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Inclusion Now Issue 45 - Autumn 2016

 

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Contents


Editorial

The struggle for inclusion is a long one. Gains are shown by students with the label PMLD being included in mainstream schools, such as Eastlea. Finn Murphy's parents' long struggle to get him included in mainstream is well described, but should not have been necessary. On a global scale we have seen the adoption of a strongly pro-inclusive General Comment on Article 24 of the UN CRPD. This closes down much of the wiggle room governments have been hiding behind to prevent progress to inclusive education. The General Comment follows last year's commitment in Sustainable Development Goal 4 by the governments of the world, which commits them to inclusive education for all!

Back in the UK, in the' Brexit' aftershock, Theresa May is promoting more selection which means more segregation for the majority of children. Comprehensive schools have achieved the most, for most children and young people, and are the most inclusive in our history. The word 'meritocracy' is being used to suggest there is a fixed pool of talent which must be sifted out by quasi-eugenic testing, rather than recognising that all young people should be supported to reach their potential. Accessing exams and apprenticeships remains an issue for young disabled people but we show a way forward. The article on Ashton on Mersey shows that the threat of increased segregation is looming large. Everyone should further the struggle for disability equality in this autumn's UK Disability History Month, challenging disabilist language and bullying. We mourn the passing of Linda Whitehead, a campaigner, mum and champion of inclusion for her son. However both leaders of Greens and Labour Party are now fully supporting inclusive education.

Richard Rieser


Making Schools Work for the Minority at the Expense of the Many

Is the purpose of education to reproduce existing inequalities and power structures or is it to be transformative in developing quality education for all? The Government's insistence on increasing selection by aptitude, religion and tested ability at 11 (and as a concession for a very few at 14 or 16), expanding grammar schools and increasing other forms of selection, goes to the very heart of this question.

The Government's own statistics show that there are eighteen times fewer children with SEN statements or Education, Health and Care plans, and three times fewer disabled children without statements or EHCPs, in grammar schools than in the secondary school population as a whole.

Originally grammar schools were set up to give some access to education for the poor at a time when only the rich were educated. Education was generally restricted to the rich, who could buy it, until technology made it necessary for the workforce to be trained to use it, leading to state education with the 1870 Act. Elementary education for all was expanded after the 1944 Education Act identified three types of minds: academic, technical and the rest, destined respectively for grammar, technical and secondary modern schools. Entry was based on the idea that intelligence was innate, fixed and could be determined by a single test: the 11 plus. This was heavily influenced by the psychologist Sir Cyril Burt, who believed all intelligence was inherited or innate and capable of being measured with accuracy and ease. He was an influential member of the Haddow Committee, (The Primary School, 1931) and the Spens Committee (The Secondary School, 1938), which framed Post War education based on selection.

Later, the problem was that increasingly some children who had failed the test at 11 showed the ability to pass the General Certificate in Education (GCE) which they were meant to be not capable of achieving. This led to the campaign for comprehensive education with the outlawing in 1998 of any further grammar schools. If the more academically inclined were to go to grammar schools it left the majority, some 80%, to go to schools where they did not receive a broad and balanced quality education. Under the pressure of school leaving age being raised to 16, teachers and the Schools Council began to develop appropriate curriculum and examinations leading to the Certificate of Education (CSE) which showed the potential of students in comprehensive schools. This was then merged into the GCSE to cover most learners in secondary. Government has continuously moved the goalposts on acceptable outcomes, but today's secondary students, including many disabled students in comprehensives, are achieving well over three times the outcome of the cohort in the heyday of grammar schools.

At the heart of this Government's schools policy is the establishment of an elitist education system under the guise of improving educational outcomes for children from low income families. Justine Greening has set out ambitious plans to increase grammar school placements with a promise of a £50 million grant year on year. Apart from grammars, partially selective schools will be allowed to increase the selective proportion of their pupil intake, whilst non-selective schools will be allowed to become selective. It's clear the Government believe that the only good schools in town are those that have a selective intake of pupils. To ensure that selective independent schools and universities are brought into the frame, the Government has set out conditions they will need to fulfil in order to obtain charitable status or to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000. The independent selective sector will be expected to expand selective education either by establishing new free schools or by sponsoring or working with state-funded schools. Non-selective schools will be expected to partner with selective schools. Whilst the policy does not advocate the end of non-selective schools, more schools will have to become selective as they compete for pupils. Those remaining in non-selective schools will particularly be the children of poor, white families on free school meals, and those with SEN/disabilities will be deprived of the benefit of mixing with peers of different social backgrounds and abilities.

Eugenics was a dangerous false science, based on taking Darwin's ideas of natural selection and applying them to human beings, with the aim of improving the innate quality of the human race by selective breeding. If the test showed certain groups scored lower than others, they were inferior. This is the principle on which testing at 11 is based. It was not considered that results might be to do with environment or unfamiliarity with the test. Eugenics started by segregating/sterilising the 'feeble minded', extended to prohibiting certain ethnic groups from entering the USA, justifying black/white segregation in the Southern USA and apartheid South Africa, and ultimately led to creating the 'Master Race' in Third Reich Germany, eliminating Jews, Gypsies, disabled people and homosexuals. Today it leads to the idea that there are some who are more equal than others –the meritocracy, which conveniently for Mrs May and her right- wing government, fits a two tier education system, with less funding for the lower tier, and feeds prejudice and social fragmentation.

The Government certainly did not have equality and inclusion in mind when developing "Schools that work for everyone" as there has been no equality impact assessment on how the policy will affect disabled children's and their parents' ability to choose mainstream education. As the number of selective schools rise, parents and young people will be less able to choose great inclusive mainstream schools. Yet these are the schools that add most to the educational achievement of all their students as value added and now Progress 8 measures demonstrate. This inclusive pedagogy includes mixed ability teaching, peer support, collaborative learning, learning without limits, making effective reasonable adjustments, a stimulating curriculum, putting in place individual support and an ethos of respect for all - all equal, all different. These proposals need to be fought hard because they will lead to less inclusion and a more segregated education system and society. Otherwise the only choice in town for disabled children could be special schools - so the Government's Every School that Works That Work For Everyone will work for everyone other than poor children and disabled students.

Please make your response to the green paper by 12th December.

Simone Aspis and Richard Rieser


Article 24 - the Right to Inclusion

Autumn has been a good season for disabled peoples' rights to inclusive education. In September the UN issued guidelines clarifying what is required by governments to uphold human rights in education under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The advice on segregation is what ALLFIE has advocated all along: a phasing out of separate, "special" provision is required under the Convention.

Although the Convention did not explicitly ban segregation, ALLFIE and others who took part in the negotiations at the UN over ten years ago understood that the agreement to develop inclusive education systems by governments around the world implied a phased ending of separate provision. The move to fully inclusive education systems, accommodating and supporting all students whatever their impairment or needs, would render "special" education in separate settings unnecessary.

That understanding has now been confirmed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in General Comment No. 4 (2016) on inclusive education which states that a core aspect of inclusive education is a commitment "to ending segregation within educational settings by ensuring inclusive classroom teaching in accessible learning environments with appropriate supports". The Committee also recognises that developing inclusive education "is not compatible with sustaining two systems of education: mainstream and special/segregated education". It stresses governments' obligations to move "as expeditiously and effectively as possible'' to full realisation of Article 24 and urges a "transfer of resources from segregated to inclusive environments".

The General Comment defines the key challenges in reform for inclusion - exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion - and highlights the importance of recognising the differences between them. The UN guidelines define segregation as when "the education of students with disabilities is provided in separate environments designed or used to respond to a particular or various impairments in isolation from students without disabilities". Other definitions can be found here.

This guidance means the Government's policy of a market where parents and disabled learners state a preference for segregated or mainstream schooling cannot claim to fulfil disabled peoples' human rights to inclusive education under the Convention. It also clarifies that an education policy which increases, rather than reduces, segregated education is in breach of international obligations.

As well as clarifying the position on segregation, the General Comment provides details of other actions required by governments to develop inclusive education and fulfil disabled peoples' education rights. This proactive approach should include "a comprehensive legislative and policy framework" supported by an education plan with timeframes, goals and monitoring mechanisms - an approach which Allfie has consistently recommended over the years. While the Conservative government in the UK would have to make big changes in values and doctrine to fulfil its UN obligations as now clarified in the General Comment, recent initiatives in the Labour Party potentially bring it closer to an education policy in line with Article 24.

"Education not Segregation" has been Allfie's slogan since we were founded more than 20 years ago, and is also the slogan being used in Labour's new campaign against grammar schools. According to Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, speaking at the recent party conference, selection into grammar schools is "toxic" because of the damage it causes and should be more appropriately named segregation. Hopefully, the party will tackle all forms of segregation in education when formulating the new national education service for all, proposed by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The General Comment leaves no doubt that developing inclusive education for all and ending segregation in separate "special" provision over time is the policy direction required to fulfil human rights obligations.

Belinda Shaw, long time ALLFIE member

 

Eastlea Community School

ALLFIE has known about Eastlea Community School, in the London Borough of Newham, for some time because of the work they are doing to include disabled young people, but we hadn't had an opportunity to visit until we were contacted by the parents of Finn Murphy who travels across London every day to attend the school. The ALLFIE staff team visited the school in May this year.

The school had received funding for refurbishment and for an extension, and was clearly well resourced. Governor Linda Jordan explained that they received additional resources via the pupil premium. During the works, disabled pupils were involved in auditing the school's accessibility where they noted simple things like the position of the door knobs, which were at a standard height rather than accessible for wheelchair users. The classrooms are set out in an informal but purposeful manner that allows small groups of children to sit together whilst providing opportunities for disabled children to work as part of the group with their learning support assistants. Gone are the days of rows of desks with the teacher in front of the class demanding pupils' attention.

The school is visibly incredibly diverse - over 60 different languages are spoken. As we walked down one of the hallways we saw a notice board displaying a Guinness World of Records certificate from 2014 for the classroom with most nationalities at a history lesson (41). The prom photo board proudly included a number of disabled pupils.

17.5% of students at Eastlea have SEN, and some of these have statements/EHC plans, but many do not because Newham has for many years prioritised a resource provision model which focuses on building the capacity of mainstream schools to be inclusive. Eastlea is particularly interesting because many of the young people we met have significant levels of impairment and support needs – many of whom, if they lived elsewhere, would be on a fast track to segregation.

We started our visit in the Additional Learning Centre where students access a range of additional support either for learning or related to their impairment. Some pupils may spend part of the day here. However every student, whatever their impairment, health condition or learning ability, is in mainstream classes for at least 50% of the time, where they are supported to access the national curriculum.

For instance when we visited a Maths class on averages, some pupils with learning difficulties were exploring figures with numbers of plastic frogs or beads. In an English Literature class on the Merchant of Venice, students were assembling news stories about the play's storyline using picture collages. Teaching assistants at Eastlea are assigned to a specific subject area because supporting the differentiated curriculum requires them to have knowledge of the subject area.

Students with labels of challenging behaviour were also supported – we met a student who when she first arrived had hit a couple of staff, including the Head, but instead of leaping to a sanction, the school worked with her to develop a "social story" book that support staff use with her – the book helps her to think about other things she might do with her hands, such as waving. The social story also helps others to understand why she behaves in a particular way. Such techniques are used to ensure that students are not excluded from the school for behavioural or other reasons. Emma Lane, the Inclusion Lead, explained that the staff use every situation as an opportunity for learning, and work together to come up with possible solutions. 'Exclusion' of any student was not an option.

A lot of thought has also gone into developing communication dictionaries with those young people who communicate through movement or sound rather than speech, which has clearly helped staff and fellow pupils to engage with them and appreciate their method of communication.

Some children go to alternative provision outside the school, and this is mostly where for instance they are attending hairdressing or mechanics courses which the school is not equipped to provide – but pupils stay on the school roll.

We asked Emma whether bullying of disabled children was ever a problem. She explained that because the pupils have mostly come from Newham primary schools they are well used to inclusion of disabled pupils, and because the school population is so diverse in other ways it is not really an issue. Emma also explained that the challenges of inclusion were sometimes just as much about extracurricular activities as about the curriculum. For instance one pupil, who used the school transport service to get to school, stood for the student council. It was not easy to get the transport service to understand that collecting her at 3.25 pm would not allow her to be fully involved in the life of the school.

Ana-Maria Grigore is the very dedicated complex needs teacher at Eastlea. Ana is clear that her role is to help the teaching staff develop skills to support the learning of ALL the students in their class. Differentiation of the curriculum is time intensive and can't be done as a standard set of materials that will suit many children, but a set can at least be used as the basis for the next pupil. She explained the various processes they have implemented and how they keep trying different techniques to ensure that all students leave school with a qualification and enrolled into a college. She was clear that being in mainstream benefits even students with the most significant learning difficulties: "For them to be in a mainstream class and just hear the noises of the activities or the silence of the lesson is progress in itself because in a special school they don't have this type of experience."

Ana stressed that their ethos of inclusion required a whole school approach with staff sharing good practice across the school - just having great SENCOs and support staff is not enough, and sharing ideas externally by attending SENCO network events and conferences is also important. She feels that although teachers are getting inclusion training in colleges, and support for inclusion among teachers coming into the school is clearly growing, there must be legislation to back this process up.

It was also easy to see the benefits of inclusion for non-disabled students. Classrooms reflect the similarities and differences of people in the real world. It felt that the non-disabled students were not 'disrupted' by disabled students in the classroom and in fact the atmosphere of the school was surprisingly peaceful – Emma told us that Ofsted inspectors always commented on this too - and the students we came into contact with were polite and welcoming. The only disappointment was not having the opportunity to talk with both the disabled and non disabled pupils about the ethos and inclusivity of their school from their perspective. In 2014 OFSTED found Eastlea school "good" in all areas. Interestingly, and despite the narrowing down of the inspection regime, OFSTED have shown a real interest in the inclusive practice happening at Eastlea, and have recently visited the school to capture that practice on film with the intention of training their inspectors.

Unsurprisingly, staff we talked to were concerned about the future for Eastlea and its inclusive ethos, particularly with the constant pressure on schools to academise and to achieve academic results. It was clear to them that their work on inclusion of disabled children was not valued in the statistics, or politically: "When it comes to assessments, when it comes to exams, when it comes to the numbers, then we do not count," says Ana. They also had concerns about how these pressures can affect the mix of schools in an area: "When the whole inspection criteria are based on academic attainment you can see why heads that have that leeway would exclude children with SEN. If you then become the only school in an area that meets those needs then that's not fair on us," says Governor Linda Jordan. Finn Murphy's case is an example: every school in his home borough refused to accept him as a student because he is disabled, and so he came to Eastlea.

What struck us was that the school understood that inclusive education is not a one-size fits all, but an ongoing, changeable and dynamic process that requires constant learning. Linda stressed that the reason inclusion works for them is that it has the full support of the Head Teacher and board of governors. Emma, the Inclusion Lead, is a member of the Senior Management Team. There is no doubt that the amazing and innovative work that is happening at Eastlea Community school is under threat. It is crucial to share their good practice and learning with other education providers to ensure that the lessons of what is possible filter across the entire education sector, dispelling the myth that inclusion isn't for every disabled child – Eastlea is living proof that inclusion works!

ALLFIE staff team

 

Inclusion for Finn

Tara Flood talked to Angela and Sean, the parents of Eastlea student Finn Murphy, about their battle to send him to an inclusive mainstream school.

Tell us something about you and your family, particularly Finn

Finn is 15 and lives in Harrow with his family and his dog Horace; he has lived all his life in this borough. He has a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy, muscle-eye brain disease (MEB) a neuro muscular condition which is characterised by him having a movement disorder, a visual impairment, a severe learning difficulty, and no speech, although he's just started to say "Mama"! Finn was the first person to be diagnosed with this condition in the UK and there are just a handful around the world with MEB. Finn loves music, noisy toys, people and visiting different places, especially the seaside.

The first school he attended was a special school which although it had many good features, didn't really provide Finn with what he needed. Finn is fully integrated into the community and regularly takes part in mainstream activities, for example he has a season ticket for Fulham Football Club.

Why do you think it is important for Finn to be included in mainstream education?

Mainstream education is important for disabled children because it provides invaluable learning opportunities with mainstream peers. It creates the possibility that children will not simply accept the segregationist attitudes so prevalent today. Teaching disabled and non-disabled children together provides a solid foundation for inclusion more generally in society. Whilst inclusion in school is essential, it is equally important in the workplace and inclusive education will enhance work opportunities for disabled people as it helps break down segregationist values. There is a lot of pressure on disabled people today to get a job and employers are expected to look favourably on employing them. Many employers have little or no experience of disabled people and may question why they are being asked to act supportively towards them when it has always been "someone else's" responsibility to engage with them – special schools etc. If all children were educated together, employers would be more likely to see how a disabled person could fit in to their workplace having learned all through school about the needs and abilities of their disabled peers. We believe special schools are an anachronism and hinder the pupils who attend them. Why would we want Finn to attend such an outdated institution? Finn was out of school for three years during which he received no help (therapy, etc) from the local authority (LA), but the advantages of him being at Eastlea Community School have made this huge sacrifice worth it.

The therapy Finn received in his special school came from the Local NHS Trust, as is generally the arrangement, where, astonishingly no service level agreement existed between the two organisations and the therapy he received was largely dreadful.

What have been the challenges?

There were a huge number of challenges in getting Finn into a mainstream school.

The LA (the London Borough of Harrow) did not support our preference for Finn to attend a mainstream school, claiming it wasn't 'suitable' and that "children like Finn do better in a special school". This approach is of course wholly unlawful. They then claimed there were no schools in the area that Finn could attend, but were not prepared to put any effort into making the schools 'suitable' as required by the Education Act 1996 and now the Children and Families Act 2014. There is a fully accessible school in Harrow that Finn could have attended; there are pupils there who are wheelchair users but the LA and the school were wholly hostile to Finn attending this school – one of the reasons being that Finn's presence would "upset" the other children. Indeed there were other schools in Harrow Finn could have attended but without exception they all adopted a segregationist attitude whilst at the same time claiming they were an inclusive school!! Around forty mainstream schools were contacted about a place for Finn and all except one refused - they all gave unlawful reasons, which were accepted by LB Harrow. The one out of borough school that did say Finn could attend changed their mind after meeting individuals from LB Harrow and then refused to take him. We went through the tribunal service (four hearings in total) which was lengthy, taking well over two years. Perhaps the most concerning part of it was that we were confronted by members of the judiciary who had attitudes towards inclusion that would have been more at home in the 19th century! The only positive result of Finn's case was that it was established that costs to the LA are not a reason to prevent a child attending a mainstream school.

Harrow were wholly resistant to acceding to our preference and spent many thousands of pounds of public money to prevent Finn attending a mainstream school, upholding their segregationist position. For example they spent over £15,000 on instructing their barrister.

On a more positive note we made comprehensive complaints against the judges etc involved in Finn's case about the bias shown by the tribunal service in favour of the LA, which were received with some anxiety. All those in the LA and the tribunal service who claimed that Finn couldn't attend a mainstream school have been proven wrong as Finn now attends a mainstream school in Newham called Eastlea Community School and is thriving!

What would have helped your family secure a mainstream school place for Finn?

The two things that would have helped would have been if those involved embraced inclusion rather than segregation. Secondly it would be a huge advantage if the LA and relevant members of the judiciary actually understood what the law says about mainstream education for children like Finn; this would have helped them discharge their obligations to our son and other children.

What advice would you give other parents of disabled children starting the inclusion journey?

I would like to offer four pieces of advice. Firstly, find out what your rights are in relation to mainstream education. Secondly, put as much effort as you need to into finding a school which will take your child. Thirdly don't take for granted that what your LA tell you about your child's entitlement to mainstream education is accurate because all or most of the agents of the LAs are ignorant as to their legal obligations towards your child or they will deliberately mislead you as they do not want to comply with your wishes and the law. Last of all, avoid telephone conversations and unnecessary meetings with agents of your LA, rather use email to communicate with them, as this provides a paper trail and could be used as evidence in your case. Meetings with these people tend to be an ineffective use of your time and are generally used by the LA to try to convince you to do what they want. For example, we were told by one uninformed individual that he thought mainstream school was not 'suitable' for Finn. The two problems with this advice are that firstly it is not suggested that a child go to an unsuitable school as the LA are obliged by law to make the school suitable, and secondly, the person giving the advice was deluded as he genuinely thought his opinion was significant.

Lastly I haven't met Finn so don't know whether he would want to say something. If he wants to or is able to - I was thinking maybe what does he like about school at the moment?

Finn loves everything about his school day, even the journey, and he's made huge progress especially in his walking. I would like to add that Finn's mainstream peers enjoy having him in classes, especially daily mentor time when they get together. Sometimes all his peers 'clap' for him because he likes it, other times they tell him to be quiet if they are listening to something and he's being noisy. Children who know Finn from their mentor group etc come over to him in the playground and say hello, which I'm sure he likes. He also loves interacting with many different members of staff and doing all sorts of interesting things. He finally has some brilliant therapists and has made more progress since starting at Eastlea than in all the previous years he attended school!!

 

Disability History Month - the language of disability

Schools and colleges should now be planning what they will do in this year's Disability History Month (22nd November - 22nd December). 34% of disabled Year 9 students (compared to 26% of non-disabled students) experience bullying through name calling according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Government. Schools have statutory duties to eliminate bullying, and examining the roots of disablist and pejorative language is essential in creating a climate of disability equality in your school or college. We have worked with the Anti Bullying Alliance on a whole range of resources to enable teachers to challenge language-based disablist bullying.

Historically disablist language is common. In Shakespeare's "Richard III", Scene I, Act I, Richard's first speech draws links between evil and disability.

"...Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;"

Shakespeare drew on Sir Thomas Moore's much earlier account of the Life and Death of Richard III which was written to curry favour with Henry VIII, whose father, Henry VII, had claimed the crown having killed Richard III in battle. Moore therefore embellished history, adding to both Richard's disability and his evil deeds.

Throughout history, physical and mental differences have been described in language reflecting the thinking of the day, reinforcing powerful stereotypes which still influence ideas about disabled people. Lame today is used by young people to mean something that is good, a reversal of the meaning not smart or impressive. In Shakespeare's time it meant both having an injured foot/leg, make walking difficult and not strong, good or effective. Overall the word is negative and not a good experience. Halt was a word in common use then, meaning the same as lame, as was cripple also meaning to move slowly, to be permanently injured or have no power. The polarity of good and evil/ beautiful and unsightly in language is found across all languages and is a major contributor to the devaluation of disabled people. Generally, disabled people of that period would have had families, worked and not been distinguished from the mass of people, unless severely impaired. Those not looked after by their community would have begged, though this became outlawed. So the impact of the play "Richard III" would have been dramatically strong. At a time when people generally believed in witchcraft and tangible forces of evil, it made a powerful link between disability and evil.

As part of this year's UKDHM we have worked with the Open University and Access All Areas to produce a pack for schools around No Longer Shut Up, a film on the life of Mabel Cooper. Mabel was placed in a hospital for the 'mentally deficient' at the age of 4 and stayed there more than 30 years. When eventually released under care in the community, she became a major advocate for people with learning difficulties and a founder of People First. The pack has activities for students from KS2-5 in English, drama, history, science, geography and PHSE. Agitation by eugenicists led to the 1913 Act which licensed inhumane incarceration of "idiots", "imbeciles", "feeble-minded persons" and "moral imbeciles", often for life. Some of these words, though unacceptable, are still in common use as harassing language, but most young people know nothing of this particularly nasty period of oppression. This year's UKDHM gives us an excellent chance to challenge such ignorance and rejoin the struggle for disability equality. The pack will be launched in Parliament at 11am, 22nd November. UKDHM will launch that evening at 6pm at Kings Place, Kings Cross. www.ukdhm.org

Let us know your events.

Richard Reiser

 

The Apprentice Chef

23 year old Maxime Soret's love for food and cooking was inspired by his father's ability to prepare simple but tasty meals, and by the international cuisine he experienced whilst dining out with his family. Now Maxime's prestigious two year level 3 professional cooking apprenticeship has given him the opportunity not only to taste, but to turn his hand to preparing signature dishes from around the world for hundreds of hungry MPs as an apprentice chef in the House of Commons' busy Larder and Terrace kitchens. Maxime explains the variety of dishes he has learnt both whilst working in the kitchens and at college.

"I helped prepare quite a lot of different meals, such as desserts, side dishes, starters and main courses. We do breakfasts and lunches. I prepared a lot of vegetables, and also dough for things like croissants. I also have the opportunity to do fancy things like canapés, skin rabbits, pluck pheasants and fillet fish involving cutting off the head and tail end and filleting it. I also cooked crab bisque that involves killing the crab whilst its moving."

Working as an apprentice chef is certainly not for the squeamish or for the faint hearted as Maxime says: "I worked mainly in The Larder, where we also did quite a lot of fancy things like canapés. At the Terrace, next to The Larder, I had to prepare lots of different dishes every day, and sometimes help out other chefs with the main courses needed for upstairs and downstairs. That was a bit too stressful. In The Larder, it was pretty much preparation work, rather than cooking hot meals. I can handle stoves and ovens, just for a little while, but it does get me, the humidity and heat."

Throughout the placement Maxime found the support he received from his bosses very encouraging and supportive. "The chefs were happy to help and support me, also the other employees," he said. "They would show me what they wanted me to do, practically – what I should use to prepare something, where it was stored, where to put the dirty things. There is a routine to do almost every day, every week, which I pretty much got to know how to do, and they would give me a demonstration of any new task."

During the first year Maxime attended a special awards ceremony to collect a certificate for his outstanding achievements.

One of the requirements of the apprenticeship is that apprentices must receive vocational training that leads onto a recognised professional level 3 qualification. So one day a week Maxime has been attending West Kingsway College where he has completed an NVQ level 3 qualification in Professional Cookery alongside his non-disabled peers. The course has covered all aspects of professional cooking, and the apprentices complete online, practical and work-based assessments. Whilst at college all the apprentices are provided with a laptop where they store their work and complete online assessments.

Maxime, who has Asperger's syndrome, requires both a working and learning environment that is inclusive of apprentices who behave and learn in different ways from their peers. Maxime prefers a structured environment where there are plenty of opportunities for learning by doing, aided by visual demonstrations when practising and perfecting his professional cooking skills. He is provided with learning support assistance including help with understanding the theory aspects of the course and the assessment arrangements.

"There was quite a lot of theory involved on the health and safety and food hygiene side of catering in the workplace. I had to learn about food hygiene – using the right colour of chopping boards with vegetables, salads, raw meat, cooked meat and dairy products. I had a Learning Support Tutor. She helped me pretty much every week with lessons, with my English skills, and in the cooking assessments. She did not know a lot about cooking but did understand what my mentor said, and what to do. She helped me to understand questions better and what exactly a particular subject had to do with. She helped with assignments, and during cooking assessments, she helped me to go through the instructions that the course tutor gave me."

Maxime received support not only from his learning support assistant but also from his fellow students as he explains: "The course tutor was OK but the ones who helped most when I got stuck on the cooking side were the other students."

After experiencing a variety of work environments during his current and previous level two professional apprenticeship placements, Maxime has a clear idea what type of role he wants to do – he would like to work in a school where there is a regular routine and scheduled breaks. "I'd like to just continue being a commis chef, able to help with a lot of things – vegetables, pastries, meats etc., work that is interesting but not extremely complicated."

His apprenticeship has now come to an end and he is currently looking for paid employment elsewhere – he has had a work trial with Harrison's catering company who had a contract with local schools.

Whilst Maxime's apprenticeship experience was a positive one, there have been some hiccups along the way. He was not registered for the level 2 functional skills maths exam which he needs in order to gain his full apprenticeship certificate. Maxime's mother feels that mainstream apprenticeship providers need better knowledge and skills around placing disabled apprentices and providing them with appropriate support. And the local council have been dragging their feet for two years, which has meant that Maxime has not benefitted from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and qualified learning support assistance during the apprenticeship placement, despite a number of successful tribunal appeals. ALLFIE is beginning to address all these issues with ministers.

In the meantime we wish Maxime the best of luck in finding work in the catering industry.

Since the last edition of Inclusion Now, the Government has commissioned Paul Maynard to chair an independent taskforce which will make recommendations on the accessibility of apprenticeships for people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities. We were pleased to read that the Government has accepted the recommendations on making reasonable adjustments around the Maths and English standards and will pilot an apprenticeship programme aimed at people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities. For a full report see our campaigns membership briefing which focuses on apprenticeships.

Simone Aspis

 

Access to the Curriculum and Exams

I am a teacher and an AAC practitioner. AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) refers to the use of low-tech, paper-based boards or high tech, computer-based programmes to help a person communicate.

Jane is 11 and starts secondary school next year. She has cerebral palsy and uses a communication book to talk. She attends her local mainstream junior school and everything was fine until national curriculum changes came into force in 2014. Teachers were concerned for all students because they were being asked to jump two years of learning with no lead-in time. Jane is not able to work at a pace to fill the gap and was already behind her peers in literacy, not because she has learning difficulties but because she has access difficulties. If you can't hold a pen to write and you can't rehearse phonics aloud you will take longer to acquire literacy, but it doesn't mean you can't. Jane has trouble concentrating, understandably, when you think about how much harder she has to work than her peers to achieve the same output. Sometimes she daydreams (don't all kids!). The problem was how this was perceived. There was an assumption that she had plateaued and therefore had learning difficulties. Happily, I and a few other practitioners were asked to support Jane and her school and she is making progress daily.

Jason is 18 and has just completed a maths A level in which he gained an A*. Those of us who support him, his family and Jason himself are thrilled. He has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair and an electronic communication aid . Before he did his GCSEs we had to go to the exam boards to get them to agree to his way of working. They took some persuading to agree he could have 400% extra time and do each exam over 2 days.

Rory is 16 and studying for entry level GCSEs. Like the rest of the curriculum, the demands of these exams have increased. The same or similar guidance applies to these as to GCSEs but Rory's access to writing has been a stumbling block. Rory has some speech and is considered to have severe learning difficulties. The guidance indicated he could not have someone scribe for him while he dictated his thoughts. Rory is great at speaking his answers, but if he has to write them down he freezes. This was explained to the exam boards. The board showed they can be flexible and Rory is allowed a scribe although it is not recommended in the guidelines.
Exam board guidelines are just that. They are not rules and they are not statutory requirements. The exam boards are doing the best they can to adhere to the 2010 Equality Act which requires them:

"to make reasonable adjustments where a candidate, who is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, would be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. The awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to overcome that disadvantage."

Exam boards need more knowledge and understanding of the needs of students with complex communication and learning needs, but are not hard-hearted. They can be negotiated with and every case is individual. We are looking for ways exam boards can enable students to use their specialist communication software for reading as well as writing. The important thing to remember is that all aspects of exam access are a matter of negotiation on the basis of individual needs and how the student normally works in the classroom.

Students should work in a way that is efficient for access and their individual needs from the moment they join secondary school. It is essential that students who have communication and movement difficulties can access learning materials in the same way as their non-disabled peers. They need worksheets and text books committed to their communication devices in the same way speech is supported by a communication device. Non-disabled peers can refer to their notes or their text books. An AAC user cannot do this unless these resources are on their AAC device.

Buying an off the shelf solution is not normally an option. Schools need to learn to develop adaptations to suit each individual student so that the student experiences a broad and balanced curriculum. Ease of access is paramount. This will often mean that the software the student needs to use for communication will also, at least some of the time, need to be used for their curriculum access. It will also require attention to how the student physically uses the software to minimise exertion. The ability to think is compromised when you struggle with a physical task. Some students can point to keyboards and screens but some might need the size of selections changing. Some might benefit from a key guard over a touch screen or keyboard to prevent miss-hits. For students with more complex movement needs, adapted joysticks, eye-gaze or the use of switches may be considered.

Word lists, which are often the main way the curriculum is managed, are useful but only as part of an overall picture where schools ensure students have access to a wide range of learning materials they can manipulate themselves in the same way as their non-disabled peers. A difficulty with word lists is that reliance on whole word reading and selecting detracts from a vital skill that all AAC users need - the ability to spell. If you cannot speak, the only way to say or write anything you want is to spell. Perfect spelling ability is not necessary. As long as you know the first one or two letters in a word then a good word prediction system will often provide the rest and speed up your writing. Exam boards currently accept the use of word prediction if it is a student's normal way of working.

Teaching assistants need to reduce their support and increase the student's independence. It is not sufficient for them to take notes into an ordinary exercise book on behalf of the student nor to read aloud to the student from a text book or worksheet. This creates dependence. There is an urgent need for more teachers to become familiar with AAC so that they can oversee the development of independent working. There is not one size that fits all so teachers need to get to know what is available that will meet their students' needs.

Marion Stanton www.candleaac.com

 

Segregation in Ashton-on-Mersey


Ashton on Mersey were trail blazers. Now they are setting the clock back.As a disabled student Ashton on Mersey delivered a great education for me. Now they are set to put up barriers for the next generation of disabled students.

I was born in the late '80s, an era when disability was kept out of the norm, and a disabled child attending a mainstream school was taboo. I started my early years at a "special needs" nursery called Rodney House, followed by a "special needs" primary school, Lancasterian. I was born with cerebral palsy and because I was disabled only special needs schools would accept me.

Don't get me wrong, special school had perks - I had physiotherapy every day, and occasional hydrotherapy. But that was it. I was not pushed academically, and I was bored. We did get workbooks that I completed keenly, and I thought I was a mini Einstein as I was so quick to finish them.

I was brought up by my auntie and uncle. I remember in 1992, the new Education Act came out, which moved my uncle to push for me to attend mainstream school. He succeeded, but we were not able to get the school of our choice because there were only a few mainstream schools that accepted disabled pupils. These were called "barrier-free" schools. I completed my last year of primary school in Levenshulme, which was 12.2 miles away from where I lived, and completed two years of secondary school in Wythenshawe, 8 miles away. I really enjoyed these schools, though when I finally got there, I realised I was not as academically bright as I had thought, and had to work hard to catch up with the other children. Additionally, it was very hard to socialise with my peers outside of school because they lived so far away. They didn't really know my area and I couldn't hang out with them after school because I had a taxi scheduled at the end of the day to bring me straight home. I felt like an outsider.

Ironically, there was a perfectly well-functioning mainstream secondary school across the road from me: Ashton-on-Mersey High School. I think Ashton is where I truly excelled. I loved the school, and socialising with peers from my local area. Because I enjoyed my environment, I flourished academically, and for the first time I felt accepted for being me. My disability was not perceived as being "other", and socialisation made me feel part of the norm. Of course, at times I did feel different, but most teenagers feel different in some way or another.

Without attending Ashton, I would have never been able to attend my local grammar school and receive three As at A-level, study psychology at a top university, become a national representative of disabled students in the UK, sit on the board of a leading disability charity, and be working towards becoming a Doctor of Health Psychology.

I stand by my belief that a good education is the key to success, whether through academia or preparing a child to function in the real world. I actually visited Ashton a few years ago and was amazed by their determination to include disabled pupils. When I was at school, there were only a handful of disabled pupils, but when I visited, they were very proud to tell me they now had over 100 disabled children and that each individual was supported so they could socialise with their peers, disabled or not. I was so proud of the school and proud to be a part of its history. I went back to the charity that I was a board director of and encouraged them to apply the same practice. I don't agree with segregation in any sense of the word, whether because of disability, gender or religious beliefs; Ashton was a prime example of how everybody could work together in order to socialise children of diverse backgrounds and abilities for the real world.

Last year, my nephew completed his eleven-plus exams. He got accepted into a well-renowned local grammar school. However, because of the excellence I had seen in Ashton, I actively pushed for him to attend this school instead. For my nephew, I wanted a future where disability is in the norm and to see him socialised in an environment where he knows no difference.

I was therefore extremely disappointed to read a recent article whereby I discovered that Ashton had decided to transfer its new cohort of disabled pupils to another of its schools, 6 miles away. Ashton-on-Mersey is part of the Dean Trust, which runs several schools across the Northwest. The papers have described this cohort as moving from a "well-performing school to a worse school because of limited resources." This may be the case, but for me there is a bigger issue. As I said before, education is not just about academic success, but the socialisation of children to accept people from diverse backgrounds. I am not just disappointed for the new cohort of disabled students, but for the current students of the school, disabled or not. If the school goes ahead with this decision, it is sending an outward message to children like my nephew that disabled people are not part of the norm, and should be dealt with separately. I want my nephew to grow up in a world which accepts differences; to come back from school knowing that disability is part of the norm, rather than boasting about how much money Rashford is earning at Manchester United while still receiving a sound education at Ashton due to its capacity as a sports college with funding from the club. If Ashton-on-Mersey can provide such an education to these young players, and has been doing since 1998, then I am sure there is a way to resource education for disabled pupils.

Ashton-on-Mersey should be proud of its accomplishment of educating those from different backgrounds, whether they are Manchester United's next top player or a child with cerebral palsy. We are not back in the 80s, we are in 2016, and I urge Ashton to reconsider its decision to move its new cohort of disabled children to another school when they could be setting a prime example for all academies to follow.

Rupy Kaur

 

Tribute to Linda Whitehead

It is with deep sadness that we have to announce the death of Linda Whitehead (1954 – 2016). She is known to many in Allfie and Parents for Inclusion as a very gifted trainer and indomitable fighter for all her children, including Sonny. She was taken by cancer at a much-too-young age.

Our most vivid memories of Linda are about her passion for inclusive education and her fearless warrior-like attitude to changing the hearts and minds of people who, at the point they met Linda, 'didn't get it' but were on the path to inclusion enlightenment soon afterwards.

We also recall in appreciation her amazing support for ALLFIE and our work – Linda was a natural ally and really understood and did everything she could to encourage the voice and representation of Disabled people. She was and will continue to be an important influence in ALLFIE's history and our work because of her unswerving belief in the power of people working together for change.

 

Linda Love

Another precious life completed
Another friend now silent but for the memories
Her generous wisdom handed out
In Linda Love infusions for the soul

I will always hear the giggles
The music and the poems
Treasure the side by side work
Unlocking the pain of parents
Afraid to dream for their children
Healing with hope

My comrade at work
My counsellor at home,
My ally in the dark times,
My conspirator in the light

Our last phone call
Used to acknowledge and absorb
How loved she was by so many
Always true, but never before felt
By her.
A living gift of dying

I ache for those left -
Dear Tim consoling himself
In the deep wrap of saxophone mourning
For the four Linda buds now independently blossoming
Singing, dancing, acting and loving,
What a wonderful legacy.

Micheline Mason

 

Legal Question

I am a disabled parent and wheelchair user. My LA has refused my first choice of primary school for my four year old son on the basis of infant class size. He is currently in Nursery at the same school and as the building is wheelchair accessible I can take him to school and participate in activities such as reading time. The school we have been offered isn't wheelchair accessible which means I could no longer do this. I have appealed and been turned down because I didn't state any SEND in the admissions application. The admissions process only asked about a child's SEND and not about the access requirements of parents. I have looked at the admissions guidance and cannot see any reference to disabled parents. What can I do?

What is infant class size prejudice?

Infant class size prejudice relates to a legal duty that requires all infant classes (reception – year 2 inclusive) to have no more than 30 pupils per qualified teacher, except in very limited circumstances.
Due to this law, the grounds on which appeals can be successful are more limited and normally have lower chances of success, than a non-infant class size appeal.

What are the limited grounds?

Independent Appeal Panels can only admit a child who has been refused due to infant class size prejudice if:

• the admission arrangements are unlawful.
• the admission arrangements were not correctly and impartially applied; and
• the refusal to admit is a decision a reasonable admission authority would not have made in the circumstances of the case.

How does this apply in the current case?

When considering the lawfulness of the admission arrangements the Independent Appeal Panel must take into consideration if the arrangements comply with the Equality Act 2010 and in particular consider any arguments that the arrangements are discriminatory. I would recommend seeking further legal advice for this point to be considered in more detail in your case.

With regards to whether the decision refusing admission to the school is one a reasonable admission authority would have made, it is usually based on the information that was available to the Admission Authority when the admission application was submitted. If the Admission Authority were not aware of your disability at the time you applied, then the Panel would not be able to consider it under that ground for admission at appeal. However, if the school is their own Admission Authority, rather than the Local Authority, you could have grounds to argue they would have had knowledge at the time the application was made, as he is currently attending the school's nursery. If that is the case, your disability should have been taken into consideration under this ground. However this does not necessarily mean that your son should have been given a place at appeal, because it would still be for the Independent Appeal Panel to decide if, knowing of your disability and the impact it has on taking your son to school and participating in his learning, the decision was unreasonable.

Can the decision be overturned?

There are ways, although limited, to try and overturn the decision of the Independent Appeal Panel and these vary depending on whether you are concerned the decision is unlawful such that there was a procedural error.
If the decision is considered unlawful you may be advised to pursue the matter to the High Court, through a type of court proceedings known as Judicial Review. Ordinarily there is a strict deadline to take this matter to the High Court, within 3 months of the date of the decision informing you that the appeal was unsuccessful. There will also be some initial work that must be completed before trying to take it to Court.

If it is considered that there have been some procedural errors, then you may have grounds to make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman or if the school is an Academy School, to the Education Funding Agency. The deadline is not as tight to pursue these as it is with Court action, and you must ordinarily do it within 12 months of the date of knowing of the procedural error.

You should be aware that you cannot pursue both Court action and a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman/ Education Funding Agency, and in many cases, there may not be grounds to pursue either. Thus I recommend you seek legal advice to determine which of these if any would be recommended in your case.

Should you not be able to overturn the decision I would recommend you liaise with your son's school as to reasonable adjustments that they can make so you can take him to school and participate in his learning. I recommend you seek legal advice should the school refuse to make such adjustments.

Samantha Hale

Samantha Hale is an Associate Solicitor with Simpson Millar and specialises in Education, Community Care and Public Law. www.simpsonmillar.co.uk