Social & Medical Models of Disability | Integration is not Inclusion | FAQs | Article 24 of UN Convention | Salamanca Statement | News Archive | Inclusion is the Future
We thought it might be useful to present some of the key questions
that people regularly ask us, with our responses to them. So if you have
a question, check here first!
Do you call for the gradual closure of SEN schools? If so, over how long a time period?
We do call for the gradual closure of special schools, units and specialist colleges. However it's not really about time periods for us, it's more about capacity building the mainstream sector so that disabled learners and parents of disabled children are confident that their inclusion is fully supported with appropriate resources etc.
Some parents say that the small SEN environment has saved their child- what would you say to parents who opt for discrete SEN schools?
We would say that the current mainstream model does not work well for any learner - no child or adult can genuinely flourish in classrooms of 30+ students. So we would advocate smaller class sizes and smaller schools and post 16 institutions generally within the mainstream. We have good examples from the 'Human Scale Education' Movement of how schools can be restructured to answer this problem, e.g. a large comprehensive school restructured into three different schools with separate head teachers, staff teams etc sharing the same site - none of these however are for separate provision, all three schools are inclusive. We believe a similar approach could also be adopted by post 16 institutions and universities.
We would also advocate initiatives such as 'quiet' settings within schools for any child to make use of.
Would you agree that making Inclusive Education a reality will require all teaching staff to be fully equipped and trained, plus the recruitment of an army of support staff, all of which would mean an investment of many millions of pounds? Do you think any government would do this?
We are asking for a transfer, or redirection of resources, NOT new money. Special schools takes up an enormous percentage of the school budgets currently, when you take into account the numbers of learners within it. We think any government should consider it at the very least as a cost effective measure – running a parallel segregated education system is undeniably more expensive than running a single system.
The local academy school says they are struggling with my child, and suggests that maybe I should consider alternative provision. I have no idea what the academy means by alternative provision and whether we should accept it.
Alternative provision is educational or vocational training that is usually provided off-site. Usually the alternative provision is run by a different education provider, not your child’s school. Children are often placed in alternative provision when the child’s learning and behavior is having an impact upon the school’s ability to meet their SAT and GCSE targets. Alternative provision is aimed at children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and/or learning difficulties. We believe that all “alternative provision” should be on the school, college and university site and available for the school or college community to use regardless whether they are or are not disabled.
Does ALLFIE think schools and colleges are becoming “exam factories” – if so, what does this mean for the inclusion of SEN pupils and students?
This is absolutely true and is one of the biggest barriers to inclusion presently. Again, we see the present system as being bad for all learners, not just those with SEN labels. We campaign for an end to measurement of achievement based solely on academic outcome such as qualifications.
Would you have classrooms and lecture rooms where all learners including those with different and significant impairments are taught together?
Yes, we DO have classrooms and lectures rooms where all students are taught together. We believe that sufficient resources to support disabled learners on mainstream courses will be available if segregated courses are not run in parallel.
There are good models of classes being taught in smaller groups, eg teaching environments with central hubs and 'satellite' areas. In inclusive schools, colleges and universities, these groups would never be defined by 'special need' or labels but by simply dividing a class group into smaller groups of learners.
Would you have units for certain groups of disabled learners such as learners with autism as is happening in some mainstream schools and post-16 institutions or do you advocate total inclusion?
We definitely do not advocate for the use of separate units, or even classrooms for that matter, for learners with a particular label. We have many examples of young people with all levels of autism and other related labels being included successfully and thriving within mainstream environments. Search our magazine online for examples. Whilst we do not advocate separate units, nevertheless opportunities should be there to do one to one work with disabled learners when necessary.
Wouldn't total inclusion ask the impossible from a teacher or lecturer? Don't you think some teachers and lecturers ought to specialise in teaching certain types of learners?
We have great models of inclusive schools where I think the teachers would laugh if you asked them if their jobs were 'impossible'. Most inclusive schools use mixed ability teaching, team teaching, these sorts of initiatives, along with creative planning and thinking to deliver the curriculum to all of their students. We believe post 16 institutions and universities can learn from inclusive schools.
We don't believe teachers and lecturers should 'specialise' in teaching certain 'types' of learners. Would you expect teachers to specialise in teaching learners of a particular race or sex?
At the moment there is a small and voluntary SEN training module within teacher training but that clearly isn't working. We would advocate a compulsory element of teacher and lecturer training focussing on inclusive teaching practice.
Isn’t it easier and cheaper to have specialist resources in one place, i.e. physiotherapy equipment, hydrotherapy pools?
We would like to see these resources disconnected from education – they really have nothing to do with education and are more to do with ‘care’. We believe these resources should be accessed outside of education hours and outside of education provision, perhaps in Community Resource Hubs which everyone, young and old, could access when necessary.
What about learners with behaviour issues? You can’t mean you want to include learners who throw chairs or attack teachers?
Firstly for us, 'behaviour' is a form of communication. Allfie supports the inclusion of all learners in a safe environment in which they and other people are protected from harm. We are supportive of all strategies which develop positive relationships. We advocate the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of all learners and firm, pro-active strategies support their inclusion. We uphold the right of all members of the student communities to live without threat and physical danger. We recognize the need to use strategies including mediation, restorative justice, circles of support and time apart to reduce short term threat and facilitate successful inclusion. We do not accept that exclusion is an option that results in positive change in young people.
Do we need to have specialist colleges for disabled learners?
No, because we believe that all disabled learners should be learning alongside their non- disabled peers in post 16 and university settings. Education is much broader than learning about a particular subject area. Students attending colleges and universities are thinking about ideas and learning about the world of work for example. Having a diverse student body provides ample opportunities for students to think about how they can create educational, leisure and working opportunities which are inclusive of everyone.
Does ALLFIE think colleges are being inclusive by providing foundation for learning courses such as preparation for independent living and employment courses for learners with learning difficulties?
No because these courses are only available for students with learning difficulties. Non-disabled students do not normally go onto these courses. We believe learning about independent living can be done whilst attending mainstream courses and at home or out and about with families and friends.
Colleges cater for learners with a wide range of abilities, which requires courses designed for students at different levels of their learning. Isn’t it sensible for young people to attend courses which are best suited to their levels of learning?
ALLFIE is not against courses that are differentiated on learning ability such as Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced levels. However, such courses need to be flexible enough so the curriculum content can be differentiated for learners so they are able to progress whilst learning alongside their non-disabled peer group.
What is ALLFIE's view on grammar schools and selective education?
What is really important is that there is no evidence to support the belief that selective education improves social mobility and social cohesion between all groups of pupils, their families and communities. On the contrary, evidence shows that selective education is highly socially divisive and has failed to reduce inequality of educational opportunity for all pupils regardless of ability: a core reason why the Labour government banned the expansion of grammar schools in 1998.
Furthermore our education system has a powerful impact upon the kind of society we want. How can we create a society where pupils and students are divided up into different schools on the grounds of ability, gender, race, religion or any other status? Inclusive communities can only be achieved by all pupils and students learning, playing and relating with each other as equals.
My disabled son is finding the school work too easy at his local nonselective school so I am considering the benefits of selective schools for academically able pupils.
Great inclusive schools cater for the learning needs of all pupils including disabled pupils who are working beyond what is expected from their non-disabled peer group. Therefore if the curriculum and learning targets set are stimulating enough for pupils with high academic abilities in non-selective schools then there is no need for grammar schools. Furthermore, we believe that all pupils learn best when lessons are highly differentiated so that more and less able pupils can gain the same social benefits of being in a local inclusive school, as part of a socially cohesive community.
My disabled daughter is a very talented musician and would love to attend a selective school with a music specialism so that she can be stretched in her talents.
Great inclusive schools should cater for pupils with varying talents in one or more subject areas. We believe mainstream schools should cater for pupils with both academic and non-academic interests. And pupils should have the opportunity to pursue their interests whatever the level of attainment. So for your daughter, a good local inclusive school should enable disabled pupils to pursue their musical talents even if they are at a level higher than their non-disabled peer group. We believe that all pupils learn best when lessons are highly differentiated so that more and less able pupils can gain the same social benefits of being in a local inclusive school, as part of a socially cohesive community.