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Inclusion Now Issue 44 - Summer 2016

 

Audio version

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Editorial

Wroxham Primary School: listening to young people matters

The Disabled Students Officer

Inclusive apprenticeships

What does the right to inclusive education look like across the UK?

Parent voice: taking the long view

Ann Pugh, film maker and campaigner

Academies: an indicator that we have lost the will and capacity to care and protect

Comment: compulsory academisation

NUT Conference defends inclusion

Nottingham Community Circles

Legal Question


Editorial

This edition of Inclusion Now is tightly packed with news, opinion and personal experiences all of which serve as a reminder about how important it is to campaign for Inclusive Education. There are lots of new voices including a group of Year 6 students from Wroxham Primary school who talk about how important it is for young people to be listened to and feel included.

We have a timely piece from Carl Parsons at Greenwich University who highlights the concerns that many of us have about the rapid growth in academies and the impact of academisation on those pupils and students that are most at risk from being excluded or segregated from mainstream - timely because just as we are going to press there is a media storm growing about the Government's recently published "Educational Excellence Everywhere" White paper and whether in light of a huge public outcry, the Government may now backtrack on its original plan to speed towards 100% academisation by 2022.

It is clear from Bronagh Byrne's excellent comparison of education systems across the UK that there is still much to do in terms of establishing a consistent approach to building the capacity of our mainstream schools and colleges to be able to welcome a diversity of pupils and students. Usefully Marc Lorenzi from CEN sets out how we can and should make better use of the Equality Act 2010 to challenge bad practice. We also pay tribute to the Disabled film maker, Ann Pugh who had such a huge influence on the Inclusive Education movement. Ann's creativity brought to life the vision of our movement and has captured it on film for now and future generations – we all miss her very much.

Enjoy the summer!

Tara Flood

 

Wroxham Primary School - listening to young people matters

It seems incredible, but 38 years have passed since the Warnock Report (1978) published its findings as to what euphemistically has been and continues to be referred to as 'special' educational provision. Thirty-eight years later, and we are currently witnessing an outcome that has involved the dismantling and fragmentation of education into component parts, and which has also involved economic business models wreaking havoc not only on those working in such settings, but also having a disproportionate effect on young people who are generally trusting of those who often claim to be working in their best interest.

Segregation by type of school is here and is as dangerous and blatant as separation by individual characteristics. In this sense, the Warnock Report arguably has done little (and did not seek) to challenge deep-rooted problems, particularly those associated with disablism, poverty, socio-economic factors and racism.

Over these years we have also witnessed a shift in Europe as many European nations consider the changes they need to make to provide education systems that are more welcoming of diversity. Readers of Inclusion Now will be aware of the significant shifts occurring more widely around the world - in particular the impact of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008) and its aspirational goal of progressive realisation of Disabled people's human rights.

Despite a challenging political climate, Inclusion Now still manages to find and write about the positive experiences of individuals seeking inclusive education, and this has been commented on by a range of individuals including young people, parents, teachers, head teachers, SENCOs, and support staff. Unfortunately, there have also been accounts of inequalities, prejudice and direct discrimination. Colleagues in associated areas of (community) work, have also commented upon the disparities and inequalities that disabled people have experienced.

Education has always been a battle ground in which young people, more so than ever, have become commodities, left to chance, ill-prepared to claim a stake in their own opportunities and life-chances. Current government educational policy has intentionally neglected the 'voice' of disabled people and their organisations. Politicians with limited understanding of the real and lasting value of a good, person-centred education that is truly inclusive, seem hell-bent on social destruction, toying with dimensions of power, using competition as a veneer to fulfil their own political and financial ambitions.

Time and time again the notion of 'human potential' is used as a stock rhetorical phrase in government policy and is also evident in both the 2001 and 2015 SEN and Disability Code of Practice, and yet it is seldom realised in practice. Given divisive, competing, materialist and market agendas in current educational policy, there are still schools that are bucking that trend - resisting this onslaught of detrimental change to become a beacon of hope.

Wroxham Primary School rejects linear models of learning, and does not use ability learning labels. There is a refreshing opening sentence in 'Creating Learning Without Limits' (Swann, et al., 2012, p.1), namely that 'human potential is not predictable' and that children's futures are 'unknowable'. Given such unshakable convictions, I took a group of students from the University of Bedfordshire to visit Wroxham Primary School recently to see if the reality stacks up. We were able to meet with a group of Year 6 students and spent the afternoon with them discussing their ideas about schooling and what education means to them.

We spilt the group into two smaller groups and we asked "What do you think makes a good school?"

It was interesting that most of the young people talked about their teachers, referring to teachers who were 'good', 'helpful', with varying teaching styles and who are able to 'put a twist on it, make it fun'. Those young people that talked about what else made their school good, talked about being able to 'wear what we want' and where 'everyone is included'.

Friendships were really important to all the young people and a number referred to having 'learning partners', 'different activities', being able to 'choose challenges' and of course 'food'. The Year 6 students also highlighted group activities such as sports, which for Wroxham Primary young people includes drumming and knitting.

In relation to organising learning, both groups made reference to 'liking not having the same lessons every day', 'sharing toys', 'colourful – split classrooms', having 'circle groups', and a couple of young people talked about really liking that 'children lead assemblies'. Both groups also talked about 'talent shows', 'tree house', 'forest school', 'library' and the 'learning bus' helping them with their learning.

We also asked the students 'What advice would you give to teachers?' Every group came up with lots of ideas including teachers needing to 'add a twist to lessons', having 'refreshments (ie water)', 'getting creative', 'don't be too strict', 'make the classroom look nice', having a 'reading corner', letting individuals 'pick challenges', 'have a range of subjects', 'make class fun', be 'friendly and happy'.

The young people also talked about how important it is to have 'teaching assistants to help in the class', for teachers to 'have good explanations', 'be patient', 'be kind and help other teachers', 'find different ways to teach instead of using the same way (being more active)', 'make sure everyone is included', 'help children feel confident and not shy', 'make sure everyone has their say'.

The teaching and support staff at Wroxham are clearly doing a great job - no doubt Year 6 would have told us if this wasn't the case! It is disappointing that more generally across the education system, such insight from young people is seldom, if at all, listened to. Young people have a right to be part of their local communities, to share experiences with their peers, and to be listened to.

Is it not time that government learnt the lessons from young people who are at the very heart of the educational experience? Listening to the Year 6 students raises at least one interesting question: what are we to do with such human potential? One of the university students who came with me to Wroxham said afterwards: "… thanks for arranging the opportunity for us to visit Wroxham School. They are a wonderful group of children and their confidence in and fondness for the school is inspiring. What a lovely way to spend a Thursday morning – it has left me with lots to reflect on."

This university student is correct: there is 'lots to reflect on'. Young people, including disabled young people, require us to prepare them for the future, to encourage and nurture their hopes and aspirations, for them to become active citizens, and to participate in a world where there is immeasurable 'human potential'!

Navin Kikabhai, ALLFIE Chair

PS. Can I say a very big thank you to everyone at Wroxham Primary school who made our visit so enjoyable and to the Year 6 students who took time out of their day to share their thoughts and insights with such honesty.

 

The Disabled Students Officer

Being a student is not always easy, especially if you have a disability. Sometimes requirements or adjustments need to be met by the college or university to ensure the student is fully supported and able to make the most of their studies. These may not be immediately obvious to the college or university until brought to their attention by the student or students who need them. Alternatively a student might not be aware that they need additional support or what support they need until they have already started their studies. In any case, the student and college or university will need to work together to find out what the student needs and how their needs can be met.

But where do you start? Who do you go to, and what should you say? Fortunately, most colleges and universities have a disabled students officer within their student union, who is an excellent first point of contact for all things disability-related. They are not staff members, but students who self-define as disabled, and so are often easier to talk to.

So, what exactly is a disabled students officer? What is their role? Why would someone want to be a disabled students officer? And importantly, what makes a good disabled students officer? These are the questions I asked myself when I ran for the position of disabled students officer of my student union at King's College London in 2012. I knew I wanted to help other disabled students and learn more about the structure of the union and university in regards to disability so that they could be improved for future students. However, I also knew that there were a lot of things I did not know and would have to learn on the job. It is easy to forget that in most colleges and universities, the role is a part time voluntary position that must fit around the student's studies, and for which there is little training. And the position is not a light one either – you are working on behalf of every disabled student in the college or university. Only so much can be done to prepare a student for the role, and its demands will vary each year, not only depending on your own goals and initiatives, but also on the current needs of the students you represent.

Another challenge disabled students officers often face is that they themselves have a disability. Having a disability often means additional time is required to learn material and complete assignments. However, as a disabled student themselves, the officer is also more in touch with the needs of their fellow disabled students and the difficulties that can be encountered at college or university. Students with disabilities may also feel more comfortable discussing issues affecting them if they can relate to the person they are speaking to. It is therefore important that the disabled students officer identify as disabled themselves.

I don't think anyone begins their role as the "ideal" disabled students officer. Rather, it is something you should aim to become by the time your role is finished. There is too much you cannot know about until you are in the role and making those changes and decisions for real. Thus being able and willing to learn on the job is an important quality for any student officer. During my time in the role, I not only learned a lot about policy and the structure of my university and student union, but also became more aware of disability issues and how every decision taken by the university could have an impact (positive or negative) on disabled students, and how it was my responsibility to ensure disabled students got the best possible university experience by allowing their voices to be heard. This leads onto another quality I think is required by student officers – the ability to listen to others and work on their behalf. When we are elected, we muct remember that we are working on behalf of every student in the university. When one of them comes to us with an issue or problem, it is up to us to help them do something about it. This is how we succeed as student officers, and the more students we help, the more we succeed.

The role of disabled students officer is a huge responsibility, but also very rewarding. Changes to aspects of higher education such as changes to Disabled Students Allowance will make it harder for many students, and hence make the role of disabled students officer more demanding than ever. Increasing responsibility is being pushed onto colleges and universities to provide and accommodate for disabled students, without the help or funding required to make these changes. It is likely that the role of the disabled students officer will become ever more important as more students turn to them for help and advice in enabling them to succeed.

Keshi Chung

 

Inclusive apprenticeships

The Government have announced a commitment to create three million apprenticeship opportunities during this parliament. However little has been said about the need for these to be inclusive of Disabled people. Apprenticeships can give Disabled people a real opportunity to participate in mainstream vocational education and training whilst being part of the workplace, and ALLFIE has been lobbying the Government to ensure their commitment includes Disabled people. As part of our work we have been identifying apprenticeship schemes that are working well for Disabled people.

Gloria Nweke, a Disabled person and support broker apprentice working with Inclusion Barnet, spoke to ALLFIE about her work experience whilst completing a Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care as part of a one year accredited apprenticeship. Gloria's role is to work with disabled people to identify how they can best meet their social care needs and get the life they want within their personal budget allocation. She helps Inclusion Barnet's customers to research activities they may want to undertake and provides information and signposting to other services.

At the same time, Gloria is doing a Health and Social Care Level 2 Diploma on day release at Southgate College. She has felt well-prepared for the NVQ course as she had already done a Level 3 course in Development Studies. She also had to complete a Functional Skills Level 1 in English and Maths.

Gloria feels her mental health is well under control and does not need support from the Access to Work scheme during her placement, but thought having a support worker could have helped at an earlier stage whilst looking for employment. She says it has been a great opportunity to pursue her interests - it has built on the existing administrative and advocacy skills she gained through volunteering and she aims to gain paid employment in social care after her placement finishes in August. ALLFIE wishes her the best of luck.

Inclusion Barnet received funding from Barnet Council covering the college course fees, apprentice wages and running costs of the scheme. They have now advertised for their second apprentice – this time they have targeted Disabled young people.

ALLFIE has been working on apprenticeship issues for some time, focusing on existing apprenticeship requirements, particularly those related to GCSEs and stand-alone maths and English qualifications, because these can create barriers for some Disabled people. The Government's own report, "Creating an Inclusive Apprenticeship Offer" (Little 2012), concluded that some of the apprenticeship standards would disadvantage Disabled people.

With the current Government's determination to halve the number of Disabled people out of work, we thought it be worth another go at lobbying for changes to the standards. ALLFIE used the recent Enterprise Bill to raise the issue of apprentices requiring stand-alone literacy and numeracy qualifications, and suggested that instead, assessment of relevant skills should focus on the work context. More recently we met Nick Boles (Minister for Apprenticeships) to discuss our concerns and the opportunity the three million new apprenticeships creates for the large numbers of Disabled people who are not in employment, education or training.

We are hopeful that more flexibility will be built into the revised standards and that ultimately more Disabled people will benefit from the opportunities apprenticeships can offer – watch this space!

Simone Aspis

 

What does the right to inclusive education look like across the UK?

The right to an inclusive education for disabled children and young people is firmly established in international law. Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2006) requires countries who have ratified it to ensure an 'inclusive education system at all levels' without discrimination, 'effective individualised support measures' in environments that 'maximise academic and social development', and 'reasonable accommodation of the individual's requirements'. Further requirements include facilitating the learning of Braille, sign language and alternative means of communication; and staff training in, for example, disability awareness.

The CRPD Committee is currently drafting a general comment on the issue. The draft emphasises that inclusion is not simply a matter of access but of content, information and communication. It emphasises that placing disabled students in mainstream classes without appropriate support does not constitute inclusion. Similarly, that creating isolated units within a mainstream school environment remains a form of segregation, and cannot be defined as inclusive education. The Committee urges countries to transfer resources from segregated to inclusive environments.

This signifies a positive approach to inclusion which embraces a presumption in favour of mainstream education, with support to ensure that education really is inclusive and not mere integration. The CRPD was ratified by the UK in 2008.

Policy and provision on special educational needs (SEN) is a devolved matter, with each UK region having a separate system under a separate government. The UK government is responsible for education in England; the Northern Ireland executive for education in Northern Ireland (NI); the Scottish Government in Scotland; and the Welsh government in Wales. This would appear to open the way for some degree of policy divergence, but also opportunities for regions to learn from each other and to identify and harness best practice.

Similarities and differences can be identified across the UK. Each region has identified SEN as in need of reform. The general presumption in favour of mainstream education remains (although not without challenge) and there appears to be some agreement on the contemporary principles that should underpin these various reforms. For example, we can see a shift towards increased participation of children and young people and their parents in assessment processes, an identified need for greater collaboration and focus on outcomes, and a common desire for a much simpler system. However, there are differences in the measures each region has adopted, or is planning to adopt, to address these issues.

The presumption in favour of mainstream education has undergone the biggest challenge in England with the 2011 statement by Government that it wished to 'remove the bias towards inclusion'. The Children and Families Act extends legislation to include children and young people 0-25, replaces School Action and School Action Plus with 'SEN support', and replaces 'Statements' of SEN with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. Critically, it emphasises the participation of children and young people and their parents in decision-making, and focuses on increasing aspirations and improving outcomes. In contrast to the 2011 statement, the 2015 Revised Code of Practice states that 'As part of its commitments under… the CRPD, the UK Government is committed to inclusive education of disabled children and young people and the progressive removal of barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education.' However, while those who do not have an EHC plan must be educated in mainstream settings, those who do have an EHC plan face conditions; they can be educated in a mainstream setting unless it is against the wishes of the young person or their parent, would damage the efficient education of others, or no reasonable steps can be taken.

The current SEN framework in Northern Ireland was introduced in 1986, in line with legislation in England and Wales. It was updated by the 1996 Education Order, providing a legal framework for assessment and provision for SEN (primarily through statements). The 2005 Education Order enhanced the rights of children with SEN to attend mainstream schools and, like its equivalents in the rest of the UK, introduced protections against disability discrimination in education. The NI Department of Education's 2009 consultation, 'Every School a Good School: The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion', proposed extensive changes to SEN provision, including a new model based on Additional Educational Needs. However, the proposals were extensively criticised. A Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill received royal assent on 23 March 2016. This does not include many of the prior proposals and is scant on details. Many of these are expected to be introduced in a revised Code of Practice and amendments to regulations. The new SEN framework is premised on an inclusive ethos but maintains a role for special schools. It introduces statutory personal learning plans (PLPs) to replace statements, and emphasises early intervention and staff training. It also focuses on learning and outcomes for pupils with SEN, and on ensuring the views of pupils and parents are considered.

Reform has also been underway in Wales. In July 2015, the Welsh government launched a consultation on a Draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Bill, confirming its 'continued dedication to a fully inclusive system in Wales', with a new draft Additional Learning Needs Code of Practice published at the end of September 2015. The draft Bill proposes new legislation for children and young people 0-25. At its core is the introduction of a single category of 'Additional Learning Needs' replacing the language of SEN. A single statutory plan (an individual development plan) is proposed to replace statements, Individual Education Plans, School Action and School Action Plus. There is concern that removing the statutory assessment places a general requirement upon schools to identify needs rather than a prescribed system of expert assessments. Like England and NI, the Bill also focuses on improving outcomes and increased participation of children and young people and their families. The Bill is now on hold until after the Welsh Assembly elections this May.

In Scotland, reforms are less recent by comparison, but contain provisions that have been considered by other jurisdictions. The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act (2000) includes a presumption of mainstream education, unless this would: not be suited to the 'ability or aptitude of the child', 'be incompatible with the provision of efficient education' for other children, or 'result in unreasonable public expenditure'. It also requires the views of the child and their parent(s) to be taken into account in decision making processes. This evolved with the implementation in 2005 of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 and a Code of Practice. Here, the concept of SEN was replaced with that of 'additional support needs' (ASN). Records of Needs (RoNs) were abolished and Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSPs) were created, intended to apply to a smaller group of children with multiple or complex needs requiring significant additional support.

Inclusive education is not simply about attending a mainstream school but about the quality of educational experience and access to the curriculum. While there is a general presumption of mainstream education, it is clear that SEN policies across the UK consider inclusion in a relatively narrow, largely procedural sense. There is some evidence of movement with the weight now given in theory to the views of children and young people and their families, and to collaboration and improving outcomes, but it remains to be seen how these will play out. Devolution has affected the tools used to progress reforms across the UK, but beneath the buzzwords, it is not clear that the right to an inclusive education has undergone substantive change in and of itself. If anything there is concern that legal rights are being diluted at the expense of flexibility and efficiency. Irrespective of where in the UK you may be, the right to an inclusive education continues to fall considerably short of what is required by the CRPD.

Bronagh Byrne
Queen's University Belfast

 

Parent voice: taking the long view

About twelve years ago I went to an event in Nottingham run by Inclusive Solutions. At the time, my son was a very unhappy person at a school in Leicester. He had been diagnosed as having Pervasive Developmental Disorder on the Autistic Spectrum so he had full time support. The conference helped me focus on him as a human being and his whole personality - with the idea that his difficulties were only one slice of the full pizza that makes him a full person - rather than on his deficits and impairment labels. I was like a born again Christian, trying to show people how the scales had fallen from my eyes - my son did have abilities, he would be able to cope with school and life.

Unfortunately, the school did not agree with me and after years of fighting, they asked us to take our son away from the school at the end of Year 9. It was a particularly unpleasant parting of the ways - they were going to place him in a non-exam teaching group where he would be farmed out to a local college for 'Life Skills', whatever they are! We knew that he was able to sit GCSEs and because we asked for the decision to be changed, they gave us an ultimatum: "Accept what we have proposed and stop interfering or find another school for him."

This isn't very scholarly language but after hours of crying I thought, "Sod you - we will find somewhere else for Finn."

He was attending a lovely youth group in a school twenty miles from our home so I rang the Head, and Finn started there the following September. (For four years my husband and I drove him there and back every day as the local authority refused to help with transport, saying he should have stayed at his previous school. My husband had to change his job and it cost us £50 a week in petrol - all his DLA money.) Their attitude was so different that Finn really thrived, achieving an amazing 5 GCSEs and 2 A levels. Six months after leaving school he had a part-time job with Leicester Tigers Rugby Club and he enrolled with the Open University. In October 2015 he graduated with an Honours degree in History at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It was one of the best days of our lives.

That same week, he started doing some agency work at the Santander Bank in Enderby, Leicestershire. He was on a temporary six month contract but after only three months his job was made permanent. This young man, who was considered 'totally innumerate' at school was now helping people to manage their money. Finn has a very rounded life - he plays cricket for a local team, supports Leicester City, goes to the gym and is very active in our local parish. When he finished his Open University degree he said that he no longer needed his DLA as he was able to live an independent life. DLA helped us for years but Finn no longer needs it and that's his choice.

All those years ago Colin and Derek from Inclusive Solutions encouraged us to take the long view and I particularly remember from the event the story that a teacher told about the well known footballer, Rio Ferdinand. Rio's mum had gone to the nursery to thank his original teacher there for accepting him and encouraging his creativity by letting him play with balls when he was so challenging as a little boy – that early belief in Rio clearly made a massive difference over the long term and the same is true for Finn and me as his mum. My advice to other parents is to be the best ally that you can be to your child – love and constant belief in a person helps build a future full of hope and aspiration.

Josephine Feeney

 

Ann Pugh, film maker and campaigner

Ann died far too early from cancer on 25th February 2015, aged 59. The memorial event was held in Bristol on 12th March 2016, next to the Redweather office. It was like her life, packed with projects, family, friends and many people whose life Ann touched.

Ann was born and brought up on the family farm at Nantmel in Central Wales. She went to art college in Cardiff and became a youth worker, trained at the BBC as a TV film maker and worked in the Community Unit of HTV in 1982.

Ann was committed to equality, especially for disabled people, and increasingly used her talents to make films reflecting this. Typical of her films was one aimed at pregnant BME women with no healthcare. Made in twelve community languages it reached its target audience and numerous women benefitted. Another was for 'UKDPC Murals Project', featuring disabled asylum seekers.

Ann was a founding member of the Avon Coalition of Disabled People, and through the Coalition learned of the campaign for inclusive education going on in the 1980s and 1990s. I remember in 1993 going with Micheline to a day the Coalition held on inclusion and meeting Ann. Ann managed to get the BBC Disability Programmes Unit to commission four, thirty minute films called 'Old School Ties'.

Ann made many films on inclusion in Bristol including 'Promoting Inclusion in Bristol Early Years' (60 mins) and 'Inclusion, Raising the Issues', both excellent for practitioners. Knowing Ann's expertise when I was commissioned by the Department for Education to show best practice in English schools for making reasonable adjustments for disabled children I asked her to work with me to film good practice in 41 schools. The films were and are still cutting edge and can be found on YouTube. For the Alliance, Ann made several films, the first being 'The Inclusion Assistant'. More recently she worked with the Alliance to film a group of disabled children and young people and parents talking about what it means to be an Ally. Ann also filmed a number of the interviews the Alliance used for their How was School project (www.howwasschool.org.uk) which documents, the school experiences of fifty disabled people across the last one hundred years – all interviews are also now archived in the British Library Oral History archives.

In 2008 I had some money left from DfID for developing inclusive education in Southern Africa. I asked Ann and Denis Green to accompany me on a lecture tour, which doubled with the support of the South African Government to filming in ten primary schools in four Provinces. Amazingly we got enough material to make the DVD Developing Inclusive Education in South Africa. This is used in teacher training throughout South Africa. http://www.redweather.co.uk/developing-inclusive-education-in-south-africa.html

Ann and I also made ten films about bringing disability into the curriculum for the Qualification & Curriculum Authority. This was abolished by the Government before they could be distributed. Because Ann was disabled and able to film sensitively her films are unique.

Ann had been a trustee of Firebird Theatre for people with Learning Difficulties and we were treated to extracts from their Bristol Old Vic production of 'Breadhorse'. To quote one of the actors "Ann was always my friend". Ann worked with the Misfits Theatre and was a supporter of Artists First.

Frank and Ann's two grown up children and whole family shared a truly memorable evening with us. No one who worked with Ann will ever forget her calm and happy persona and no nonsense approach that often achieved the impossible. For everyone else we have her films to remember her by.

Richard Rieser

 

Comment: compulsory academisation

The White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere is a flawed and deeply ideological document which is the biggest threat we currently face to state education and inclusion. It seeks to academise all schools by 2022 and to downsize local authorities. These proposed changes are based upon no evidence. It claims a million more children are now in schools which are rated good or better by OFSTED, but ignores the fact that 930,000 (93%) are not in academies but in schools maintained by local authorities.

Multi Academy Chains (MATs) do not improve standards - only three of the top twenty MATs achieve the required school improvement targets and 85% fall below standard. Secondary schools are four times worse off if they become academies, while primary schools are eleven times worse off if they become academies compared to those who remain under local authority control (CASE briefing 2).

The removal of parent governors who are often the SEN governor and placing of accreditation of teachers entirely with headteachers will both significantly weaken SEN provision and inclusion.

The motivation is privatisation, and Nicky Morgan has not ruled out introducing profit for MATs. Evidence is growing of financial abuse and channeling of funds to consultancy and inflated salaries for the MATs.

This is no way to run a school system. Disabled young people and those with SEN provision will be squeezed, and segregation accelerated. Join the campaign to reject the White Paper and fight for a quality inclusive comprehensive local authority maintained and democratically accountable school in every locality.

Richard Rieser


NUT Conference defends Inclusion

A strong motion critical of SEND reforms and reiterating the need for support for inclusive education was unanimously carried by delegates in Brighton representing 330,000 members of the National Union of Teachers at their Easter conference.

The motion highlighted the decrease in students with SEN in mainstream as a result of the move away from School Action and School Action Plus, which has left many students without vital support previously available to them, noted the increase in students in special schools, and the detrimental impact on disabled students and those with SEN of the league table culture and raising the bar on tests and exams. This Government agenda is at odds with a democratic and inclusive education system. The motion also addressed the negative impact of reforming the Higher Needs Funding Block and called for a levelling up to current funding for poorly funded areas rather than taking money away, and action to highlight its negative impact. The motion committed the union:

The motion was moved by Richard Rieser of Hackney and seconded by Deb Gwyne of Halton (near Liverpool), a secondary SENCO who both drew attention to the negative impacts on students with SEND of the Government reforms.

The NUT conference had already voted to campaign against the unnecessary, undemocratic and dangerous White Paper: Educational Excellence Everywhere and to ballot on striking to protect national teachers terms and conditions which will disappear when all schools are academies. This will have a huge negative impact on students with SEND. The following Tuesday the ATL also voted to oppose the White Paper and the NASUWT were also highly critical and barracked Nicky Morgan, while she attempted to promote her flawed White Paper. Many conservatives and parents' groups are opposing the White Paper. Make sure your energy and voice joins them.

Mark Harrison, CEO, Equal Lives

 

Nottingham Community Circles

The purpose of community circles is to bring people from a local community together to share their skills, talents, gifts and resources. We believe that everyone needs community, everyone needs to be heard and everyone needs to have fun.

Upcoming dates for 2016 are:

At the Sumac Centre, 245 Gladstone St, Nottingham, NG7 6HX

Phone: 0845 458 9595 / 0115 960 8254. Any questions please email.

http://inclusive-solutions.com/circles/community-circles/


Legal Question

"My daughter requires Speech and Language Therapy as part of SEN provision which supports her participation on a Level 3 apprenticeship. The LA refuses to provide SALT on the grounds that she has completed her qualification, alhough she is still undertaking the work placement. She still has to complete the requirements of her placement in order to get the apprenticeship certificate. Is the work placement still part of education provision or something separate ie more of an Access to Work issue?"

The Children and Families Act 2014 has significantly extended the legal special educational needs framework. Education, Health and Care plans (EHC plans) have replaced statements and should be maintained until a young person is 25 (whereas statements ended at 19), provided the young person has an ongoing need for education.

The new SEN Code of Practice emphasises that special educational provision should not focus solely on academic achievement, and that young people should be supported to achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, including getting a job and living as independently as possible.

As a consequence, a wide array of post 16 provision – including school sixth forms (both mainstream and special schools), sixth form colleges, general further education colleges, 16-19 academies, special post-16 institutions, and vocational learning and training providers in the private or voluntary sector can all be named in a young person's EHC plan. The range of available study programmes is broad and includes AS/A-levels, vocational qualifications at all levels, apprenticeships, traineeships, supported internships and bespoke packages of learning.

Apprenticeships can therefore be named in a young person's EHC plan and the starting point is to consider your daughter's Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan).

Speech and language therapy should usually be recorded as education provision in section F of EHC plans. If it is set out in the plan it must be arranged by the local authority regardless of whether the college part of your daughter's course has ended. If the local authority refuse to provide this you should seek advice as soon as possible as the failure to provide the support is challengeable by way of judicial review and such claims must be brought promptly. If the wording in the plan is clear then the matter will usually be resolved following a strongly worded letter to the local authority advising them of this breach.

If you find that the SLT provision is not set out in Section F of the plan, or if it is but the wording makes it unclear what support is to be provided, it may make it difficult to enforce the provision. This emphasises the need to ensure that an EHC plan properly specifies and quantifies all the provision that is to be provided.

Young people are provided with a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal when a plan is issued and therefore advice should also be sought when a plan is issued if you have any concerns with the provision in the plan (or the placement itself). Again, there are strict time limits for these appeals so you should seek legal advice as soon as possible if you have concerns with the content of the plan.

Special educational needs remains in scope for legal aid and any legal work could therefore be publically funded provided your daughter is eligible. More information and contact details as to how to obtain legal aid can be found here.

Finally, if your daughter does not have an EHC plan, I would advise that a request is made for an EHC assessment as soon as possible. If she has a Learning Difficulty Assessment this should be transferred to an EHC plan by the end of August 2016 at the latest and you should make a formal request for conversion immediately to the local authority SEN department.

James Betts

James is a solicitor with Maxwell Gillott, who specialise in legal advice and assistance for clients facing difficulties with education, health and social services. www.maxwellgillott.co.uk

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