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Inclusion Now Articles Issue 5

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Inclusion on the Isle of Dogs - George Green School profiled

Lessons from Around the World - International Perspective by Professor Mel Ainscow

Restorative Justice - A different approach to discipline

Thinking about Young People in Care - presentation by Philip Awofesobi and Jackie Deardon

Education Inclusion Rap - Philip Awofesobi

Mainstream in Nottingham - Young People's experiences

Taking Action for Change - presentation by Parents for Inclusion

Greener Grass - Charlotte Patrick tells her story

The Many Faces of Racism - presentation by Suresh Grover

Reflections on an Inclusive School - John O'Brien

New Act Comes into Force - implementing the SEN Disability Act

A Tribute to Nihal Armstrong - pupil at South Camden Community School

 

Inclusion on the Isle of Dogs

George Green School is a secondary school in East London which has become a dynamic centre of inclusive education. Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, talks to Micheline Mason about her philosophy on inclusive schooling.

Our school was not one of these schools which are designed by the LEA to become a speciality-resourced secondary school. It became an inclusive school by having an open admissions policy and open minds! The staff at the school are friendly with a 'can do' attitude. They want the best for young people and see it as their role to overcome barriers.
Enrolling our first student who used a wheelchair was our incentive to have ramps built and to ensure basic access was established. We built on these beginnings by being open to learning from the students, from parents, and from other schools, and from learning from our mistakes…. And we made lots! Our teachers and support staff are fantastic and have a really positive attitude. When we advertise for new staff we implicitly state our position on inclusion, we talk about it, its part of our literature and part of everything we do…… you cannot miss the message "All different. All equal". When we interview new staff the first question is about equal opportunities and inclusion. Those with a 'not my job' attitude don't get employed here! We like teachers who can 'think outside the box' and who can find solutions not problems.
We teach largely in mixed ability groups and only have setting in a small number of subjects at Key Stage 4. This is something we have discussed at great length and we believe that we need to be able to meet the needs of each individual pupil. Pupils learn from each other as well as from the teacher - we aim to use all our resources to meet the needs of individuals. We are working hard to make our curriculum as flexible as possible as 'one size' does not fit all! Not everyone can handle 10 GCSE subjects (or indeed 10 different teachers) at a time so we provide alternatives to meet their needs. We do not allow pupils to decide where they sit in class. Instead, all teachers have a seating plan so we can mix girls and boys, ethnic groups, and pupils of all abilities. This way, pupils can support each other's learning and can get to know each other in a structured environment. This often leads to new friendships outside the classroom. Staff development is constant. We have regular residential conferences for all our staff to share what they know with each other.
A local special school for young people with physical impairments and learning difficulties has closed down and we have admitted many of their pupils into the school. Many students from local special schools have joined our sixth form and we are putting on a variety of courses at appropriate entry levels to meet their needs. We organise circles of friends to help them to establish themselves. Many sixth form students and indeed pupils from other year groups volunteer to help with hydrotherapy and other activities. We are organising work experience for all our students. In fact, some of them are working here in the school, on the phones or in the library. It raises their self-esteem and gives them some money and it helps us to cope with the workload! Some ex-pupils have come back here to work as Teaching Assistants and ICT technicians.
We have trained a special group of staff as our Supervisors and have trained them in behaviour management, in conflict resolution strategies and in equal opportunities and a whole host of other skills. They work throughout the day on a rota basis and give tremendous support to staff and pupils. They wear a red uniform, which means they are very visible in the playground or corridors or around the school. They run the breakfast clubs, do the first day absence calls, check the toilets and support supply teachers and will spot bullying at a glance! They are worth their weight in gold! We pay for this team from our Pupils Retention Grant and from the monies we used to spend on Mealtime Supervisors. The Supervisors all live locally and know everything that goes on in the local community. They also know every child in the school and are great ambassadors for the school.
We have over 30 Teacher Assistants and they are divided into specialised groups with team leaders: hearing impairment, emotional and behavioural difficulties and complex needs. No one person is simply attached to one child, but one to one support is organised in negotiation with the child concerned. There would always be back up so no child would be disadvantaged. All our TA's are well trained and developed and have a clear career structure with lots of opportunities for advancement. They are really appreciated by pupils and staff!
We have a lot of children with statements for emotional and behavioural difficulties and if any of them is causing problems outside of school, I still feel it is my responsibility. This is of great concern to me. We do a lot of work on anti-bullying, working with both perpetrators and victims. We work closely with the Police and with outside agencies as we need to work together to find solutions to issues that arise in the local area.
This is a happy school, with lots of laughter. The local community has become involved with the school, especially when we started fund raising for a lift. We raised £17,000 through discos, quiz evenings, karaoke, a mini opera and competitions. It is all a part of community building. We are getting a three million-pound re-fit from the DfES so we can start to get the building the way we need it. But it is not about buildings. It is about people.
My message to other Headteachers?
Inclusion is a benefit - not a cost!

Micheline:
Are there enough Head Teachers like you to go round?
Kenny:
I think if you are a teacher who believes in inclusion you must push yourself forward, develop your leadership and go for it.

Bukhtiar Ahmed speaks about being the first disabled pupil at the school:
I was one of the first pupils to come here. At the time I went to another 'resourced' school in Whitechapel. I went on a bus and I had to be on it at 6am and I didn't get home until 6pm. Also, at that school, the pupils were not that friendly. Hilary Maguire, the Inclusion officer for Tower Hamlets encouraged me to visit George Green School, my local school, with my Mum and Dad. There were problems getting around then, no ramps or anything, but they were talking about changing things. Mum and Dad were worried that I'd get bullied. They came 5 times before they agreed.
I had to miss 2-3 lessons at first. I was the centre of attention when I came because I was the only wheelchair user. I was asked lots of questions but in a friendly way.
Everyone knows me now. I had a relative in the same form and they introduced me to Jason and Gavin. I have lots of friends now but you can't have too many friends can you? My little brother comes here now and my sister's in year 10. Friends come to my house, which never happened when I was at Swanlea. In fact, I think everyone on the Isle of Dogs knows me.
I am doing A level Business, Media Studies and IT and can keep up with it all. I had one assistant at first but now have several, but it is negotiated. When I was ill, they brought work home for me. Teachers visited me too. After this year I want to take a year out and go to work before going to Uni'. The only thing I don't like about it here is that the lift keeps breaking down!

Summer School Section
Introduction:
The Inclusion Now Summer School was an amazing event attended by over 150 people. All the workshop leaders donated their time to help build a vibrant and dynamic movement for inclusive education in the UK. The following pages contain a few excerpts from some of the speakers as well as thoughts from participants both during and after the event. The full transcripts are a treasure of good thinking and information. They are available from the Alliance for Inclusive Education as a Summer School Pack (£10 inc.p&p). Proceeds will go towards next years' event.

Lessons from around the world

By Mel Ainscow
I've been interested in notions of inclusion for more years than I like to remember, and I have to say, I don't remember a better time than now to take this agenda and move forward.
What I'm going to talk to you about is my own journey. Around about 1988, I was invited to join a project that was being organised by UNESCO. My background is in the special education world. This experience of working internationally has forced me to rethink those experiences and to try to get clarity about what it is that I now believe I am trying to aim for. All my work had been in England, so I took with me experiences and ideas from England that we had developed. I didn't have to be in these countries very long before I realised how absolutely useless all these experiences were, and how unhelpful they were to me in thinking how I might move forward because, for example in China, the first thing we found was the typical class size in any primary school was approximately 70 children, and there I am arriving from England with all this luggage about how you have to assess children individually and devise programmes. It was gradually dawning on me that it wasn't even possible to do that with a class of 30, heaven forbid trying to do it with a class of 70. What I found myself doing was looking at what the teachers in those contexts were doing themselves, looking at the kinds of practices they were using.
I gradually realised that in those contexts, even where teachers were working with these massive numbers of children, many of the teachers that I watched and talked to and heard about had developed remarkable skills in planning their lessons and orchestrating their lessons in such a way that they could draw the different learners into the common experience that was being provided. And so the first lesson that struck me was: if you were wanting to take an education system forward from wherever it is, whether it is a large class size of 70 somewhere in China, or whether it's a much smaller class size here in England, the starting point has to be with the skills and the knowledge that already exist in the context that you're working in. So that was the lesson that I took from those experiences wherever I went.
In one of the classrooms in Ghana, I remember saying to one of the teachers, "I'm part of a UNESCO project and we've come here to help you think about how you're going to deal with children who are experiencing difficulties. What kind of help do you need?" The teacher said, "Well, I need more books." He explained that he had 45 children in his class and that for every lesson he only had one book, and so if he was going to teach a lesson in English he had to go into the classroom beforehand and write the comprehension on the blackboard. I thought, all this guy is looking for is more books and we're spending fortunes sending people to Ghana from England, sending people to the moon and golly, we must somewhere have got our principles wrong. In this particular school, I suddenly became aware that there was this young man in one of the classes who had a physical disability and was hopping into the classroom using this stick and I followed him into his lesson and watched what was going on. He was sitting at the front, and I talked to the young teacher who was working with him and I said, "I notice you've got this young man with a disability in your class - how is it that this boy comes to your school?" The teacher looked at me rather curiously. What I was doing, of course, was asking the Western question, the question born of my own experience when I was probably thinking the boy should have been having some form of special help. Well, the teacher didn't understand that, and he said to me, "Where else would he go?" Of course the teacher lives there, in the community, so these are all his children, they are all part of his community. And you start to think that there maybe something in this, in the sophisticated north we have lost the belief that we share responsibility for all children, and they're all our children because they're all part of our community.
Another question I asked him was what special arrangements he made for him. He said, "I try to love him like I love the other children", and I thought, what a lovely answer. If a teacher said that in England he'd probably get arrested.
We also worked in relatively well-to-do parts of the world, the Austrian education system is wonderfully well resourced. I watched this lesson - the classroom almost looked like Ikea, all the kids had these beautiful pencil and crayon sets. There were 16 children in the class, but because there were two children who had been classified as having special needs, there was a second a teacher as well. On some occasions when the main teacher was talking to the rest of the class, the special teacher stood in front of her two children with her back to the rest of the class so that she could work separately with her two children in the classroom. And they call this integration! Look at the opportunities that are being missed! The possibility of two teachers working with 16 children, the creativity that that could develop in a way that could benefit all the children as well as helping these two children who are classified as being special in some way to participate in a more active way. I'm led to conclude that sometimes our sophisticated resources and our technology actually get in the way and inhibit the creativity that might help us to develop schools that are genuinely more inclusive.
I contrast that with other places I've been to such as Laos. Laos has just about the poorest economic situation in the world, it's a small country hidden away between Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. I watched this lesson that was being taught by, again, a young man teacher, and he'd drawn a picture of the local countryside. For the first ten minutes he entertained the children by talking to them about the local countryside and talking about nature and trees and animals and birds, and then he said to them, "OK, I'm, going to give you a question" and he wrote it on the blackboard. He said, "Now I want you to go into your groups and I want you to work together to address this question" and immediately, because these children had obviously done it before - they didn't need to be given instructions - they turned around and they started to work together. Immediately this classroom was transformed. These children had been sitting rather passively, listening or possibly not even listening, understanding or maybe not understanding, and suddenly these learners were active learners, they were collaborative learners and they were sharing one another's resources and using one another's resources to make this learning experience meaningful and valuable to every one of their members. And it made me think, how creative people will be if they are given the time, the space and the encouragement. What he's done is discover for himself something we spend millions of dollars on in the West, understanding that one of the greatest resources for stimulating participation and learning in any classroom environment are the learners themselves.
Running through my stories, I have come up with some ideas which are things which I think are worth thinking about. The mistake of a lot of our early work on integration, and I was much guilty of this, we that we tried to transport special education into the mainstream. It does not work, it does not fit. It's born of a different tradition and a different environment.
So the task is not about bringing new techniques into the school, it's actually about making better use of the skills, knowledge and creativity that is there. That's what inclusion is about, it's changing the culture of the school, it's not a technical task, it's a social task.
Human resources are about the most important factor in relation to that. But it's also about breaking down the isolation that still permeates the profession of teaching, where teachers still work separately with the door closed, not knowing what anybody else is doing within their organisation. That is in itself an organisational barrier that we have inherited from the past and which we have to overcome. We have to create a language so that teachers, like other professional people, can share ideas about what they are doing but can also think in more detail about their own practice, something we find very often that teachers have difficulty with.
If there's one thing that comes out of all those stories and all those experiences from those wonderful places I have had the privilege to go to, the one thing I'm clear about, is if you want to bring about improvements in your education system, the most important thing is the will of people to make it happen.
Mel Ainscow is Professor of Education at Manchester University

 

Restorative Justice - A different approach to discipline

Reflections on a workshop led by Robin Tinker and Kate Slowikowski.
It was the second day of the conference and connections with people and ideas were running deeper than I expected. So it was no surprise that Robin Tinker's workshop on 'Restorative Justice', which I attended mainly out of curiosity, opened my mind to endless possibilities for negotiating and ending harmful behaviour. This is the kind of behaviour that begins on a 'drip, drip' basis and eventually ends up creating 'victims' and 'offenders', 'punishment' and eventually 'exclusions'.
Although Robin and Kate who ran the workshop, based it on school errant behaviour and demonstrated the techniques on video footage of actual case studies, it could be applied in various other social situations. The important thing was that it worked and it was moving watching boys who bullied others actually admitting to the harm they caused and making a written agreement together on how it would be stopped.
Based on thinking by Hilary Stacey and Belinda Hopkins, 'Restorative Justice constitutes an innovative approach to offending and inappropriate behaviour which puts repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and dispensing punishment'.. . and 'all those affected by an incident or conflict being involved in finding a mutually acceptable way forward'.
There were a set of clear, uncomplicated guidelines for facilitators, schools and LEAs could buy in their support and although the statistics are yet to arrive, I was certain that such intervention would go a long way towards reducing the high number of exclusions in schools and creating a more supportive and inclusive environment.
Preethi Manuel

Robin Tinker and Kate Slowikowski work in the Anti-Bullying Support Team in Nottingham Education Department and can be contacted on: 0115 915 0940.

 

Thinking about young people in Care

A presentation by Philip Awofesobi, who is an Achievement Mentor for children in public care in Nottingham City, and Jackie Deardon, who is an Educational Psychologist, also for children in public care in Nottingham City.

Philip: My true mentor role, what I do, is build relationships with young people so that I know what they want. I build trust between me and the young person. I try and speak to them about what they want and what they like doing in school. I try and use what they say to help them and for instance, if someone says, "I don't like this teacher because he does X, Y and Z and I don't like going to his lesson," I'd go back to the designated teacher in school, or my senior, and raise the issues that he doesn't like this and he doesn't like that so that things can get sorted out more easily. A young person wouldn't tell any other person who came to ask them these questions so it's easier for me to go and speak to them and try and get it out of them.

Jackie: Philip is a young person from a care background that not everybody thought could do very much at all at times, and here he is, employed in his old school doing a brilliant job. One of the young men that Philip works with said 'It's different having Philip, he knows what it's like, he's been there. I'll talk to him'.

Philip: I support in school quite a lot. If a young person isn't going to school at all and they don't like school and they don't want to go to school, if I can get them into school for a couple of sessions a week that would be more than excellent. With this particular young person I started off with I started to get them into school, and after a while I stopped working with them just to see how it would go, and he started to go to school on his own. I think I'm the only person to get him into school.

Jackie: This young boy wasn't going to talk to any adults, certainly wasn't going to talk to me, and I said to Philip, 'I don't know what this youngster wants to do, can you see if you can talk to him?' Within half an hour the young man had told Philip what he wanted to do in terms of his education. These young people do not trust us adults and they have every reason not to, so we need to find another way in.

Philip: I also use activities in the community. If I do not support them in school I try and find out what the difficulties are and what's wrong through taking them out bowling or any kind of educational visit. I've done a lot of training, I've helped out with designated teachers, and given them another perspective, a similar thing to what I'm doing now.
If you were in our workshop yesterday, you will have heard about the gap between the educational department and the social services department which young people fall through because systems create failure, not in all cases but in a lot of cases that happens. In the future I think people should listen more to young people. Communicate.

Jackie: There's a huge issue about communication between education and social services, and about communication within residential homes. Residential homes have staff changes, shift changes, you leave one message five minutes ago, ten minutes later it's a new member of staff and the message hasn't been passed on. So in terms of timetables in schools and where people should be and when they should be there, communication is a huge issue and we're really bad at it.

Philip: I think we're a very very long way from success, a long way from the day when every young person, regardless of whether they're in local authority care or not, is going to school at least 80%.
I used to think that teachers were just there to pick on you, but now I know that teachers are doing their job. Care staff boss you around like your mum and dad - I used to feel that, but now I know there are certain regulations you have to stick by. Life is like a book. It's got your name on the front of it. The first 20 pages is your past and the page beyond that is today. On the next couple of pages you can write what you want to do in the future. You can write you're a doctor or a surgeon or an actor, or anything you want, the world is full of possibilities and opportunities. Throughout life there are always distractions and hurdles, but when those hurdles crop up the thing you have to do is pick yourself up and stay on track. I also feel that everything boils down to education.
Education is your life development.

 

Education Inclusion Rap

by Philip Awofesobi
There's something about our education
That's totally baffling the nation
Young people full of frustration
About any form of separation
They seem to think teachers, are just preachers
Pupils be cursing, classroom dispersing
I think when we go to class
We don't know that we need to get a pass
Some people think it's cool, to mess up at school
Which leads to exclusion, we need inclusion
I think we want to be liked and hyped
But there's no reason to be stereotyped
We all should be together, in any weather
Regardless if we're bad behaved or clever
It needs to be renewed, that we're valued
We need to learn, the last thing we need's a feud
We don't need to be judged and smudged
This ain't a small problem you know it won't budge
Need to be respected, not neglected
Because of our faults we will get rejected
This needs to be inspected you know the score
It's not one of these things that you can ignore
If I was the PM you'd be breaking the law
It's like nothing that I've ever saw before
As everyone can see it's a pain in the jaw
We've now got support, we need more & more & more
We all need to listen, need to communicate
We need to pull our socks up before it's too late
We totally resent, future unemployment
We hope from now on service gives 100%
We said what we meant, it's time for development
We want co-operation, and commitment
Whether you're in care, or you're at home
We don't know what it's like when you're feeling alone
You need to talk to us cause you can't take it on your own
When we come and talk to you, you tend to moan and groan
Don't get too close with your congregation
We all know you want a qualification
Don't wreck your chances with confrontation
Because there's nothing more secure that your education.

 

Mainstream in Nottingham

Young people's voices
Maresa Mackeith and her cousin Daisy and friend Lindsay talk about the importance of inclusion:
Maresa MacKeith
Young people can't understand why we can't be together. It's obvious to us that we need each other. This is why young people need to have a voice. It's been so hard for me to make friends; this is because it was years before I was allowed into school to be part of ordinary school life. When I did get in, it was still hard because I wasn't an ordinary student, first part time and then in a unit. What I would have liked was to be there as an ordinary student and people would have got used to me. Although I was eventually an ordinary student and it meant a lot to me to be allowed to study.
But the reason we are here and what makes a good life is lost. We need to challenge in a big way the power behind the people who make big money and try to make us into slaves, as this is what prevents us disabled people from having what we need. I would like to see us all asking the people we know why they are so busy and if the things they do are important for promoting what they need.
If we all made the needs of each other a priority, we would live in a world without rush and could spend time learning about each other and what we need. All our needs as disabled people would be then seen as an exciting privilege.

Daisy Mackeith
School isn't there just to pass exams: all experience is a learning experience. There's too much emphasis on exams. What's valuable is the learning from relationships with other students and teachers, so when you meet someone with a different perspective that can only be a positive learning experience.
The point of school is to learn, and what's more important to learn about than people?

Lindsay Wallace
Like many of the children at school, I had never been around disabled people before as I am myself able-bodied and had always attended a school which didn't cater for disabled children.
Because Maresa was in my year group I got to know her very well, although this took quite a while not only because of the lack of information we had about her but also the lack of time we had just to sit and chat and find out about each other.
I think that these are just simple things that could have made a massive difference in making Maresa and others feel included. I often found that many of the pupils would ask me questions about Maresa instead of directly finding out for themselves by asking her. I think that if we were given more information and opportunities to learn about Maresa, and of the young people with disabilities, then everyone in the school would have great disability awareness. I do, however, feel that inclusion within the school will improve with time.
There is no doubt that the changes made were for the better, but it felt as if too much planning went into the actual physical changes, like lifts and toilets, and although these are obviously essential, I thought that how the school were actually going to include disabled pupils in school life could have been given a lot more thought.
Time and awareness are what I think are two key factors into inclusion in schools, and although there were faults with the alterations the school certainly tried to make it work. I would like to think that all schools will make similar alterations soon, so that inclusion of disabled pupils is a natural part of everyday life. An unnecessary line that separates can be removed, not only to enable inclusion in education and school life but also in society.

Lucy Fisher talks about her experience as a disabled person in mainstream school:
I enjoyed myself at school, and found my year, and particularly my tutor group were very friendly and helpful. This was because on the first day of school I explained to my tutor what my disability was and the effect it had on me. This answered all their questions, and as a result they never subjected me to discrimination or name-calling. However, other tutor groups who did not know me saw me as a mysterious person who was very different to them. As they were not educated to it they were unpleasant, and some simply inquisitive but too afraid to ask questions.
I remember my disability education lessons - well, all two of them - very well. I remember them most as being very limited and the teacher being more confused than the children. We watched a basic video and spoke to a blind person. I think learning from personal experience of disability is very important, but getting involved in disabled activities could prove more effective. There should also be a great deal more lessons devoted to disability in the curriculum.
As a person with a physical disability, my greatest problem during my time at school was how to manage getting in and around the building with the hoards of children around me who could knock me off my feet at any time. Teachers and fellow pupils did their best to accommodate me, but in a school with almost three flights of stairs it was a difficult issue to avoid. Climbing so many stairs with a heavy bag was difficult and physically exhausting, so I would often sleep for two hours every day after school. Many strategies were tried to help me get to my lessons, including having special needs assistants collect me, but I was often forgotten, to having friends help me which was later said to be a safety hazard, to eventually getting myself to lessons, which was a nightmare as I started having panic attacks at the top of the stairs. Operations that knocked me off my feet also caused major problems. I was put in a downstairs room where the necessary work often did not reach me, and I did not have the subject teachers on hand to help. At one point leaving school was suggested.
Yet to me the solution was simple: better disabled access in schools. It frustrates me to see fortunes spent on anything but these crucial items. My school was a prime example, as the head teacher valued funding for laptops and a state-of-the-art design technology room far greater than the need for disabled facilities like a lift or a ramp. I realise that things like laptops are a bonus and can further a child's education, but they are still a luxury, whereas a ramp and a lift are necessities.
I think it is time disabled people took priority.

 

Taking Action for Change

A mixture of speeches and drama made a presentation by Parents for Inclusion at the Summer School an unforgettable event:
Diana Simpson
Co-Director of Parents for Inclusion
We want to show you all the passionate things that are dear to our hearts as parents of disabled children. We want to show you why we must reclaim our child from the legacy of their oppression. At Parents for Inclusion we take the lead from disabled people, and especially this brilliant, wonderful idea of the Social Model. That is how we know it's not our child who is the problem, it's not their impairment that is wrong, its the way they are thought about in the world. We want to show you through a series of little sketches what these ideas are and how powerful and important they are.
We want to show how building alliances is key. We want to build them between parents, between disabled people, and our professional allies out there. What we really want to do is make sure that there are allies out there for our young people. The way we try to do that is to empower each other, parent to parent. Something that is perhaps the hardest thing is to not blame individuals but to put all of that energy and anger into taking action for change. The very last thing that we hold on to is that all really does mean all. Every single child out there is the child that we're talking about.
I hope these sketches will show you all the things we have learnt. Here are some more parents' voices to pass on the message:

Cornelia Broesskamp
Training Co-ordinator at Parents for Inclusion
Inclusion needs to be there right from the start. Every child has the right to be welcomed into the world with love, and then it can look into the future with hope, and that there is all the celebration around the birth that any other child has as well.
In our work with the parents, one of the courses that we run is called Planning Positive Futures. It is about giving the relationship and the child back to the parent and opening the door to a very hopeful and positive future. It's also about finding ways that we as parents feel strong about what we do, and reminding us of what we know about parenting. When we have a disabled child, so many people get involved, so many people tell us what to do, so many people tell us what should be right for the child, that it's so important that we find and remember what really is important for children.

Caroline Goffe
Helpline Co-ordinator at Parents for Inclusion
When the helpline phone is picked up in our office, what we are trying to do is re-focus that parent's attention back on that precious relationship which is so threatened, almost to the point of breaking, by the struggle and the fight that the oppression leaves behind. That can be an amazingly isolating position to be in. For the thousands of parents who telephone us, when that phone is picked up, one little bit of isolation is broken and the first step of getting that focus of attention back to what really matters. And through a process of listening and reflecting, those phone calls manage to bring that parent to a place where possibly they can start thinking about the action they can take for change. Who are the people who might be their potential allies in a situation that might seem completely bleak?

Jo Cameron
Co-Director of Parents for Inclusion
Some time ago we set up something called Inclusion Groups in Schools. What we found is that it has completely broken the isolation of parents. Many here will have memories of going into schools and being told things about their children, and they've gone home and cried, because the oppression is very heavy not only for disabled young people but also for parents. So we're working in something like 23 schools. We've set up a really exciting model, I think, which is now ready to fly. It isn't about parents coming into a school creating scenes. It is about parents who meet, who have the time and the space to think through what is really happening for their children, and for schools to come in and to hear what the parents feel they really want for their children. Through this we have stopped exclusions.
We held a remarkable workshop for black and minority ethnic parents called 'All our Children Belong'. It was really a workshop to celebrate diversity. I hope you will buy the report, which is called 'Dreaming the Dream, an Issue of Social Justice' (available from Parents for Inclusion).
We need parents at the rockface, and they are growing steadily with power and with enormous capacity to be remarkable allies to their disabled children.

Linda Whitehead
Parent Trainer at Parents for Inclusion
I'm thinking of the medical model of disability as a kind of inhospitable sea, and as a non-disabled person I've lived my life swimming against the tide and my disabled friends are the people standing in the shallow waters saying "Swim to the side, don't try to swim against it, come over here! Don't go in the sea, stay out of it, stay on the beach and enjoy the sunshine!" That's what's in it for me, I want my son to be included but I don't want him to be the only disabled child in his school, so I want to take other parents along with me on that journey. I'm constantly being told that other parents don't think the same way as me necessarily. They are asking for segregated provision, and we must make room for everyone to have choice, and I question that - I think that's a cop-out. I think the parents who are asking for segregated provision are the parents who have had their expectations undermined from the moment their child was born by the medical model and who haven't had the benefit of the information that I've been privileged to hear. I want to see that information spread out more so that I'm not a lone voice and nor is my child.

Mole Chapman
Disability Equality Trainer at Parents for Inclusion
I think what Linda has said is terribly important and deep. As a child growing up, being disabled, and having been labelled as emotional and difficult, I have found a very safe place with Parents for Inclusion, where I can explore my real power, and where I am able to feed back to other people meaningfully. Actually working with Pi (Parents for Inclusion) gives my life meaning, because our relationship just might be changing their relationship with their children. My relationship with my mother ended up extremely broken, because we got totally embroiled in the medical model: trying to make me walk and trying to stop me shaking. I think if she could have just stopped doing that, and actually enjoyed the fact that I was alive, and the fact that I loved her, and she loved me, we would have had a much better time together. Now, my experience of parents has been love and hate. Despite the huge amount of love that was there, there was always this hatred of my impairment, and what it had caused in suffering in their lives. Parents I have met at Pi have contradicted that message so vehemently, because they have said: we want you in our lives; we love you the way you are. Nothing I have ever heard could be as powerful as that!
So that's our invitation to you. When we act together, not dividing, that's when we're going to be at our most powerful.

 

Greener Grass

Charlotte Patrick tells her story:
First let me explain why I have chosen to write about my life now. On the 15th July I went to an Inclusion Now conference in Nottingham. I didn't realise before then how the following four days would inspire and yet challenge me mentally. I was shown things that had always been a part of my life and yet I had somehow been oblivious. During these four days in Nottingham I learnt a lot about myself as well, but it took over a hundred people to show me that I wasn't alone, I don't have to do it alone, there are people on my side and this list could go on and on forever. So lets move on before I lose your interest!
I was born in late December in Kent. My biological mother put me up for adoption because she couldn't cope with what the future might have held or the fact that people were going to stare at her and her child. So she did what she thought was best and she was right.
When I was ten months old my Mum and Dad came along, they had already adopted one child and now they wanted to adopt me. They had a battle on their hands because both my parents have a disability and the authorities believed that two DISABLED people who had adopted one disabled child couldn't possibly adopt and cope with another disabled child.
After winning the first of many battles on my behalf my parents took me home. I was a happy baby with my family but disliked strangers or being left on my own. My parents had been told the "medical facts" about me, that I would never walk, feed myself, dress myself, etc, etc, etc. When Mum and Dad took me home I was still on baby food, I couldn't sit up unaided and I didn't know how to play. Between them my parents taught me how to play, sit up and move on my own and how to feed myself. By now my parents realised that I had never been given a chance. Mum wouldn't accept the medical facts so she set to work.
Everyone from physios to social services told Mum I would never walk but she refused to believe this and told them that they were wrong and all she needed was something to support my weight whilst I tried to walk. She was right. They gave Mum a trolley with two holes in it to put my legs through. Every morning Mum would stand in front of me with my breakfast and I would scream all the way down the hall following her into the kitchen. It didn't take long before I was walking unaided, a little haphazard but unaided.
Naturally it didn't take long for someone to suggest that I be fitted with artificial legs. My parents agreed to try it but said the end decision was up to me. It was fun being the same height as everyone else but not so much fun taking a nosedive, which I did regularly. I told my parents that I didn't want them anymore but they kept them for a while in case I changed my mind. I didn't.
By now I had started at the local primary school which was an inclusive school. Well, until mealtimes anyway. At lunchtime I had to eat in the classroom, I don't know why and I didn't question it. I thought that was right, I mean, I was a child and the teachers were adults. At Christmas I was allowed in the main hall with the other children but behind the scenes it was suggested to my parents that both my brother and myself should attend a weekday residential special school. My parents disagreed. They had spent their school years at boarding school miles away from home and knew what that felt like.
They chose not to fight this time. Instead Mum wanted to move back into England from Wales to live on a boat. Yes you read that right, a boat! They bought a sixty-foot narrow boat that was named "Itsy Bitsy" and on we moved. We being, two adults, two kids, three dogs, a budgie and a cat. We travelled around for a little while and then settled at Sawley Lock, just inside Leicestershire.
To start our schooling in England the authorities put my brother and I into a special school. My parents weren't happy. They fought tooth and nail to get us out and into a mainstream school and, surprise surprise, they won. The local primary school said they would accept me. It wasn't bad there. On my first day I had to sit in front of the teachers desk whilst she read the register and then she introduced me to the class. It got better after that. I made friends, had good days and bad days, played football, became a tomboy, oh yeah and at lunchtime I ate my dinner in the main hall with the other kids.
When I was nine we went a school trip to France for a week, it was great. Looking back this part of my life was pretty amazing and at the time I thought this is how it would be forever. I was wrong. The authorities had decided that we lived in Leicestershire and that I should attend a school in the same district. So in September I started at Shepshed high school.
The first few months were ok. I made a few friends. Things began to turn sour though. To help me to my lessons I was given an ancillary (helper) who, to be fair, didn't really know what she was doing. She was a parent so how she treated her kids was how she treated me. However I hated having an adult sitting next to me in class and following me around school. Not only would she tell me off for being naughty, (which was often) but also she would tell the others off when the teacher was out of the classroom. It didn't take long for my classmates to decide it was my fault. In their eyes, if I hadn't been there, then she wouldn't have been there, then they could have got away with a lot more. Which is what all children want and often do. Having this "shadow" restricted me from a normal school life. For example, I couldn't bunk off without her coming to find me and when I got into a fight with a lad from my year, she gave me a disapproving look and didn't speak to me for a whole afternoon.
By the time I got to thirteen the bullying had intensified. Not content with name calling, they began to trip me up, steal and hide my school bag and sit behind me in class so they could spit things into my hair. One day I was deliberately pushed over in the corridor and I split my head open. Whilst I was taken to the doctor's, the boy who pushed me was asked what happened. He said it was an accident, so they told him to try and be more careful. My parents were aware of what was going on and tried to get it stopped but to no avail. I became not only a "freak" but also a "snitch". I tried my own ways of stopping the bullying. I tried being the class fool, answering back, bullying others to make myself look tough, and ignoring it. The latter was the better option but it was hard.
At sixteen I took my GCSE's. I got one C in drama. Not proud of my grades but hey. After taking our GCSE's we had a choice of staying at Shepshed or moving on. As my results were so bad it was suggested that I went to Loughborough College and redid my exams. I didn't really want to but went with the flow. As it turned out going to Loughborough was one of the best things I could have done. My grades didn't improve but I left the bullies behind and found some great friends who liked me for me and didn't see me any differently. An example of this is when one friend was writing a description of her best mate and turned to me and asked, "are you left or right handed?" (For those who don't know me I only have one arm). I smiled and replied "Right handed" She didn't realise I was being funny and wrote it down only to look at me a few minutes later and say "No you're not". We both fell about laughing. I had a great time at Loughborough College and put behind me the previous bad experiences.
I now work for the Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living as an Education and Learning Officer. I like this title and so far I like working here. Looking back I'm glad my parents adopted me and gave me the chance that I may not have had otherwise. I'm also glad that I had a mainstream education otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now. The grass was definitely greener on the other side.

 

The many faces of racism

By Suresh Grover:
I'm going to speak strongly to you on the issues that I believe and many of my colleagues believe that are important to this society, to people here, and on a global scale.
I came into the field of working on racism not simply because I am Asian, or black. I was a happy-go-lucky young person, 15 years old. I used to play cricket for Lancashire B Team. I used to be a cross-country runner. I had just come from East Africa, through India, in 1965, I was only very young when a wave of Pakkie-bashing started. I got stabbed. I got my jaw broken twice. I got beaten up in school on a regular basis. The schools in early 1970s and late 1970s didn't understand the problem of racism. They never acknowledged it. They never did anything. For a period of three months, because I was the tallest black Asian person, man, or boy, in the school, I got beaten up. In the first three months I was too scared to fight. The physical attack scared me and I used to run away from the playing fields. From someone who was into music, I lost interest in music.
I was the co-ordinator of the Stephen Lawrence family campaign from the time Stephen was murdered in South London in 1993. We developed a legal strategy to hold those people responsible for the murder to account by taking a private prosecution against those five or six individuals responsible for his death. If you look at the process of that enquiry and case, the central figures in those are Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville. A family that was crushed because of the sudden murder of their son, totally unexpected, they became protagonists to change a culture which began to ask serious questions about racism on a national scale. For the first time, a High Court Judge agreed that an agency was institutionally racist.
I want to concentrate on two forms of racism when I discuss the issue of inclusion. What I describe as racism that kills and racism that discriminates. The impact of a policy on discrimination may be very different from a policy looking at racial violence.
Despite the Stephen Lawrence enquiry, unfortunately, the problem of racism has got worse. If you look at Home Office, Government figures, on racial attacks in this country, at the time that Stephen was killed in 1993, the figure stood at 7,000 racial attacks on a national basis. 1999 - 380,000 racial attacks in this country. Those attacks encompass anything from racial abuse to arson attacks, and to murders. I, myself, as a member of the monitoring group on the National Civil Rights Group, am dealing with about 60 race murders.
To give you a graphic description of the kind of harassment people go through, recently we dealt with cases such as Ricky Reel, a young Asian man with his friends in Kingston town centre. Attacked by two white racists. Fled for his life, and disappeared. His mother and father and sister, and other brother, went to the police with those three Asian friends, and said "he's been racially attacked. We can't find him." The initial reaction was "had he problems at home? Do you object to him having a girl friend?" Because, apparently, Asians object to girlfriends. And when the mother said, "well, actually I don't have a problem with that" - "Is he gay? He can't tell you that." That's what the parents were told. This is historic fact. It's in the enquiry and the inquest. Do you know whether he is gay, and that's why he's not coming home?
It meant the family had to begin to look for him, and for seven days, from seven in the morning to three in the morning, I saw the mother, the father, his friends and their families, searching every street in Kingston. In the bins, to see if he may have been injured. In schools. And when the police began to take it seriously, a week later, it took them seven minutes to find his body. Seven minutes. I was there at that moment. Seven minutes to find that he had run and fallen into the River Thames which is only 100 yards from the site of the attack.
Schools are very, very important to us. And I want to concentrate not just on race, but also religious hatred, because I think there are commonalities between these two elements in relation to the National Curriculum and in relation to the problem that exists in this country and on a global scale.
I think religion is absolutely crucial. Since September 11th, the question has become much more focused. There is a notion in this country that Moslem people are responsible for September 11th and as a result you've had much more dramatic increases in attacks on people who are targeted or seen as Moslem. Specifically women who wear the Hadj and burka . I think that if we are serious about looking at community cohesion in terms of religious perspective, then we need to isolate a number of strands which we need to look at in the educational curriculum. Because the whole debate is about whether Islam is less tolerant than, say, Christianity. Or less civilised that the notions of other religions.
In my view, on the issue of race, like religion, there are two key principles. The first is what is the difference between multi-culturalism and anti-racism? The second is perhaps more relevant to the issue of religious hatred - the issue of what do we mean by monolithic versus pluralism.
Blunkett's proposals of introducing special schools for young asylum-seeker children is the most de facto segregated policy since segregation of schools under apartheid. Not only does it stigmatise asylum children, but it will ensure that it doesn't deliver an equitable education for those new arrivals because of a lack of resources. If you are going to develop psychologically as well as in terms of fulfilling our social development process, we have to increase our structures which are more accountable.
The only way we can combat that is to begin to understand the educational value of linking religion and race from a social history perspective. Understand why racism exists, and challenge it. The people who killed Stephen Lawrence probably went to a Chinese and ate a Chinese before they stabbed him. It doesn't mean they understand the notion of religion. I have a lot of police officers who come to me when I'm training who say, "Suresh, I'm not a racist because I'm married to a black person". Well, I'm married to a woman. It doesn't make me a feminist. It makes me more tolerant. I'm supportive of feminism, I don't have a problem with it, but there's no commonality between them. I think the qualitative difference, and maybe I've not explained properly, between the issue of multiculturalism and anti-racism, is that the end product for multiculturalism will probably be a written policy on equal opportunities. Fantastic. But the qualitative end for anti-racism would be giving justice to a community that's not privileged. I'll stop there.

Suresh Grover is the Chair of the National Civil Rights Movement, a national network of individuals and families dedicated to the struggle for racial justice and human rights. Contact: NCRM, 14 Featherstone Road, Southall, Middlesex UB2 5AA.
Website: www.ncrm.org.uk

 

Reflections on an Inclusive School

By John O'Brien:
Richard and Micheline asked me if I would see if I could hear some of the links that came up in the Summer School.
It occurred to me to organise this in terms of Micheline's great question, 'what exactly would an inclusive school look like?', and it seems to me that an inclusive school would look like a place where everybody in it, regardless of their age, and regardless of their role, and everybody who relies on it - parents, family members, community members - were willing to have the courage to recognise that some of our deepest connections are to do with the emotions of anger and fear, emotions that come from feeling isolated, feeling powerless in a world that is changing very fast, becoming increasingly complex and becoming increasingly competitive. So a fully inclusive school, as far as I can work out, would be one where everyone, regardless of their age and their role, recognised that part of what unites us is our fear, our uncertainty, and that we have a real choice about how to defend ourselves against those fears and against those uncertainties.
We've got one choice that leads down a path that's deeply and painfully familiar to disabled people. That's the path that leads to a kind of rigidity, a kind of distancing, separation, trying to figure out, trying to believe that 'I can get rid of my fear by getting rid of you'. That leads us to turn fears into labels, into over-certainties about what the answer is, and to build all those into structures and policies that continue to promote exclusion. So it seems that a truly inclusive school would be a place where we realise that we are all scared. That all of us feel isolated and nobody feels like they've got a surplus of power, and that needs to lead to everybody in the school, but probably especially the adults in the school, taking responsibility to model being responsible. And being responsible means recognising that we live in a school that is profoundly influenced in one way or another by poverty, by racism and by disable-ism. If we happen to be in a school that's materially well-off, we are still powerfully influenced by the reality of poverty in our inner society and culture, and if we happen to be in a place that's all white, we are still profoundly influenced by racism. So probably an inclusive school would be one that recognised that and didn't get paralysed by it - so heavily burdened by it - that we couldn't figure out something to do about it.
It seems like part of taking responsibility is recognising that we are part of a larger social system and educational system that is trying to figure out how to do better by all kids. By managing the very details of people's day, just by creating structures of league tables and competitions among schools and incentives for teachers, and curricular requirements, and all sorts of things, however they may have been intended, our experience is lots of people using up all the oxygen in their environment, and unless you have oxygen flowing, those emotions of anger and fear and isolation just get worse and worse and worse. You can't breathe, so you can't metabolise the stress and you can't metabolise the emotion.
So, we would realise that we live in a place where there's not a lot of space, and would have to take responsibility for making space and making time. It seems to me that the kinds of things I might see in inclusive schools, are some structures. We hope simple and uncomplicated structures. Everybody in the school would be able to answer the question "How do you have some influence on what goes on around here?". "How do you have some influence about the way we use time?", "about the way we relate to each other?" There would be some kind of simple structure that would give everybody in the school and everybody related to the school, the capacity to answer "Well, what do you do if you don't know what to do?", "What do you do if you're stuck?", "What do you do if you are grieving?", "What do you do if you're scared to death?". There'd be some kind of answer for that, which would lead to a signpost that points to somebody or something. People would be able to answer "What are the bridges between our school and the families of the people who come here?", "What are the bridges between our school and our larger community?", and "How do we know that what we are doing in this building has real relevance to the world that we live in?"
So there would be some structures that people would be able to point to. People would also take responsibility for building some space and maintaining relationships that would allow all kinds of learning. The particular kind of learning we are struggling with today is learning about who gets put down, left out, pushed out, and then ultimately kicked out. But the 'kicked out' is sort of the end of a process with 'put down, pushed out and left out', and somehow or another we'll be struggling to understand what that's about and to take responsibility for the exclusions that we do. We'd like to see models in our school of people saying "Yes, we did kick Joey out, and that wasn't a good thing to do. We'd better figure out what in the world helped that to happen, so it doesn't happen again." And if we displace responsibility for our own exclusionary practice way up the line and leave it there, then we are going to miss one of the most crucial lessons of the social model of disability. Because as I understand it, one of its great gifts is to say "of course we live in a disable-ist society that is structured to screw people with disabilities, and people with disabilities have choices about that, and can organise in resistance to that, and can find that next opportunity for action, as Parents for Inclusion demonstrated for us so powerfully this morning.
So we would be taking responsibility for that. We would be making time, in a situation where there isn't enough time, and where somebody else outside the school wants to control every single minute. We would be trying to figure out how to get control of enough minutes so that we could celebrate, so that we could hear each other's voices, so that we could orchestrate difference into creations that would make us proud of who we are as a diverse group of people.
We would recognise that wisdom about being human is pretty widely distributed, and that wisdom about being human ought to be available to everybody in our inclusive school, and that almost anybody could be carrying that wisdom. It isn't only elders, but elders are important. It isn't only children, but children are important. It isn't only people who are all resolved and conflict-free in their life, its the sort of fallible, frail, broken, miserable gang of us who find ourselves stuck in a particular place together. So we might as well try to get on with it in a way that supports each other. If we could figure out, in this inclusive school, how to avoid defending ourselves with rigidity, against anger, fear, conflict, isolation and powerlessness. If we could figure how to model for each other greater responsibility, how to give room for our passion for justice, how to recognise that the world we are surrounded by is not only unbelievably frightening, complex and uncertain, but also filled with remarkable opportunities, and how we go about balancing those things, and not pretending that only one is true and not the other, seems to me to be part of the wisdom that we need to claim in order to do this. We would, in other words, all see each other as belonging to each other, and we would try to figure out how to deal with all of the pain of that as well as all of the wonder of it.
So that, anyway, is part of what I heard in all that you said.

John O'Brien and his wife Connie have spent many years creating ground-breaking systems and services for disabled people the world over. They have trained thousands of facilitators and human service workers and are the authors of many deeply insightful publications - see www.inclusion.com for a list.

 

New Act comes into force

By Richard Rieser, Director, DEE
By the time you read this, the SEN Disability Act 2001 will have come into force across the education service in England, Scotland and Wales. All providers of education -under 5's, primary, secondary, special, LEAs, further education, higher education, adult and community education, whether private or state, are affected.
Codes of Practice for Schools and Post-Schools have been produced by the Disability Rights Commission and sent to every School, LEA and College.
(Copies from DRC: www.drc-gb.org)
There are two new duties:
" Not to treat disabled children or students less favourably because of their impairment than those who do not have impairments.
" To make reasonable adjustments to all aspects of school or college life including policies, practices and procedures so that disabled children, pupils or students are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.
This second duty is an anticipatory duty. This means that barriers which would place a disabled child or student at a substantial disadvantage need to, wherever this is reasonable, be removed before a particular child or student is enrolled at the school or on the course.
Of course, as has been previously pointed out (Inclusion Now, Volumes 2&3), there are plenty of excuses that can legally be brought forward to justify Disability Discrimination and not making the adjustment. These include Health and Safety, cost, practicability and not affecting the education of other pupils or students. However, not to consider what needs to be done, will immediately leave the school, college or service in a vulnerable position, if a case for disability discrimination were to be brought against them.
Therefore, if the school or college has not looked for the barriers that might place disabled children and/or students at a substantial disadvantage and altered policies, practices and procedures, where reasonable, then they will not be in a strong position to defend themselves against a charge of disability discrimination.
For those in the Inclusion Movement this means we now have an opportunity, in a way we have never had before, to raise the development of inclusive policies, practices and procedures.
Training is a Priority.
It means that every school and college, staff and governors need training on the Disability Discrimination Act and Inclusion. Disability Equality in Education (DEE) has received a substantial three-year Community Fund grant from September 2002, to develop its network of disabled equality trainers across the UK, and develop the training quality and resources we offer. Already DEE has produced three course books for Early Years, Schools and Post Schools to help with this mammoth training task. (£10 + £1.50 p&p from DEE)
The new edition of the 'Index for Inclusion' from the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education is out this autumn. The first edition has proved a very valuable school self-review tool both in the UK and around the world. (£24.50 from CSIE:www.inclusion.org.uk)
The Council for Disabled Children and Disability Equality in Education, working in partnership with voluntary organisations and teachers associations and funded by the DfES and DRC have produced a training pack for schools - 'Making it Work'. This provides overhead slides and presentation notes on the new duties, other statutory guidance and resources for developing inclusion.(£15 from the National Children's Bureau. Tel: 020 7843 6028 or www.ncb-books.org.uk)
The Government has recruited a number of disabled people to join the SEN Disability Tribunals. These include 4 of DEE's trainers, but the new law will only be as strong as the case law that is built up around its implementation. We therefore need strong cases of discrimination against schools to be taken to the SEN& Disability Tribunals by parents. Students in Post Schools need to take cases of disability discrimination to the County Courts. The Disability Rights Commission will take up test cases.
So if you think you have a strong case of Disability Discrimination that has occurred since 1st September 2002 contact the DRC. Telephone: 08457 622 633 or e-mail: enquiry@drc-gb.org.

 

A tribute to Nihal Armstrong

Nihal Armstrong was a young man known to many of us. His friends, Speech Therapist, Learning Support Assistant and Teachers remember what he meant to them and to all of us in the struggle for inclusion.

You have left us with many memories
We miss you every day
Sometimes we think of you
Not more than today
You will never be forgotten
In our hearts you are and there you'll stay
You were a really good friend
And this we will never forget . . . .

I'm sure he loved his family most of all
But shared himself with all who called
And no prejudice nor hate
But accepted life just on his faith
His life was short but full of love
For family, friends and god above
So short a time with us it seems
No time to really fill his dreams

This is written to him in honour
For all that we did share
I just want him to know
How much we really did care.
Syeda Momena Aktar from 11Y,
Camden Community School, London

Anne Emerson, Speech Therapist:
In only 17 years Nihal achieved so much. Nihal died suddenly and unexpectedly last December in the midst of preparing for a major operation and his GCSEs. He had travelled a long way to this point through special and mainstream schools touching many people deeply on his way.
I first met Nihal when he was six and Rahila, his mother, told me of her belief that Nihal understood much of what was said to him. She described the instances of him demonstrating an ability that was usually hidden by his disabilities. Her view differed from that of most of the people involved in assessing him and deciding on appropriate therapy and education. Nihal was attending two schools, the one for children with physical disabilities which Rahila felt was more appropriate to his needs and the school for children with severe learning disabilities which the local authority felt was more appropriate.
I was invited to work with Nihal because the approach I had started to use, Facilitated Communication, led Rahila to think that I may be open to accepting her view of Nihal. I was used to using a visual approach and was challenged by the fact that Nihal had been assessed as being functionally blind. So I tried to adapt my methods but soon realised that in fact he could see well. We progressed little by little, using pictures, then words, letters and eventually Nihal started to point, with support to his body and arm, to indicate his choice. At first he was just proving understanding and demonstrating vision but gradually we introduced the possibility of Nihal expressing his own views and ideas. This he took to rapidly and with relish. It had been possible before to gauge his reactions through his smiles, laughs, cries and body movements. Now he could communicate greater subtleties and begin to tell us more about his interior life.
Nihal was cheeky, full of life, stubborn and motivated in turn, had strong opinions. Working with Nihal was sometimes frustrating and I felt like I was letting him and Rahila down when we didn't progress, but mostly it was a wonderful, fun-filled, warm and exhilarating experience.
In order to gain a place in a mainstream school Rahila took Nihal's appeal to an education tribunal. I will never forget the detailed preparations we made before facing the tribunal panel and the jubilation on our success. There were such strong opposing views of Nihal's abilities and needs and a very strong case made by the local authority for special schooling. We really made ground in being able to persuade the panel that Nihal's needs would be better made in a mainstream school and Nihal became a pioneer, particularly in gaining a mainstream secondary placement.
Towards the end of Nihal's life more people accepted his abilities, some of his mainstream secondary school assessments showed clearly his keen intelligence. He was due to take maths and science GCSEs this year using the method of turning his head to select answers to multiple choice questions - slow and laborious but something he could do independently.
At Nihal's funeral many of the people who knew him best paid tribute to him. We had not conferred, we did not all know each other, and yet the picture that emerged of Nihal was so unified and strong. He was such an engaging presence, so welcoming, warm, fun and full of mischief. He was deeply sentimental and sometimes sad. Nihal proved and demonstrated to a number of people what was possible despite the most severe of disabilities.

Rebecca Philips & Marion Stanton, Nihal's individual teachers:
Nihal was a great bloke. He knew how to make you laugh and how to cop a good skive. We should not, of course, be talking like this. As serious teachers it is of course our first consideration that the pupil gets their heads down and does nothing but work. Actually, when it comes to the practice of inclusion there is far more to it than this. Supporting someone who doesn't speak in social chat is just as vital as helping them to show what they know. Nihal showed us that he had both skills for the curriculum and plenty to say. Thanks to Nihal, the process of persuading exam boards to recognise the assessment needs of pupils who have limited movement and no speech but good understanding has begun. There is still a long fight to be had in this regard but he kick started the process as he did in so many other innovations for disabled pupils.
We will miss you Nihal.

Donna Szombara, Support Assistant:
I have known Nihal for seven years and for the last five and a half years he attended South Camden Community School. I was with Nihal the whole time as his special support assistant. Knowing Nihal and having such a long and close relationship was the best thing that happened to me, I feel a great loss without him. It wasn't easy being in the school. I was the one that had to deal with the daily doubts that Nihal received. For the first three years Nihal was constantly having to work twice as hard as any other child as he was put through tests to continually prove his intelligence. Nobody ever said Nihal was a genius, just a normal teenager yet he had to work harder. People's beliefs in Nihal changed when he received teacher support in year 10 which was provided by C.A.S.T.L.E. Nihal did his last battery of tests to prove his validation and he also sat the SAT tests at the highest level because of his age.
To me inclusion is being with your peers and not having to prove your right to be there. Having the chance to learn and develop with equal value. Even though Nihal has had a hard time at school he thoroughly enjoyed every single day right up to his last. At the end of Nihal's life he had gained the respect and support of most staff and pupils in the school. They have worked hard to let Nihal have the chance to sit G.C.S.E's like his peers and they gave him a feeling of future in his life. Unfortunately he cannot go into his future as it has been stolen from him. Nihal had inspirations to continue to develop his creative skills through literature and planned to write a thriller for teenagers.
Nihal has also been an inspiration to me to continue to work towards my dreams and everything I do will be driven by the love I received from Nihal, I will miss him very much.