Inclusion Now Articles Issue 41
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UN CRPD Day of Discussion
17 Demands for the New Government
Education in My Life
My Name is Amali
Mapping the Exclusion Process
A Person-Centred Approach in Schools
On a bright sunny day in March some of the ALLFIE team decided to take off to the seaside – sadly it wasn’t warm enough to go for a paddle. Instead we descended on Blatchington Mill Secondary School in Hove, East Sussex to find out more about the work they are doing to include disabled students (including young people with SEN).
Blatchington Mill secondary school feels quite an imposing place when you first arrive. The building is a quarter of a mile end to end and has over 1700 students on its roll.
Janet Felkin has been the Headteacher at the school for 8 years and is due to retire at the end of the summer. Ms Felkin was keen to tell us that the school wasn’t perfect but had come a long way in terms of the range of disabled students they are now able to include.
“We’re always aiming for true inclusion – not bolt on and not tokenistic” Ms Felkin told us and this is reflected in the numbers of families seeking a place for their disabled young person at Blatchington Mill. Disabled students come from all over the Brighton & Hove area to attend because of the school’s reputation. ‘But doesn’t this allow other schools off the hook?’ we asked. ‘Yes, it can do’, we are told and the school and its staff have connections with other local schools in part to share good practice and learning, but we all agreed that this was a challenge at a time when schools are forced to focus so heavily on attainment measures.
Ms Felkin is supported by two SENCos, Daniel Reeves and Maggie Martin who share the role and an INCo Philippa Statham who manage a team of 68 Teaching Assistants working with 63 students with statements and others on the SEND register. Interestingly the school doesn’t disaggregate the numbers of disabled students who attend the school without statements.
Ms Felkin and her team are keen that all students are in mainstream classes for the majority of the time. Some students get additional literacy and numeracy support in the SEN Support department. SEN Support also has an area for those students who have physio, OT input and speech therapy – the idea being that this is a service that comes to the student rather than the student having to take time out of school to go elsewhere.
We asked about where Blatchington Mill staff get support and training from – Daniel explains that much of the capacity building for staff, both teaching and support staff comes from within the schools own knowledge and experience base, apart from that they seek outside support from agencies such as the Hillside Outreach service.
We talked about how few opportunities there are for schools who are developing good inclusive practice, to share their experiences with other schools.
It is impossible to get under the skin of a school in just a day, but in my experience, meeting students usually gives the best insight into how well or not a school is doing. We had the opportunity to meet a group of disabled and nondisabled students from Years 7 through to 11 to ask them lots of questions about school life.
The students all agreed that the school was a good place to be and that it helped them to be prepared for life beyond school. They talked a lot about diversity being highly valued in the school and that their school felt different for that reason. One student talked about how shocked she was when visiting a nearby school that she hadn’t seen any wheelchair users. They talked about how open staff and students were when it came to equality issues, particularly disability and LBGT (the school has designated Equalities and Anti Bullying Commissioner roles that students can apply for). The students all agreed that all schools need to do more to be more inclusive.
One of the Year 10 disabled students, Chusie, talked about how excited she was that she was going on a school trip to New York shortly. It turns out that the school is also taking another 4 wheelchair users on the same trip – it was great to hear this when we know of so many young people and their families who have had to fight so hard for schools to make trips accessible.
We also talked to the students about what happens if you’re having a bad day or feeling upset. The students told us about a space in the school called The Pier that they could go to if they needed to talk to someone.
We did visit The Pier as part of our tour of the school (see later) and its remit seemed to be more about offering support around behaviour, with students needing to be referred there. Staff were surprised when we said that the students we had spoken to all felt The Pier was a place they could attend.
We also had an opportunity to meet some of the SEN Support team which includes staff who support particular groups of disabled students, working with a number of students each, in groups or individually. There was a real sense that they were working as a team to support the inclusion of disabled students.
We did think that support staff would benefit from further Disability Equality training, to have a fuller understanding of the Social Model and how it might apply to working in an ‘assisting’ role with a disabled person, but this is something we always feel when we visit schools, that there is generally much that schools can learn from the Disabled People’s Movement and history.
The tour of the school was another real highlight of the day, because it was led by Sonny, Fletcher, Laoisha and Lottie who are all disabled students at the school.
It was a lively tour, punctuated by information and stories from each of the young people about school life. We enjoyed looking at the display boards focussing on equality which lined the school corridors and the students were particularly proud of the ‘See the Person’ display, where photos of staff and children alike asked the viewer to see beyond impairment and focus on other things that make us who we are – “I support Portsmouth FC”, “I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro”, “My biggest passion is writing”.
No doubt, our tour guides had a varied list of ‘labels’ that the system has given them, but for us they were the outcome of a positive educational experience in an environment that was doing its upmost to welcome them and support them. Fletcher was particularly keen to show me how it was still possible to use the canteen ‘fingerprint recognition’ machine if you were someone like me who doesn’t have any fingers.
As our visit came to an end, shortly before the end of the school day, we were able to have a brief chat with Ms Felkin who asked us how the visit had gone. I’m not sure what she was expecting us to say, but I think she was somewhat bemused when we told her about our corridor encounter with a group of disabled and nondisabled students who were sitting on the floor eating their lunch, talking and laughing. As we approached, they called out to us, wanting to know if we were ‘new teachers’. To some this would just be about wanting to know who we were and of course it is that, but for me it says more about the ethos of a school that is working towards better inclusive practice, where disabled people are part of the fabric of society – not special, separate, or less – this gives me hope that many of the next generation of decision makers and politicians will have this view about their fellow citizens just because they grew up together.
Report on the General Day of Discussion on Inclusive Education (Article 24), at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee (CRPD), Geneva, April 15th 2015.
The CRPD Committee called a General Day of Discussion, because they were concerned that nearly all the countries that have ratified the Convention, which they have reported upon are not implementing inclusive education as they should be under Article 24.
The 25 reported on so far can be viewed at:
From this discussion will come a General Comment that will be used by State Parties to interpret what is required to implement Article 24.
80 organisations submitted written submissions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/DGDontherighttoeducationforpersonswithdisabilities.aspx
27 individuals/organisations made presentations in person to the 18 person CRPD Committee. These can be seen on archived streamed video:
Below are extracts from some of the young disabled people who addressed the Committee:
“I believe that inclusive education is the right approach to make children with disabilities more able to find employment and be independent. But I cannot emphasise enough the need to change attitudes and understanding in society and among educators about children who have different needs but the same rights. In addition to studying I have made so many good friends in school… and it is so important to me and to all other children who are in school. Because I learn and play together with my friends… many of those who do not have any disability… helps us to understand each other better.
There are many countries which have ratified the CRPD, but are they enforcing and implementing the policies laid out? Forgive me if I am asking for something that you have already thought about, but I would like this Committee to put some thought on formulating implantation parameters through which we can see whether those who have ratified the CRPD are actually implementing it.
Millions of children like me want and should have the opportunity to go to an inclusive school and study and play alongside all other children. That is how we will not only learn better but also make our society more inclusive. So my call to you is let us all focus on how we make inclusive education a reality around the world”.
Rabjyot Singh Kohli
17 years old, St Mary’s Inclusive School, Delhi
“I think schools should pay attention to what students want to learn and what they can do with what they have learned. A diploma is worthless if one cannot find work with it. I have a diploma in administrative work, but the things I learned are no use to me now. I would have liked to combine theory and practice. If I could have practiced more in companies when I was in school I could have learned more of what I needed to work. I got stuck in what the school was offering. Since I work at LFB (a self advocacy organization for people with intellectual disabilities) I can develop myself again. Now I teach other people with disabilities how to be strong and be an advocate for themselves”.
29 years old, self-advocate from the Netherlands
See also on below a speech made by Juan Cobeñas, 24 year old non verbal AAC user, from La Plata, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who addressed the Committee through a Facilitator.
Most of the comments were pointing in the same direction:
- The need for a tighter definition of inclusive education based on transforming the school/college to fit the young person, rather than the young person to fit the school/college;
- The need to follow a social model/human rights approach and identify and resolve barriers;
- For each State to adopt legislation in line with Article 24 aligned to these points;
- For each country to have a coherent strategy and plan to achieve full inclusive education;
- For sufficient funding to be provided by States and the donor community to make this a reality;
- A no rejection clause to prevent the exclusion of persons with disabilities from mainstream schools;
- Reasonable accommodation is a right in education from ratification;
- Mandatory training for all teachers on inclusion in general and the adjustments for impairment specific needs of people with disabilities within education;
- The full involvement of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) parents and young people in planning and developing an inclusive system.
The difference at this meeting from our negotiations at UNCRPD Ad Hoc Committee, in New York in 2005/2006, was that all DPOs were advocating for Inclusive Education. Notably, the World Blind Union and the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) were arguing strongly for inclusive education. For example, Maakku Jokien the Honorary President of the WFD:
“The CRPD sees deaf people both as a group of persons with disabilities AND a linguistic and cultural group. This must be noted when considering criteria for inclusive education, educational options and developing educational programs, materials and legislation as well… Truly inclusive education is based on the needs of these children and guides them to grow as individuals and citizens with full potential. Bilingual and bicultural can be part of a genuinely inclusive education system.”
Diane Richler from Inclusion International, like many speakers, made powerful points:
“Adopting a human rights framework for our work helped us understand that exclusion from regular education was an infringement of the right to participate in the community. As some schools and education systems began to include students with intellectual disabilities we learned important lessons - inclusive schools were better for students with disabilities, and at the same time were better for ALL students. It is better for all children because learning together teaches students to value diversity, builds social capital and lays the foundation for inclusive communities. The elements that make inclusion successful - a whole school approach that respects multiple intelligence, practices differentiated instruction, uses universal design for learning, fosters collaboration and provides support to teachers -help raise the quality of education for all students….
If we look at how the money is being spent to support students with disabilities, all too often we discover that more is being spent on supporting a few students in special programs rather than in making the system better for all... And as long as special programs exist the system will find students to fill them.
Article 24 of the CRPD, more than any other article, has the power to shape the future citizens of the world and create societies which live up to the aspirations of the drafters of the Convention.”
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion
We now have a Conservative majority Government and so ALLFIE and three other leading Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have got together to produce a list of 17 things we need the new Government to implement in the first 100 days after being elected. These are based on making the British Government compliant with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the previous Government’s austerity programme - more than 28 billion pounds in benefits and entitlements will have been taken away from disabled people. At the same time, disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people.
The following demands from ALLFIE, Equal Lives, Inclusion London, and Disabled People Against Cuts, if implemented, will bring the UK Government back in line with its obligations to the UNCRPD and ensure disabled people enjoy equal rights with non-disabled people:
- Reverse the decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June and plan to open it up again to new recipients.
- Abolish the Bedroom Tax.
- Announce the scrapping of Work Capability Assessments and suspend assessments.
- Work with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to re-focus employment of disabled people to removing disabling barriers and ensuring workforces in public and private sector reflect the diversity of the community by age, disability, race, gender, sexuality, etc.
- Move the Office for Disability Issues out of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and into the Cabinet office and appoint disabled people from Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to key posts.
- Engage with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to co-produce an action plan to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Interpretative Declaration. Remove all reservations.
- Invite the UN inquiry team into the UK so they can carry out their investigation into human rights abuses of disabled people.
- Fund mental health based on parity of esteem to address the short term crisis while longer term solutions are sorted.
- Scrap benefit sanctions.
- Restore funding to the NHS and local authorities for children’s and adult social care to 2010 levels and up rated for inflation.
- Reverse cuts to Access to Work and expand its remit and scope.
- Stop all new Special Free Schools/Academy applications and begin a plan to revert existing Free schools and Academies to Local Authority control.
- Stop the plan to cut Disabled Students Allowance.
- Review equality legislation and work with DPOs to draft disability civil rights legislation with real scrutiny and enforcement by DPOs.
- Plan a programme of affordable public house building and ensure all new homes are accessible and built to Life Time homes specifications.
- For disabled people renting in the private sector the level of Local Housing Allowance paid must reflect the costs of their additional needs and no longer be restricted to the 30th percentile of Broad Market Rental Area rents.
- Repeal changes to Legal Aid in England & Wales to ensure that Disabled people and all other groups have equal access to the justice system and all are equal under the rule of law.
ALLFIE is also working on a new campaign strategy that includes the education priorities listed above but also some additional priorities connected to the implementation of the Children & Families Act 2014 and the growing disconnect between UK law and the UK’s obligations in Article 24 of the UNCRPD. Our campaign priorities will be available on our website shortly.
IIn this article I will be commenting on what I think is a failed segment of society. Those who do not use speech and have no reliable forms of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) are left idle on the sidelines with comments being made about their behaviour and lack of cooperation with nothing being done to actively include them in society.
With a clear move away from council run day services to more people centred and holistic services provided by small community based businesses and enterprises, their aim is to provide a more “inclusive” and “person centred”* environment, some even offering “specialist support”. It seems inclusion has been lost on the journey to integration and now seems to mean separate or disabled only service.
*meaning - sees people as equal partners in planning, developing and assessing care to make sure it is most appropriate for their needs. It involves putting people and their families at the heart of all decisions.
Too often I have been present at many of these specialised inclusion sessions, activities and events and witnessed individuals being spoken to inappropriately by their own support and on several occasions by the individual running the activity. This behaviour is very difficult to watch and makes for a thoroughly demoralising atmosphere in which someone without a voice, and no alternative communication has been sought. Threats like:
“We won’t go swimming this afternoon if you carry on”
“We will cancel your cup of tea”
“I’ll tell your mum you ruined my painting”
Along with the tone of voice a mother might have for an unruly 3 year old, comments like:
“Don’t put sugar in her tea she’s been naughty” (“she” was in her 20s)
“Stop it you’re spoiling it for everyone else”
This type of language can often be heard in many “supportive” and “inclusive” environments, spoken by the individuals who are paid to provide support to assist these people. What is being created by this collusion between ignorant staff and abject personal support is tantamount to abusive, the same that can be seen in the Winterbourne scandal, although it does not include physical violence or the sadistic behaviour illustrated by support staff in this documentary, what is happening is just as damaging. The individuals are being seen as ‘less than’ in the eyes of their support, not given an opportunity to communicate or to participate in activities, and when their frustration levels boil over they are continuously criticised for their behaviour and spoken to like a rebellious child.
Quiet and suffering from your deeds of humiliation that no woman or man should feel, see, or just hear. These moments are like stabs in everyone’s heart, including mine. That awful avenue which austerity is found. I would like time to teach these kind and direct. Want to drive a wedge between them and attack each nasty opinion, a task I don’t want. I have tears in my eyes, understanding is each person’s goal.
What’s more unsettling is that this type of support is tolerated by many. What’s happening to the world? Speaking to people who cannot use speech like a child is disablism, and should not be tolerated by the care community, nor the world we live in. Just because I do not speak does not entitle you to talk to me as you wish. You should treat me with exactly the same respect and thoughtfulness you do any other member of society. It pains me to think individuals are paying for the privilege of being treated poorly.
Communication, tolerance, listening and thorough ongoing training is the only way we will continue to give individuals the support they so desperately need to be fully integrated into this world that surrounds them. Each individuals have to facilitate communication, and find a new way with a great attitude. Everyone enjoys being involved in the world we live in, it is time to find ways to get people included. It would be great if I can certainly find a good chance to focus my attention on real acceptance for all.
For more information or to get in contact with me please visit my website or find me on Twitter.
Heathar Barrett and Adam Barrett
When I was a child, my life was highly limited by the decisions of my special school. I was at a special school, without receiving any education, until they left me out. They thought “This kid is uneducable”. They said: “There is no pedagogy for this kid” “His motivation is absent”. When this happened I was 6 years old.
Then, my mother started searching how children like me were educated in other countries. She found useful information from United Kingdom, and got a post graduate certificate, as a distance student at the University of Birmingham. The key for my education was alternative augmentative communication (AAC), and the development of a communication curriculum. Then, she starts to educate me at home, with the support of teachers trained by her.
At nine years old I start going to a mainstream school, integrated by a special school. There was not any school in La Plata using AAC, so my family had to provide the supports I needed. We had the economic support of our “obra social” (Argentina’s social health and welfare system for workers) to pay for my assistants.
Teachers from the special school that integrated me put obstacles to me all the time. It was very humiliating and painful, and I still feel very frightened when I remember that time.
Nevertheless, some of the authorities of the Office of Special Education of my Province helped me: they suggested that I should leave the special education and remain as a student of mainstream education. They based their proposal in the fact that all my supports were provided by my family.
I continued at the mainstream school until I finished secondary education. At mainstream school I felt in my own environment. I enjoyed to share the world of children without disabilities, and it was useful for me to be in that world with my own peculiarities. I love the fact that I have given my disabilities to the group as part of the diversity of our community. I am sure that today, my classmates have a helpful vision about how to overcome difficulties, understanding that everything is possible if you approach it in the proper way. I am sure they are also aware about the value of diversity in a society.
I’ve been studying Spanish and Literature (Letras) for four years, at the National University of La Plata. My experience at the University is great. I plan to work on linguistics after I get my degree.
I would like to mention the key reproducible issues of my experience:
- In the first place, my school had the ability to use the supports I needed for communicating and learning. Nobody can learn without an appropriated and efficient form of communication.
- The personal assistant (PA) is a fundamental support in my life. I always went to school with my PA. I choose and train my PAs. They are also facilitators of my communication. They are a transparent support.
- Let us come back to inclusion: I was always sure that teachers at my mainstream school believed in my right to study there. They thought I was their student, and if they could not teach me, try to learn how to do so. They communicated with other teachers, or with my mother, and thus we all learnt, them and me.
- What they learnt with me outreached other students in other schools. It reached also other teachers through trainings and publications.
- Another key point I remember was the strong decision of the headmasters of my school: they believed strongly that I belonged there. They transmitted this certainty to all the members of the school. This was extremely good for me. Without the mediation of words, I knew that I was welcomed at my school.
- Another crucial issue was the fluid communication among school teachers, myself and my family. There was always a place and a time to talk whenever necessary.
Now, I am studying at the University, and I would like to say what makes inclusion easier, from my point of view:
- Always offer professors or authorities to explain how your supports work, and be open to their suggestions.
- Show that you are sure about your right to be there. This is easy, having the Convention (CRPD).
- Be prepared, learn very well your rights, in order to advocate if necessary. This is noticeable for others.
- Offer contact with your former secondary school teachers. This is a way of take advantage of previous work and efforts.
- Show professors and authorities that you are willing to work with them to solve difficulties.
- Be in touch with other students with disabilities, with Human Rights offices, students’ centers, teaching boards and any other opportunity for participation at the University.
- Participate in organizations of people with disabilities.
- Be sure that our fight never ends, and will make the way easier for others coming after us.
- Don’t lose your heart when things go wrong.
- Keep going, the best is to be where we are entitled to be.
Speech first given at the Day of General Discussion on the Right to Education of Persons with Disabilities, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Geneva 15 April 2015 (see report above).
My name is Amali I’m angel or pest
The Asperger chick in the autism nest
I’m bold and I’m stubborn - I’ll always ask ‘Why?’
But I don't know what tears are if I see Mummy cry
I struggle to listen or sit still in class
I need constant support just to keep me on task
My few friends lose patience, unsure what to say
Cos my actions are clumsy, I don’t know how to play
I have no sense of danger, no signals, no codes
I chat to all strangers and dawdle on roads
I laugh loud at nothing and never stand still
I flap when I’m anxious, I fidget and spill
Some kids in my class call me names, make
They can’t always tell if I’m happy or sad
I’m not invited to parties, there’s no girly chats
They don’t look at my book with my animal facts
I’m over affectionate but don’t quite know why
Cos I don’t know what love is and so seldom cry
Both bossy and anxious, it’s hard to play games
I sit by myself but they still call the names
Yet I remember in detail each journey I make
The hum of the spotlight that make my ears ache
That man outside Tesco’s, that dog with one eye
Our trip on the train and when Dad chased that fly!
I know I am different, I know this is true
Cos I don’t see the world through the same eyes as you
I am blessed with Aspergers – it’s the essence of me
A light and shade world where I’m happy to be
As fierce as a lion as meek as lamb
I am Amali - Amali I am
written by Yvonne Ugarte (Amali’s mum)
This small scale, qualitative study recently carried out by Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) examines how the rapid restructuring of the English education system and recent changes to the exclusion appeals process is shaping the respective practices of parents, schools and local authorities.
Boys, special educational needs (SEN) pupils, black Caribbean pupils, and free school meal (FSM) students have been consistently disproportionately excluded. As these patterns of inequality continue, the report addresses how disproportionalities might be reproduced through the exclusion process.
The study aimed to:
Explore how parents deal with the permanent exclusion of their child and what resources exist to support and guide them through the process.
Examine parents’ experiences of interacting with schools and, in some cases, local authorities.
Learn more about how schools and local authorities have had to adapt or alter their roles and practices in the wake of educational restructuring.
Understand how disproportional exclusions interact with and are potentially compounded by changes to the regulatory landscape of the English education system.
Regulatory Changes and Accountability in the Exclusion Process
The IRP (Independent Review Panel) format was unpopular with the majority of parents, exclusion officers and some headteachers. The majority of exclusion officers, parents and some heads questioned the ability of the governing body to robustly critique a headteacher’s decision to permanently exclude. Rubber-stamping of decisions and poor training were key areas of concern. Reduced accountability within the exclusion process was tied to school autonomy that often weakened partnerships between schools and local councils, limiting collaboration and the prevention of permanent exclusion.
Institutional practices: Going against the guidance
The vast majority of parents described how schools employed poor practices during the exclusion process; these practices often directly contravened the statutory guidance on exclusions and managed moves and constituted illegal exclusions. There are numerous grey areas where it was questionable whether or not a headteacher’s decision to permanently exclude was being used as a last resort as required by the statutory guidance. The pressures and demands of a results-driven education system create less inclusive classrooms and potentially exacerbate exclusions.
‘Vulnerable’ Groups and Inequality
The majority of parents felt that race, class, gender or SEN played a role in their child’s exclusion. A slight majority of heads and exclusion officers felt race or class discrimination or middle-class privilege were at least partly to blame for disproportionate exclusion numbers. The statutory guidance asking headteachers to consider overrepresented groups prior to exclusion is ineffective in practice. Mainstream educational institutions frequently lacked the staff expertise, financial resources and time to accommodate SEN students.
The experience of the IRP (Independent Review Panel)
The IRP meeting presents an uneven playing field weighted in the school’s favour due to the differing levels and types of cultural and social capital parents and heads possess. While this meeting represents a gruelling, yet familiar day at the office for heads, it is a stressful, high stakes situation for parents where they enter unknown territory. Several participants were concerned about panel bias at the IRP. Panels may include heads from within the same borough and this was regarded as a potential conflict of interest by parents, as heads judge colleagues they often know. There were concerns over the rigour of the IRP’s decision making processes, as panels often did not ask for documentation or evidence to corroborate the claims of a school and key points in a case.
The aftermath of exclusion: justice, redress and support
Permanent exclusion has negative effects on both young people and their families. The majority of parents described feelings of bitterness and frustration, while many students experienced isolation and depression. Every parent and exclusion officer, as well as the majority of headteachers, felt that there was not enough support available for parents going through the exclusion process. Reinstated students did not receive adequate redress and were essentially punished for the poor decisions of schools.
The IRP format should be replaced by the IAP format (Independent Appeal Panel) that was in place prior to the Education Act 2011, as the IRP’s lack of power to direct reinstatement does not provide adequate justice to parents and their children.
Governing bodies must receive appropriate training in order to act as robust critics of head’s decisions and to curtail the widespread rubber-stamping of permanent exclusion decisions at the GDC (Governors Disciplinary Committee).
Schools and local authorities need to work collaboratively to prevent permanent exclusions and promote accountability.
All parents should be informed of their rights in regards to exclusion by schools at the outset of their child enrolling in primary and secondary school.
The results-driven focus of the English education system needs to be altered in order to consider the manifold needs of all children in addition to academic achievement. The one-size-fits-all approach promoted by this system creates inflexible classrooms where exclusion is an inevitable feature of the landscape.
Schools need to actively address and confront the discrimination based on race, class, gender and SEN that persists in educational institutions.
Parents should be provided with an advocate or representative when attending the GDC and IRP in order to help level out the inequitable power dynamics of these meetings.
IRP or IAP panels should not include headteachers from the same local authority or the same Academy Trust. This would prevent a conflict of interest and negate any potential incentives for panel members to be lenient towards the school.
The statutory guidance needs to include more detailed information on what obligations schools have to students upon reinstatement. While the guidance states that the local authority must oversee the repayment of the adjustment fee should a student not be reinstated, there is no corresponding guidance regarding the reinstatement process.
Sanctions should be levied on schools for violating the guidance deadlines for the scheduling of GDCs and IRPs, as untimely delays prolongs the exclusion process and incurs further damage to a student’s education and well being.
The education of pupils should not be interrupted and permanently damaged by exclusion. Students should be able to continue to study the same subjects at the PRU as their mainstream school.
This article is an edited version of the executive summary of ‘Mapping the Exclusion Process: Inequality, Justice and the Business of Education’, prepared by Christy Kulz, March 2015. Full report available from CEN: 020 7733 0297 www.cenlive.org
Back in the mid-90s, when I was still working as an educational psychologist for Nottinghamshire, I helped to organise a series of lectures – one of which featured some inspirational presentations from Jack Pearpoint and Marsha Forest (from a Toronto-based organisation called Inclusion Press). They were very inspiring international champions of change and key creators of person-centred planning and the concept of inclusion. To add to that, they’d also worked with John O’Brien, who is now recognised as the big guru in the world of person-centred planning. So, that was our first connection to this very exciting, vibrant approach to training and person-centred ways of working with disabled adults and children.
Person-centred planning’s child-centred approach was refreshing and resonated with my background as a primary school teacher. It was so much more interesting and appealing. The colours, the big images, the direct engagement, the use of dramatic approaches, and the use of props inspired each and every meeting. The square focus on really listening to the young person communicate was fresher and much more interesting. More recently, there’s been a lot more interest in this way of working with the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
Creating an EHCP Using Person-Centred Planning
I would like the centrepiece to be a big, genuine person-centred planning meeting with all the right people present – those who are loved by and friends with the child, as well as the key stakeholders. Following this, the graphics and the detailed notes that come out of that meeting, would be the cornerstones of the EHCP. This effective approach contrasts sharply with the more traditional series of technical meetings which are in danger of focusing on the child’s deficits and problems, as opposed to what they actually bring to the table.
The first aim would be to host the meeting and to take, what we like to call, a ‘radical hospitality’ approach. This is about getting the environment absolutely comfortable for the child involved. So, that might mean that the young person is carrying their favourite toy; or that their favourite music is playing; or that it is being held in their favourite room in the school. In fact, it might not be held in their school at all. It could even be in their home or in a neutral venue like a church hall – so long as it is somewhere where they feel very comfortable. Typically, school staff should take the following approach:
- Prepare for it
- Make sure that the child is very comfortable
- Sort out the venue so that it is where the child feels most at ease to plan
- Draw the right people together
Also, they need to think about who will facilitate the person-centred planning. It might be LA-trained people; or independent people coming in to do it like ourselves; or school-based staff running it. Whoever facilitates it needs to have person-centred skills that they have learned and practised. At the meeting, one person facilitates the graphics and one person runs the meeting. So, there will always be two people. If both people can’t be secured from the school, then one person would be drawn from an external source.
Of course, they would also need to ensure that they run the meeting along person-centred lines. They need to have the skills to do this and the training to ensure that they know exactly what they are looking for and they must respect the person-centred principles at all times. They need to:
- Get some good training from Inclusive Solutions, or another quality education provider – then practise, practise, practise.
- Get their heads around it, read about what they are trying to do and then give it a try.
- Remember, at all times, that this is a person-centred and respectful way of working – would they want the experience for themselves or their own child or loved ones?
- Ensure that they have got a big visual graphic, that music is playing, that there is food and drink in the room, and that they have done everything that they can to make this as person-centred as possible.
- Detail one person to work with the group and another individual to look after the graphic.
When the actual person-centred planning meeting has concluded, they need to reflect on the meeting, so as to improve their person-centred planning practice. They should:
- Review it with the people who were present.
- Ask searching questions about what they actually felt about that experience.
- Consider what might have improved it, what might have helped the child/family to feel more comfortable, and what would have enabled it to have more impact.
Recently, a SENCO said to me: ‘I’ve never known an annual review to be fun - I can see that this is going to be a lot of fun’. Following this, a child’s father stopped me to say that his child had put their person-centred planning graphic on their wall. Why is this illustrative? Why is this important? It’s because this critical example sheds light on the fact that this truly inclusive approach has directly led to a child placing their person-centred graphic on their wall. Can you really see a child doing the same with a statement? So, in essence, it’s about having some fun and creating something that a young person is so proud of that they are happy to display it. These are good markers.
Let’s move forward and let’s use the person-centred planning way of working as tools to enable us to reach a truly inclusive society built around the needs of its most challenging and vulnerable young people.
The inherent danger is that person-centred planning only extends as far as a friendly front page, a fig leaf to the clinical content remaining at its heart. Real person-centred planning needs to come to life. Big sheets of paper and lots of visual activity should be placed in a room containing people who the child loves and those with whom they are friends. Combine this contextual environment with active listening and good facilitation so that, at the end of the process, the family will say: ‘yes, that really was respectful; that really respected my child’s wishes and my wishes.’
A person-centred planning approach really gets the child’s voice out and allows them to be listened to. If a child is listened to properly, then there is a much greater chance that they will be treated fairly by the adults in the system and the other young people around them. Why, because people will understand that child better. Person-centred planning is designed for this because it is so respectful and is centred around listening to each child’s dreams, goals, interests, strengths and gifts.
It’s also capacity-orientated. When you really draw out the true capacity of a young person, you give them the opportunity to be dealt with as another contributing young person in the school community. So, you change the narrative, as the young person is no longer characterised by a particular deficit or difficulty, but is instead defined by their capacity; their dreams; what their family wants for them; and what they want for themselves.
Embrace person-centred planning with all your heart, because you really will find it an enjoyable and effective way of working.
This extract was originally published as part of a longer interview in issue 10 of Real Training's The SEND Practitioner: http://bit.ly/1F1BYZk
Colin Newton is co-founder of Inclusive Solutions, our most recent partner on Inclusion Now. Find more details on the back page and visit the Inclusive Solutions website for a wealth of additional information and resources:
This extraordinary play is an extremely powerful argument for inclusive education. For starters it is devised by the members of ‘Act Up’ and based on real life stories of exclusion and inclusion. The cast is made up of disabled and non-disabled actors who are absolutely convincing.
The story is set in a mainstream secondary school and follows the journey of Jill, a young woman with learning difficulties played beautifully by Sterre Ploeger. Initially we found it very disturbing. The ignorance of the staff, the total lack of understanding by the other pupils; and the way in which Jill was not welcomed, included, or respected was absolutely heartbreaking. Sending Jill away to lay tables whilst her fellow students studied poetry, not engaging in conversations at lunch time or being able to be invited to her birthday celebrations were just a few of the horrid experiences Jill had to endure. Sadly too many of us know these stories for real as well.
However little by little the other students learn from Jill. They realise that she has a great deal to say, is extremely creative and a great deal of fun. They learn about her ability to use signs to communicate and they begin to learn some signs too. The story thank goodness has a happy ending. The other pupils and Jill become great friends and they in turn teach the staff at the school.
This short play with it's message about the strength of inclusion should be seen by all educators. The only way forward to avoid dangerous assumptions is to ensure we have an inclusive education system.
Act Up! Newham can be hired to perform Dangerous Assumptions and any of Act Up's former productions at your event, school, college or Disability Equality Trainings. Please find more information and details on Act Up's website:
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chloe and Zelda McCollum
The 25th Anniversary Event of the publication of ‘Disability Equality in The Classroom: A Human Rights Issue’ by Richard Rieser and Micheline Mason was a great success with many varied and interesting contributions. These can be viewed at http://worldofinclusion.com/25years-of-disability-equality-in-the-classroom-programme/
The films made by World of Inclusion’s Richard Rieser shown at the event are also available online:
Six films and accompanying resources of workshops in English schools to challenge disablist bullying made for the Anti Bullying Alliance: http://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/send-resources/challenging-disablism-classroom-resources/
A series of three films to demonstrate that inclusive education of disabled children is possible in 2015 in schools with the right policies and attitudes. Wroxham Primary, Emersons Green Primary and Priestnall Secondary are also available online: http://worldofinclusion.com/inclusion-working-in-2015/
The inspiration to try and build a Community Circle in Nottingham, Woodbridge and elsewhere has been inspired by the work of Inclusive Solutions: http://inclusive-solutions.com/community-circles/ which in turn was ignited by the work of Lois Smidt and the organisation she created in Iowa ‘Beyond Welfare’: http://www.diaristproject.org/files/Beyond-Welfare.pdf
The purpose of community circles is to bring people from a local community together to share their skills, talents, gifts and resources. This idea is based upon the premise that ALL of us need three things in our lives to make us happy and fulfilled: these are money, friendship and meaning. We believe that everyone needs community, everyone needs to be heard and everyone needs to have fun.
In Nottingham a Community Circle has been running for over 6 years in various venues with the same aim to increase community inclusion and reduce poverty of meaning, money and friendship in local people’s lives. There are monthly meetings with around 170 people having attended at some point and still in contact. Diversity is our strength and every month it’s different, a community just magically comes together. We never know who, or how many will join, if there will be four of us in the room or forty.
‘Tonight fifteen of us came together to create the circle, we shared food, pooled our strengths and ideas and thought well about each other. It’s surprising how content we can feel with very little, it’s a reminder that we don’t need the trappings of material wealth. It’s good to remember that the most loving communities are often the poorest’
Community Circles are based upon reciprocity and the assumption that EVERYONE has both gifts and needs – whether these are labelled or not. The circles adopt the fundamental value of inclusion that ‘all means all’, no one is excluded from community circles, instead the circle members work out how to include everyone equally and safely.
OPEN EVENTS COMING UP:
Nottingham Community Circle
SUMAC CENTRE 245 Gladstone Street,
Nottingham NG7 6HX
Phone: 0845 458 9595 / 0115 960 8254
6.45pm - 9.15pm July 15th 2015, August 19th 2015
“I think my son who is disabled is being discriminated against at school. I’m also really unhappy about the content of his Education Health & Care Plan. I’ve been told I can’t access Legal Aid as it doesn’t exist anymore, is this correct?”
Legal Aid still exists! The introduction of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) made vast changes to Legal Aid. It is commonly thought that Legal Aid for education law has disappeared altogether. In fact, this is not the case. Legal Aid remains available for some education law cases. Cases such as disability discrimination claims against schools, or challenging the contents of a Statement or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (commonly known as SEND) are still “in scope” under the Legal Aid Agency’s Legal Help Scheme.
The Legal Help Scheme covers the advice a parent/guardian may need from a legal advisor in preparing a case to the SEND Tribunal, whether this is making a disability discrimination claim against a school or a challenge against the contents of Statement or EHCP. The Legal Help Scheme may also include a Legal Advisor writing letters, negotiating and preparing the written case for a Tribunal. Legal Help can also, in certain circumstances, cover the costs of independent expert assessments. However, the limitation to the Legal Help Scheme is that it does not cover the costs of a Legal Advisor attending meetings with parents or representing them at a tribunal hearing. That said, it is still a very effective method of helping parents make a legal challenge when it is needed.
Eligibility for the Legal Help Scheme is based upon their financial circumstances. If anyone considers they are eligible for publicly funded work, they must contact Civil Legal Advice (Tel: 0345 345 4345). This is a centralised telephone “gateway” which all new publicly funded clients must call. The operators at Civil Legal Advice carry out a means assessment to determine whether a client is eligible for public funding (eligibility is based upon a person’s income, whether a person is in receipt of any benefits and also whether a person has any capital). There is a very useful “eligibility calculator” that can be used if you wish to check your eligibility. This can be found at http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/ If a client is eligible for work covered under the Legal Help Scheme, they are then transferred to a specialist in education law for further advice.
It is important to note that there are other areas of education law which are still covered under the Legal Help Scheme. Funding is available for making a challenge against a Local Authority where they refuse to carry out an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (formally known as a Statutory Assessment). In addition, Legal Help funding is available where following an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment, the Local Authority decide not to issue an EHCP.
Legal Help funding is also available for taking Judicial Review action in respect of education law issues. This could include, for example, where a Local Authority fails to implement the provision specified within a Statement/EHCP or where a child is out of school and a Local Authority fails to put in place education.
In addition, although admissions appeals, exclusions appeals and transport appeals have now been taken “out of scope” for publicly funded work, it is still possible to provide advice regarding taking Judicial Review proceedings where an unlawful decision is made following the appeal. Judicial Reviews can be difficult to spot, so if a person has any concerns, it would be wise to seek legal advice.
Legal Aid funding is therefore still available for many areas of education law. This is crucial so that parents/guardians/young people can still challenge their right to receive a suitable education and to ensure that some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society are adequately supported by ensuring sufficient provision is made. If you have any concerns about education issues, and consider that you are, or might be, eligible for publicly funded work, it would be wise to contact Civil Legal Advice for further advice.
Kathryn Saban, Specialist Education Legal Advisor
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.