case for inclusive education with lots of easy to understand arguments and evidence. Don’t forget to let us know what campaign work you’re planning.

 

What the Political Parties Say:

Inclusion Now asked the five main political parties to respond to four questions. Below are replies from the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP). We did approach the Liberal Democrat Party, but they did not respond.

Responses from:
‘A Conservative Spokesman’
Steve McCabe MP - Labour Shadow Children’s Minister
Josephine Tucker - Policy Officer, The Green Party of England and Wales
Cllr Mrs Star Etheridge, UKIP Disability Spokeswoman

How will your party protect the right for disabled children and young people (0 – 25yrs) with Special Educational Needs to be fully included in mainstream education?

Conservative: Conservatives have enshrined in law the right for anyone to seek a place at any state-funded school. We have given parents the legal right to seek a place at any state-funded school of their choice – whether maintained, academy, Free School or special – and are committed to this remaining the case.

Labour: Labour supports the right to access mainstream education. We acknowledge benefits in helping students learn about diversity and equality and valuing difference. The Children and Families Act 2014 has ushered in a new era regarding the rights and wishes of children, young people and their parents. We will ensure it is properly implemented by establishing a small implementation team to work with parents and others. We also recognise that many parents value the work of specialist centres and want that choice. We don’t believe this provision should be isolated so we will encourage a hub and spoke model within our ‘families of schools’ philosophy so that these schools offer their expertise to those in mainstream settings.

Green Party: The Green Party fully supports the inclusion of all young people in mainstream education. We believe that there are many positive benefits for everyone in being educated alongside people with a variety of needs and abilities, and that this will lead to a more integrated society. Therefore we would offer all people the right to be educated in a mainstream school and seek to meet everyone’s needs, whatever the level of need may be, in accordance with the UK Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We recognise there may be exceptional cases where it is not in the best interests of the young person to be fully integrated into mainstream education for all subjects, for example where there are multiple learning difficulties. In the longer term the Green Party hopes to address this through having special resource units in mainstream schools.

UKIP: As far as is possible there should always be provision for disabled children and young people in mainstream education. All children will and do have a right to an education and proscribed by law. All children & young people who attend a mainstream school or college should be fully included in any activity that is offered to the other students, unless of course there is a safety issue and a clear cut common sense issue that would render the activity dangerous.

You must also bear in mind the mainstream education is not the best environment for all children and young people with specific or even varying needs. Then the parents of the child should be able to request that their child be assessed and they are educated in an environment best suited to their needs. Again using the common sense approach is what we would always want to do, one size does not fit all.

How will your party tackle the disproportionate numbers of disabled children and young people with SEN being bullied and/or excluded from mainstream education?

Conservative: We are committed to helping schools eliminate bullying of all forms. Our landmark Children and Families Act 2014 included a new legal duty on schools to better support children at school with medical conditions. As part of our long-term economic plan, we are providing the best schools and skills for all young people so that they can fulfil their potential and get on in life. As part of the government’s SEND reforms we have also given schools £1.5 million over two years to help develop strategies to tackle SEND bullying.  Since September, schools have also been urged to make clear the measures they take to prevent SEND pupils being bullied. Our successful reforms have restored discipline in our classrooms and mean that 7 per cent more special schools are rated as good or outstanding than in 2010.

Labour: Every day schools illegally exclude children with staff professing remarkable ignorance of the law. This is no excuse for what we regard as a serious disciplinary matter. Most exclusions occur because staff are not supported and have inadequate training. Labour will ensure that all teaching programmes include a core component on disability and special needs and an inclusion theme throughout. We will also tackle existing requirements which limit the number of teachers with disabilities. We want a culture change that promotes positive images of disability. We support exclusion advisers and will build on this to tackle exclusions and bullying as well as developing quality home school support. SEN Governors must receive appropriate training and FE colleges will be brought into line with schools by being required to employ a qualified SENCO and appoint a governor with specific responsibility for special needs and disabilities.

Green Party: We would:

 

UKIP: My son is on SEN and he has never been bullied. I understand that is not the case for all students. As all schools now have an anti-bullying policy we would seek to give general guidance on how common sense improvements could be made. Sadly children are children and some low level bullying will always happen, however there is always a line and that line should not be crossed. If anything gets even remotely close to that line then all possible avenues should be used to make the bullying stop.

What will your party do to ensure that education providers fully meet their Equality Act: Public Sector Disability Equality and Reasonable Adjustment Duties?

Conservative: Conservatives in government have enhanced collaboration between education, health and social care services to provide support. We will ensure local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups make certain that services for disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs, are planned and commissioned jointly. This would help ensure that agencies work together to agree the best package of support as well as avoiding lengthy disputes over who should pay for services.

Labour: All education centres should be accessible; this should be an element of funding agreements. Course curricula should be developed with inclusion in mind. Reasonable adjustment duties are anticipatory which mean that providers need a clear strategy and action plan. We will enforce this duty and expect brochures, websites and other material to emphasise the steps being taken.

Green Party:We will make sure that education providers fully meet their responsibilities in relation to meeting the needs of all students. The Green Party is committed to the maxim adopted by the Disability movement “nothing about us without us” and would be keen to consult widely and inclusively on specific measures to work towards our aim of inclusive education, should we be in a position to implement these policies.

UKIP: As a disabled person who uses a wheelchair myself there will always be some adjustments which may on the face of it seem reasonable but when taken in context of the age, listed building status etc. that some adjustments simply cannot be made. From my experience the vast majority of schools do have good levels of adjustment and actually do the very best they can to meet the general needs of disabled students. As ever common sense must be used and when any new students are put on the admissions list the education establishment should at the earliest possible time check to see whether the current adjustments are adequate. If they cannot accommodate a student with complex needs then the establishment may not be the correct place for that student. As ever under the law each education establishment should do their best to meet the reasonable adjustments.

How will your party address the increase in the number of separate units and courses within Post 16 and Further Education provision which prevent those disabled students with high levels of support need from having real choice of study area?

Conservative: The government’s SEND reforms have extended rights and protection to young people and introduced a new education, health and care plan that reflects the aspirations of young people and the outcomes they want to achieve. This will ensure all young people can fulfil their potential and help them prepare for adult life, including employment and independent living. The supported internships scheme helps young people aged 16 to 24 with complex learning difficulties or disabilities to find work. Initiatives, such as the EmployAbility scheme at National Grid, which is helping young people with SEND find full-time employment, complements the SEND reforms in the Children and Families Act which came into effect in September 2014. The reforms enable support to be provided for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities up to 25 years of age.

Labour: All post 16 provision should develop the widest possible range of teaching methodologies. We will work to secure a modular and CAT framework to enable awards for all. We oppose special needs units within post 16 provision where they serve to segregate students and limit educational opportunities. Colleges should develop their offer so that staff with skills and experience can work throughout the college and courses are adapted to meet the needs of all students.

Green Party: We fully support inclusive education for adults as well as children, and believe that further education should be made accessible to people of any age who wish to study. For universities, we would seek to widen accessibility for a range of social groups by introducing Widening Participation Programmes and creating targets to ensure social diversity.

UKIP: The common sense answer is that it should be a choice to be educated in either mainstream post 16 education or in a facility that caters for the needs of the student.  This is again it a one size fits all it is about the equality of opportunity and some young people may thrive and achieve better in a unit that caters fully for their needs. The choice is always there but it is about what will give the best outcome for the student. Surely a mix of mainstream and specialist education establishments really does give informed choice for the student and their family.


Disabled Students Allowance - An Update

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is a non-financial means tested grant to cover equipment and software, non-medical assistance, transport and accommodation costs incurred as a disabled student in higher education. Disabled students make a formal application for a Disabled Students Allowance to a central fund held by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).   

One major advantage is that disabled students can take their support package to the university and course of their choice. For more detailed information about the DSA scheme please see ALLFIE’s DSA Briefing No. 41 June 2014 at:
http://www.allfie.org.uk/pages/work/press.html

During April 2014, David Willetts MP (former Minister of State for Universities) announced sweeping changes to Disabled Students Allowance.    Under the Minister’s proposals only disabled students with the most complex needs will be eligible for DSA.  Under the reforms, the overwhelming majority of disabled students with milder impairments and health conditions would have their support arranged under the University’s Equality Act’s reasonable adjustments duties.  This announcement did not accompany an equality impact assessment.   During September, Greg Clarke after a cabinet shuffle announced that the reforms will be implemented in two phases. The first one will be the expectation that new disabled students DSA claimants will be required to make a £200 contribution towards their computer from 2015.   A year later in 2016, the DSA criteria will be restricted to a small number of disabled students.  

Greg Clark’s announcement took place, albeit an Equality Impact Assessment highlighting the fact that the DSA reforms will have a negative impact upon disabled students’ access to university education.  And it’s not only disabled students such as Keshi Chung (see next article) who are saying that the DSA cuts are going to have a negative impact upon their access and inclusion in higher education. Universities have provided some very strong feedback on the DSA cuts during BIS’s Equality Impact Assessment:
 
“Many institutions expressed concerns that, by taking responsibility for adjustments and support for disabled students, they would experience a squeeze on existing budgets.”

“Some respondents highlighted the perceived unfairness of ‘punishing’ those institutions who had made the greatest efforts to recruit disabled students.”

The EIA goes on to say that some disabled students may not receive the support they currently receive via DSA. And for disabled students in receipt of support, arrangements made by Higher Education Institutions may be different from DSA. From ALLFIE’s perspective it is very clear that the Government is failing in their public sector equality duty and their UNCPD Article 24 obligation to promote inclusive education.  We are in the process of seeking a legal opinion on the lawfulness of the Government’s DSA reforms. We are calling for the immediate reversal of the DSA reforms that will result in fewer numbers of disabled students benefiting from higher education.

Despite DSA process being opened to new disabled applicants at the end of January, there is still no clarity on the DSA reforms which therefore still provides an opportunity for campaigning in the new Year. Liam Byrne, Shadow BIS Minister is using parliamentary procedure to put the breaks onto Government’s Disabled Students Allowance reforms by praying the DSA regulations.  Liam Byrne will force a full parliamentary debate on the DSA regulations – the regulations signal the start DSA reform implementation.  Alongside the DSA revised regulations, there is draft statutory guidance that will implement the major changes to the DSA scheme that will need to be debated in Parliament.

Simone Aspis


 

The Impact of the DSA Reforms

I have been a student at Kings College London for 4 years. Firstly I completed a BSc Biomedical Science before starting a PhD in neuroscience. The focus of my PhD is to investigate why people have a chronic itch. We all get an itch sometimes!

But unlike a normal itch, chronic itch that does not go away is something that can severely reduce a person's quality of life, resulting in sleep deprivation, skin damage, and pain as a result of excessive scratching. And just as chronic itch has been overlooked in medical research, so to have the impact of the DSA reforms on students.

Whilst completing my undergraduate degree, I found out that I have a specific learning difficulty that had gone unnoticed for many years, a situation that is apparently not that uncommon for university students. Upon learning of this, I got involved in disability campaigning at my university, partly to learn more and partly to help raise awareness around the issue. In 2012 I was elected Disabled Students Officer, which involved acting on issues affecting disabled students across the university. I also got involved in a number of campaigns, and, along with my fellow students, am currently involved in campaigning against the proposed DSA reforms, which recently received the support and backing of the student union.

I would not say that the DSA was essential for me to complete my undergraduate degree, but it did make it a lot fairer. What would take others an hour to complete would take me nearly three or four hours to do. The Disability Advisory Service at my university helped me to apply for a DSA from my home country (Ireland), which I eventually received after nearly a year. Through the DSA I received a laptop with assistive software to help me write up lecture notes and essays and organise my work more clearly, as well as speech-to-text and text-to-speech programmes. I also received a printer and funding for study skills tuition sessions. Some of these things are very helpful, and allow me to structure my work more clearly and save me a lot of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think the DSA needs to be reformed. In many cases, the support that is offered to a disabled student is a “one size fits all”, and does not cater for the student's own individual needs, and so money is wasted on support that does not work for the student. However, this is not the way to do it, and we need to do everything we can to stop these reforms and the negative impact it will have on students. There are better ways of reforming the DSA, such as having better needs assessments for students and allowing students to try out a variety of different supports to find out what works best for them.

Apart from the DSA, I think the education system needs to be reformed. It is not very inclusive to those who have a disability or learning difficulty, or even those with long-term health conditions. A lot of “learning” seems to be focused on reciting information, without actually understanding it. Somehow, being able to write a good essay during an exam is supposed to indicate that I have learned the material presented to me and understood it, but often it only shows how well one can write. This puts someone who has learned and understood the material, but cannot express it in writing, at a disadvantage, from those who have not understood it but have memorised it and can express it in writing. This is the frustration I always felt while in the education system, even during my undergraduate studies (thankfully my postgraduate studies are mainly lab work!). I do not know of what the best solution may be, and ultimately there may be no one solution that will be suitable for everyone – everyone is unique and has their own way of learning, and so too should the education system afford everyone the opportunity to learn in their own ways.

Likewise, the DSA could be reformed so that students can access the specific supports they need. This may mean having a DSA that is unique to each student, but it would certainly be more beneficial to the student, not to mention more cost effective too. Rather than focusing on what students can and can't use the DSA for, there should be more focus on what students need the DSA for. But instead, we have been left scratching our heads, wondering how exactly the proposed DSA reforms are going to benefit students.

Keshi Chung



Choices, Open Days and Universities

Hello there again, it’s Sam Sillars from the north. I have just turned 18 and I’ll be leaving Queen Elizabeth School sixth form soon. This causes me some joy and maybe a little sadness, but this definitely causes me and my parents a lot of headaches! Sorting university and my future out is proving to be quite complex at the moment. A good starting point for advice for new university students with disabilities is the booklet, “Disability Rights UK, Into Higher Education 2014”. This is where has our journey took us so far. We searched for a good English and Creative Writing course (my preferred uni’ course) on Ucas.

The first time I saw Salford University, I couldn’t believe how huge the campus was. I and my dad were going to their open day, I was getting so excited because I have always wanted to live in a big city. The main English building certainly worried us when we first saw it. The English department building at Salford was an ex-grammar school. We struggled to fit my power chair into the small lift.

However, when we got to the information hall and I went to speak the tutors, my dad went over to the student support stand. Before he even opened his mouth, the student officer said, “I know what you’re gonna say, we know this building is rubbish but we’re moving to this.” He showed dad the plans for their new English department, it was new, big and accessible. My advice to any prospective student is don’t just leave without going to the information hall if the access is rubbish. For all you know they could be moving to a new site soon. 

Next, I visited Lancaster University and driving up to the campus made me think, “Wow! This is even bigger than Salford.” I was impressed with the main square, I thought it would be easy for me to get around the site pretty smoothly. Visiting the accommodation, I imagined myself living there very easily. It was big enough to have my power chair in it but it was small enough to be cosy. However the problem was the course content, I did poetry at GSCE and the poems bored me to sleep.

Finally, I visited Preston Uclan University. Everything was going well, I was liking the campus, the student taster event was enjoyable and the English course sounded interesting. Until I found out about the support situation. The support company that Preston have don’t offer blended support which means you have an assistant for each little task, e.g. one for plugging my communication aid in, another one for plugging my laptop in, etc. Stupid, I know!

To sum up, sorting out a university place for a wheelchair user is complicated and stressful but at the same time I feel excited, I feel like it’s just the beginning of my life. To quote Scrubs, “Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy.”

Sam Sillars



Sherann Hillman - interviewed by Richard Rieser

Sherann Hillman is Co-Chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. She has worked very closely with the Department for Education during the past 12 months. She is currently working across the regions in supporting the implementation of the SEND reforms. She is a parent of three disabled young people and a key driving force in Stockport for implementation of the Children and Families Act.

RR: Tell us what roles you have in the whole area of SEN at the moment.
SH: For the last seven years I've run a parent carer forum in Stockport; I'm the co-chair of a large parent forum that's got a number of officers, and 20 parent-carer reps that sit through education, health and social care, shaping the reforms. So I oversee all of that, sit on the director's board and implementation group. I know every bit about the reforms on the ground for nearly three years now. I also currently hold the north-west rep of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums, so that's representing 23 parent carer forums across the north-west on a national level. I've been doing that for nearly 3 years. For the last 12 months I've been co-chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums, which is a steering group, and we have anything up to 151 parent carer forums.

RR: Would you like to tell us how you first of all got involved with all of this?
SH: I’ve got three children, one now a young adult, all of whom have special educational needs. How I got involved was I had been fighting the system and had a terrible experience. In the end I walked into a room, I was not sure what I had gone to, but someone said “She’ll be a Treasurer. I wasn’t sure what I was doing.  It was a meeting around children with disabilities/difficulties and SEN in Stockport. That was through the Aiming High Programme setting up Parent Carer Forums. I’ve never looked back. I’ve not stopped. It’s been a roller coaster, but I love what I do as there’s not a day it’s not making a difference to families. That’s what I do best.

RR: What are the sorts of things that might prevent the good intentions of the Children & Families Act?
SH: I think the reluctance to change. I'm coming across professionals locally, who you see in meetings now, who say "do we really have to have families round this table? We've gone past the 1st of September – is that not it now?" No! This is the future. Also, the concerns about how many they've got to transfer over to education, health and care plans. I'm actually more concerned about the Learning Disability Assessments (Post 16) that are transferring over. Most of them only have 2 years. Families don’t know their rights in this area. Yet it's quite clear that they've got a right to ask for a EHC Plan. It's the same with personal budgets. People are struggling with personal budgets at the moment, and if you've got an Education, Health and Care Plan, you can ask for a personal budget. So there are barriers. I think that with the cuts that are coming in, that is affecting – particularly now that we're losing all those people that have done the person-centred; that have done the working with families; and the children and young people locally.

Wherever I go, there are fewer staff in the councils and local authorities, so you might have 1 doing 3 people's work. And then you've got people who've never worked in that way before, so you're going backwards! Then I’m thinking, we've got all these massive cuts coming, but we've got new legislation and we don't want to lose the good stuff in it. Locally, we've got 75% of cuts coming to short breaks, families will hit social care, it's likely to end up costing local authorities more. I think the issue is because it's not ring-fenced. I just think that the impact of the cuts that are coming, if I just think locally, of £69.4 million in Stockport alone. People just don't realise what's coming. I did a 0–25 vision for families in Stockport, and we used families with pre-birth diagnoses to young people of 30, and some of the things had not changed for 30 years, but then there are no staff!

RR: The Green Paper and the Act say there's a presumption towards inclusion. Do you think the government are serious about it?
SH: I don't know how it's going to pan out, I can't get a feel for it at all, and it's one thing I'm looking at – I'm very much into inclusion, and everybody being involved. Everything I do, that's the way we do it locally, but it does worry me. We've seen issues around where they're not inclusive, where they've gone to academies, or free schools, and they've got in there and they've not been able to get support. When they've got there they've been told "ooh, this isn't the school for you, because we're academic" you know? I think it's the effect that it has, so I'm just watching at the moment, I'm trying to pick up the scents, I'm not sure, that's how I feel on that.

RR: So, do you think that the National Forum has given more of a voice to parents now?
SH: We have a rep. for each region that then feeds into the steering group, where we meet most months, so we continually have regional network meetings where we bring all the forums together. Last year there were 68,000 parent carers who we were representing. As co-chair, I do the media, I'm on all the forums, but actually working out on the ground – it's a very different perception. So when I sit in there I know that I'm dead confident, I know what's going on. There are the differences that we've made to the Act; we sit on the implementation board; it's like anything, working on a national level, you've got to build up relationships, you've got to build up trust, and that takes time to get to that way of co-production – which we have – as far as the Minister. That is making a difference now. We are continually sharing our voice.

RR: The young people themselves don't seem to have really very much say in what's going on, how do you think we can take that forward? 
SH: We keep hearing "oh, they're hard to reach", which is a sentence I just hate, when they're not, we know where they are, the majority of them. It's those on School Action Plus who have transferred over to SEN support – I think they are being missed out. When I've raised it, they're in the local offer, where's their voice? Locally, in every local authority, how many of those young people, particularly around autism now, who won't be getting an Education, Health and Care Plan, where are their voices? They should be shaping the local offer. I think the experience of disabled adults’ who've needed to forge a movement out of everyone with different needs, can empower them, be role models, and it's the same as parent carer participation involvement, we had to get empowered, but we'll always go ten steps forward and eight steps back, and it's the same with young people.

RR: A group who, though covered by the legislation, seem to be an afterthought, is 19–25 year olds, particularly those who've left the education system.
SH: I think if the young people 19+ don't even know about it, because they're not informed, then in order for them to be empowered we need to inform them. A lot of them don't know anything about it, and neither do the parents. So we can't change or do anything until we inform them, and that means everyone, whether it's schools, colleges, GPs, local authorities, writing things, press releases. The government and Council should send them a letter about their rights, so they would get that when they got an upgrade on their DLA, for instance. I have asked for this locally.

I am optimistic, because we can't say something won't work until we've tried it. We have to try it. The system hasn't worked – there are people that have been failed, that we can only shape the future. So I am optimistic that it's down to us, all of us, to be involved. It's about everybody, making a difference, and I think that we'll only move forward if we all try to make the cultural change, and if we don't – I understand lots of people don't like change, do they? You don't need to be around disability, people don't like new jobs, new places, new situations, don't like moving around. But we need to do it to make change happen. Any future Government needs to put in the commitment. They need to make sure that there's accountability – it's the key to everything. People need to be made accountable, so that we can make that change. If nobody's accountable, it won't happen. We have to embed it, it needs to carry on, no matter who steps in, we shouldn't go back, we should go forward.

 

Event: Disability Equality in the Classroom - A Celebration

March 20th and 21st 2015
25 years ago Richard Rieser and Micheline Mason were just putting the finishing touches to their Inner London Education Authority commissioned handbook for successor London Boroughs: ‘Disability Equality in the Classroom: A Human Rights Issue’.

Three weeks before the Tory imposed abolition the book was launched at County Hall. Two copies were sent to every school in Inner London and 2 copies to every Local Authority in the UK. The remainder were given to the authors. Requests for the book and for training came in from across the country. Disability Equality in Education (DEE) was set up to handle this. Some of DEE’s achievements in the 17 years it existed included the training of 650 disabled equality trainers and the training of 150,000 educational professionals. More of these achievements can be found at:  http://worldofinclusion.com/res/dee/17_years.pdf
 
This event on March 20th and 21st will look back at achievements and set-backs in the last 25 years in the struggle for Inclusive education and look forward to the next 25 years. Films, speakers, workshops, music and fun. Speakers include Professor Gus John, Alison Peacock, Gareth Morewood and Max Hyde. For more information, please e-mail Micheline: mich@michathome.wanadoo.co.uk

Richard Rieser

 

Event: See it, Say it, Change it

An exciting opportunity for children and young people
This year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will be looking at whether the UK is doing enough to respect, protect and fulfil children’s human rights. This is an important opportunity to hold the government to account for its children’s rights record, to raise awareness of the importance of human rights for children, and to push for better respect for children’s rights. CRAE’s ‘See it, Say it, Change It’ project will give children and young people a chance to tell their side of the story to the Committee, and to campaign for change. 

We are currently recruiting 20 children and young people aged between 5 and 17 from across England to lead the project. CRAE will support the steering group to find out from children and young people across the country about their views and experiences, to submit their findings to the UN Committee and then to campaign to ensure that recommendations made by the UN are realised and acted upon by the government. Applications close at 5pm on the 11th February 2015.
You can find out more about the project on our website including how to apply and guidance and materials to help adults support children and young people to get involved: www.crae.org.uk


Legal Question No.14

"My disabled child was being bullied at school. He defended himself and ended up being blamed and permanently excluded.  I fought the decision but lost my appeal through the independent review panel.  Is there anything else I can do to seek legal redress?  Am I entitled to support?"

Headteachers must comply with the law when excluding a child. The law and relevant guidance makes it clear that a decision to exclude a child should only be taken as a last resort, especially if that child has additional needs. A decision to exclude a child permanently should only be taken:
a) in response to a series of breaches of the school’s behaviour policy
and b) if allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the other pupils in the school or that pupil. 

Before excluding a child, the headteacher should also consider whether an exclusion is a proportionate response to the issues.  There may be other things that the school could have done. From January 2015, the above ‘and’ is set to change to an ‘or’ making it much easier for headteachers to satisfy the necessary legal tests.
 
Challenging the Independent Review Panel (IRP)
If you disagree with a headteacher’s decision to permanently exclude your child, you have a right to appeal to the school governors. If they choose to uphold the exclusion then you have a further right to review by an IRP. The IRP should consider whether the governors dealt with the appeal lawfully (see above). If the IRP uphold a decision to exclude, it can be difficult to challenge further.  Your only ability to challenge an IRP decision, from a legal prospective, is by way of judicial review.  Judicial review proceedings are High Court proceedings that can find that the IRP acted unlawfully and direct it to reconsider the case again.  You would need to seek advice from a specialist solicitor on the prospects of successfully taking judicial review action in these circumstances. Judicial review is rarely appropriate but when it is appropriate action must be taken quickly.  The deadline for judicial review action is a maximum of 3 months from the date of the unlawful decision but in reality, action should be taken more quickly than this. 

SEND Tribunal
If you consider that your child has been discriminated against by the school (either through exclusion or otherwise), then you should also consider taking a claim in the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal. Any such claim must be made within a maximum of 6 months from the date of the discrimination. If you choose to pursue an appeal to the IRP in addition to making a claim to the tribunal then the tribunal will ‘stay’ (put on hold) the proceedings pending the outcome of the IRP. One of the significant differences between the powers of the IRP and the tribunal is that the tribunal will order reinstatement if they consider it appropriate to do so. The Tribunal cannot award monetary compensation even if they do find that there has been discrimination.

The law surrounding exclusions and school discipline has been the subject to change over the last few years.  If you are concerned over your child’s exclusion, it is best to seek legal advice sooner rather than later.  You may also wish to seek advice on your child’s right to interim education in addition to their right to be admitted to another school as we hear a number of myths surrounding such subjects.

Sarah Woosey, 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.                         
www.maxwellgillott.co.uk

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