Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

news from 2009

Lamb Inquiry

16 December 2009

The Lamb Inquiry into parental confidence in the SEN framework submitted its final report to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on 16 December. The Inquiry has spilled over into a review of the SEN system in general. The final report calls for a major reform of the current system and contains no less than 51 recommendations, which broadly ask for a clearer focus on outcomes; a stronger voice for parents; a more strategic local approach; and a greater degree of accountability. The Secretary of State has responded announcing a number of actions to be taken in the New Year, in response to this report.

Many of the Lamb recommendations are highly pertinent and to be welcomed. Can we expect, however, that they will be meaningfully implemented? It is remarkable how many of them are for things that are already broadly stipulated by legislation or implicit in policy but not actually happening. The question therefore has to be asked: if so many sticking-plasters are required for a system already supposed to be in place, is it capable of being mended?

According to the report, the SEN system needs to “ruthlessly refocus its efforts on securing better outcomes.” However, the report does not make absolutely clear what type of outcomes it is referring to. It does hint that on the basis of the evidence collected by the Inquiry “social” outcomes are more important to parents than other kinds. But it makes no mention of how such outcomes might be achieved or monitored. In particular, it ignores the growing use of person-centred planning in assessments and reviews, with targets related to what is important to the child and his/her family and their aspirations for the future, rather than to standard testing and narrowly conceived “attainment”.

The issue of inclusive schooling is not mentioned in the report. Does it matter where children are taught? (Put another way, does it matter if they spend most of their day separated from their brothers, sisters and friends or potential friends from the local community?) The Report makes no comment, other than the briefest passing reference, where it suggests that the answer is “No”. It is hard to understand how separating people in childhood can lead to the life outcomes aimed at in government policies for adults who are disabled, have mental health problems or are otherwise isolated – that is, of leading ordinary lives in the community.

So is the SEN framework worth saving? The Report has doubts about whether a universal “personalisation” agenda would be sufficient substitute for the legal protections hypothetically provided by the current SEN framework. Such doubts appear reasonable in the present climate. However, they also presuppose that no leadership will be forthcoming from national and local government, in respect of fulfilling the rights of disabled children and those identified as having special educational needs. And without such leadership, a patch-up of the existing SEN framework will not work either.

This is not the first time that the SEN framework has been examined and found wanting. In 2002 the Audit Commission undertook extensive research into provision for children said to have special educational needs and raised concerns that statutory assessment and statementing is a costly, bureaucratic and unresponsive process which many parents find stressful and alienating. In its final report, the Audit Commission had then concluded that “key parts of the statutory framework no longer reflect the reality of today’s system of education”.

CSIE calls for the abolition of a system that focuses on perceived differences in children and the introduction of a new framework, which focuses on the way schools are organised and supports the development of inclusive provision for all learners in their local neighbourhood schools.

back to top


Each belongs

12 December 2009

CSIE has recently hosted a visit from senior officers of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, Canada, which educates all children without exception in mainstream schools. “Each Belongs” has been the Board's philosophy for the past 40 years and for them, all means all: the qualification for being in a mainstream class in a mainstream school is, as they put it, “over six years old and breathing”. As people whose practical everyday experience lies in making a fully inclusive system work, Jackie Bajus and Laszlo Galambos were able to tell their audiences of professionals and parents across the UK about “How it can be done: learning from the Canadian experience”, the title of a series of CSIE-organised seminars in York, Birmingham, Bristol and London during the week of 7th-11th December. They were also were also able to share their authority’s DVD, recently released to celebrate 40 years of educating all children and young people in mainstream schools. Jackie and Laszlo took a major part in CSIE’s conference “Is Everyone Welcome? Preventing Rejection from 21st-Century Schools”, held in Manchester on 8th December. They also met with personnel from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the National Strategies Team, as well as representatives of CSIE, as part of an ongoing discussion between CSIE and the DCSF that has helped to highlight the common ground we have about developing more inclusive provision for all in the mainstream.

Feedback overwhelmingly described the above events as “excellent”, “inspiring” and “powerful”, to the extent that participants repeatedly called for a national network of enthusiastic supporters of inclusive education for all, extending across teachers, parents and local authority officers. CSIE will be harnessing this momentum by seeking to set up a system for constructive collaboration among participants at the seminars and conference, which will maintain links with the Canadian visitors and with the Marsha Forest Centre, Toronto, who helped to organise and part-finance the visit.

back to top


New CSIE Publication

08 December 2009

On 8th December at our Manchester conference CSIE launched The Welcome Workbook: A self-review framework for expanding inclusive provision in your local authority. This is written primarily for local authority officers who want to expand the numbers of children in mainstream settings, over and above the improvement of inclusive provision for young people already there. It is aimed not only at leaders but also at anyone working within children’s services who want to extend the principles of inclusive education in the local area. The document can also be used by parents’ groups and others who regularly engage with local authorities on the relevant issues. The Welcome Workbook provides a framework for the expansion of such provision to include young people who have not often, until now, been welcome in mainstream settings, in a national educational context where equality issues and parental choice of mainstream school are being increasingly emphasised.

Priced at £14 per single copy if ordered direct from CSIE, The Welcome Workbook is designed to be used for group reflection and planning and is therefore also available at the price of £10 per copy for orders of 10 or more.

back to top


Report on children’s rights

20 November 2009

The report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights concerning children’s rights came out today, 20 November. It addresses the UNICEF report that places British children near the bottom of a scale of industrialised countries in terms of their well-being, putting much of this down to the negative image of young people in the media. It also focuses on the UK government’s foot-dragging over implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which it recommends should be incorporated in law. The report is a damning indictment of the position of children in this country.

The report notes the “discriminatory attitudes of medical professionals towards disabled children”, and that several groups of children have problems being enrolled in school or continuing or re-entering education, citing children with disabilities, children of Travellers, Roma children, asylum-seeking children, dropouts and non-attendees, looked-after children and teenage mothers. The Committee makes detailed recommendations, including that the UK should “provide additional resources to ensure the right of all children to a truly inclusive education, including for children from disadvantaged, marginalised and ‘school-distant’ groups”, and that it should use permanent or temporary exclusions as a last resort. It cites the observation of the second UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child concerning the lack of suitable educational provision within local areas to meet the particular needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities, and laments the absence of “a national strategy for including all disabled pupils in mainstream schools”. Finally, the Report expresses its disappointment that the Government has rejected even the modest proposal that the UNCRC be made the framework of local Children and Young People’s Plans. This latter would surely be the suitable subject of a focused campaign by voluntary groups.

back to top


Excelling through exclusion?

20 November 2009

The title of Ofsted’s latest report, Twelve Outstanding Special Schools: Excelling through Inclusion (20 November) describes practice in schools and units for disabled pupils and those described as having learning or behavioural difficulties. It is a further indicator of how far the use of the term “inclusion” has slipped towards meaning the opposite of what one would naturally take it to mean, and indeed of what it did mean when first used in an education context 20 years ago. Today we not only come across staff-room “inclusion” noticeboards in mainstream that list pupils who have been withdrawn from school, we hear government pronouncements describe an inclusive system as being one that “includes” both mainstream and separate special schools. Ofsted’s entitling of the above report as “Excelling through inclusion”, is a further addition to this Orwellian genre. Almost everything the report calls “excellent” in these schools occurs within a setting in which children are excluded from daily contact and a sense of belonging with their peers.

No matter how committed, knowledgeable or experienced staff in a special school might be, the fact remains that children are growing up away from their brothers and sisters, friends and potential friends. CSIE’s view is that everyone belongs in their local community and, therefore, inclusion in the local neighbourhood school alongside friends, brothers and sisters is a basic human right of every young person. To deny this is an injustice that would not be tolerated for any other groups.

Of course neither CSIE nor anyone else owns the word “inclusion”. But when its meaning is palpably reversed, as in this report, awareness of children’s human rights is significantly diluted. CSIE wants every child’s human right to belong in their local community to be fully understood and upheld. Do we have to start using new words to make this message clear?

back to top


Inclusive education for all Adobe pdf graphic

30 October 2009

CSIE is delighted to announce the forthcoming visit of Jackie Bajus and Laszlo Galambos, senior officers of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, Canada, which has been providing inclusive education for all children for 40 years. Every child who lives within this local authority’s boundaries is offered a place in a mainstream school. CSIE has invited these officers to support the development of more inclusive provision in our country, following the announcement in June 2009 confirming the government’s commitment to “continuing to develop an inclusive system where parents of disabled children have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff, which have the capacity to meet the needs of disabled children.”

Jackie Bajus and Laszlo Galambos will be in England from 7 to 11 December 2009 and will be giving open seminars in a range of locations and participating in CSIE’s conference in Manchester. These events will be of interest to local authority officers, parents, teachers, academics and all others who want to develop inclusive provision for all children and young people in mainstream schools.

Seminars

How it can be done: learning from the Canadian experience

During these seminars Jackie Bajus and Laszlo Galambos will provide an overview of the Hamilton system and describe the underpinning philosophy as well as the process of establishing and maintaining inclusive education in Hamilton. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Price and booking details

£30 for professionals, free for parents/students. Please note that all places need to be booked in advance.  Places are limited and early booking is recommended. Online registration and payment available.

Times and venues

York, Monday 7th December, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
The Bedingfield Room, The Bar Convent, 17 Blossom Street, York, YO24 1AQ

York Seminar Directions

Birmingham, Wednesday 9th December, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
Regus meeting rooms, 3 Brindley Place, Birmingham, B1 2JB

Birmingham Seminar Directions

Bristol, Thursday 10th December, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
S block, Frenchay Campus, University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1QY

Bristol Seminar Directions

London, Friday 11th December, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL
This seminar is organised in collaboration with the Institute of Education’s Inclusive Education Special Interest Group.

London Seminar Directions

Conference

Is everyone welcome? Preventing rejection from 21st century schools.

Manchester, Tuesday 8th December, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS

This conference will address ways to uphold every child’s right to good quality education in a mainstream school. Contributors include Mel Ainscow, Professor of Education at the University of Manchester, Jackie Bajus and Laszlo Galambos, senior officers of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, Canada, and Chris Goodey and Artemi Sakellariadis, from the Centre of Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE). This conference will see the launch of the new CSIE publication The Welcome Workbook: a self-review framework for expanding inclusive provision in your local authority, a vital aid to bridging the gap between government policy on inclusion and its practical implementation. A copy of the Welcome Workbook will be given to each delegate.

More information on this conference is available (Word, 8Kb).

Manchester Conference Directions

Price and booking details

£150 for professionals, £15 for parents/students. Price covers refreshments, lunch and materials, including a free copy of the Welcome Workbook.

Places are limited and early booking is recommended.

back to top


The Cambridge Primary Review

28 October 2009

The report of The Cambridge Primary Review just published, has caused a stir in the media. Although not commissioned directly by government, it has a powerful academic base that ensures a response from government. It asks (among other things) whether there is any conflict between breadth of curriculum and standards, criticizing the tendency for literacy and numeracy to stand as proxies for the whole of primary education; suggests that the key to poor performance (such as it is) be laid at the door of social and economic deprivation; and criticises the “authoritarian mind-set” that sees childhood’s rich potential being “pressed into a uniform mould at an ever younger age,” suggesting instead that children should only start formal schooling at the age of six.

It also has a substantial “special needs” component, taking evidence from parents and teachers. And it has come to the same conclusion as other reports before it, that support and funding for vulnerable children and those identified as having “special educational needs” is dependent on a postcode lottery. It also notes that “It is more than 10 years since the government announced its support for the United Nations’ statement [in the Convention on the Rights of the Child] that children with special needs ‘achieve the fullest educational progress and social integration by attending mainstream school’.” It states its concern that “pupils are being labelled and segregated unnecessarily both by the type of school they attend and what they are offered when they get there. There are fears that they are vulnerable to the same stereotyping and discrimination experienced by some minority ethnic groups.”

The Review cites the full figure of 800,000 children on SEN registers nationally, and thus leaves unclear whether the authors include in this the much smaller number of children who never arrive in mainstream school in the first place. Nevertheless, the Review tackles the broader issue as one of “Equity”, noting the huge gap in outcomes (one assumes from the context here that it means “life outcomes” rather than test results) between “the most vulnerable and excluded” and the rest. In this sense it is commendably different from most previous curriculum reviews. “Review Special Needs – Now” runs the section heading, and CSIE concurs with this view.

back to top


Disability hate crime reaches the news

24 September 2009

The inquest on the killing of learning-disabled Francecca Hardwick and the suicide of her mother Fiona Pilkington after being bullied by neighbours seems to have led to a change in the way such matters are reported in the press. Most of the daily and free newspapers have cited Mencap’s suggestion that hate crimes against disabled people should be treated as seriously as racist offences, and have reported that police ignored Fiona’s requests for assistance. This is probably the first time such a call has been widely aired in the media and given due weight. At the same time, the media have continued to spray the usual demeaning clichés over this story. Francecca is said to have had “a mental age of four”, thus perpetuating the demeaning representation of learning-disabled adults as mere children. Nevertheless, the equation of disablist attitudes with racist ones should lead the public to the wider, justifiable perception that alongside insitutionalised racism on the part of those enforcing the law there is also institutionalised disablism, and that it too needs to be tackled.

back to top


Welcome Seminar

17 September 2009

On 16 September CSIE held a national seminar in London to discuss the draft of its forthcoming publication, The Welcome Workbook. This is a self-evaluation tool for people working in local authorities who want to find ways of reducing segregation and of helping to enable local mainstream schools to include more children, especially those perceived to have the most complex needs. It has already been piloted by three local authorities. At the seminar a group of disabled people, parents, senior local authority officers and persons from Ofsted, the DCSF and the Department of Health met to discuss and help improve the document, which is due to be launched on 8 December.

back to top


The effect of teaching assistants on achievement

6 September 2009

Research undertaken at the University of London’s Institute of Education hit the media headlines in early September, following the publication of the final report on the deployment and impact of support staff in schools (DISS) project. This was a large-scale five-year study covering England and Wales, which reported that teaching assistants boost teachers’ productivity but not pupils’ progress in English, Maths and Science. When a government-funded report claims that teaching assistants impair children’s progress, perhaps the time has come at long last to sit up and reconsider what is unproblematically accepted as common practice. As CSIE’s publication Learning Supporters and Inclusion flagged up nearly a decade ago, learning supporters are often being asked to take on considerable extra responsibility at low pay, minimum job security and often with insufficient training. In a system that seems to be sustained largely by the goodwill and commitment of the individuals involved, the time for change is long overdue. Last but not least, let us not forget the qualitative impact that learning supporters can have on young people’s lives. Every single learning supporter stands to have a hugely significant impact on the experience children have in mainstream schools and on everyone’s sense of belonging in the school community. Equating children’s progress with their academic achievement is only a narrow view of progress. Worse still, evaluating the impact of support staff by such a narrow view of progress seems to do little more than add insult to injury.

back to top


New Government White Paper

30 June 2009

Today (30 June 2009) the government published its new White Paper on education Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century school system, which pulls together many previous government initiatives in order “to create a world class education system and build a skilled workforce for the future”. Among other things, it marks the end of the national strategies; requires all teachers and heads to have a “licence to teach”, renewable every five years; stipulates a legally enforceable admissions code; and promotes chains of schools run by “accredited schools groups”.

Earlier this year CSIE called upon all its contacts to respond to the Government’s consultation document in preparation for this Paper, which failed to engage with inclusive education. The response was magnificent. The White Paper now launched says more about inclusion than the original consultation document did. But it is also highly ambiguous. The Equality Impact Assessment attached to it quotes Ofsted with approval on the subject of disability: “Children with special educational needs can make outstanding progress through high quality teaching and an inclusive environment”. It could hardly do otherwise, since the DCSF’s generic guidelines on equality impact assessments call for “the removal of barriers between disabled and non-disabled people”.

Yet the main body of the White Paper pursues the equivocations we have become used to. Section 3.11 calls for “the range of providers – mainstream schools (with or without) and special schools – [to] work in partnership”, with special schools as “leaders in teaching and learning practice for children with the most complex learning difficulties, including Profound Multiple Learning Disabilities, in shared governance arrangements” with mainstream schools. This is “important”, it says. It does not say whether this co-locational model will be the case, or whether it simply may be the case.

Nor does one know what to make of the following: “We reaffirm parents’ right to exercise choice over the type of school for their child with special educational needs or a disability. All 21st century special schools should have high expectations for what their pupils can achieve, promote the skills and confidence needed for independence in adult life, provide opportunities for disabled and non-disabled children to play and learn together and share their expertise – whether in leadership, special educational needs or the curriculum – with other schools”. It does not say how this can happen if children are not in the same classroom, let alone the same building. How are children to have friends, be part of their local community and remain so as adults? This hazy language palpably sweeps the question under the carpet.

A more encouraging note is the reaffirmation (above) of the right to a parental choice of mainstream. This echoes recent ministerial statements and those of shadow ministers, and shows that people across the political spectrum no longer feel as morally comfortable as they once did about legally enforceable segregation. What the White Paper does not say is how or indeed whether the DCSF will play any part in making choice of mainstream a reality, especially for those children perceived to have the most complex needs.

Another mildly encouraging note is struck by 3.12, which says that the school “may” use some of its resources to “take some responsibility for pupils in the area more widely” apart from those on its own roll, and for the wider community, making this “a key responsibility of the governors of the school.”

CSIE will be working to put flesh on the bones of any opportunities the White Paper provides for pursuing the human rights of children.

back to top


Damehood for CSIE patron

22 June 2009

Formerly known as Dr Philippa Russell, CSIE’s patron and former trustee of our organisation has recently been made a dame in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to disabled children, young people and family carers. Previously she had been awarded an OBE for her work with children with special educational needs and their families and the CBE for services to disabled people. Dame Philippa Russell has recently been reappointed as Chair of the Standing Commission on Carers, for a term of three years. She is also Disability Policy Adviser to the National Children’s Bureau and was formerly a Commissioner with the Disability Rights Commission and Director of the Council for Disabled Children.

back to top


Convention ratification

8 June 2009

The UK government has today ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Or at least that is what the public announcements say. In fact, the government has hedged its ratification with several interpretive declarations and reservations, including the following addendum to Article 24, on education:

"The United Kingdom Government is committed to continuing to develop an inclusive system where parents of disabled children have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff, which have the capacity to meet the needs of disabled children.

The General Education System in the United Kingdom includes mainstream and special schools, which the UK Government understands is allowed under the Convention.

The United Kingdom reserves the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community where more appropriate education provision is available elsewhere. Nevertheless, parents of disabled children have the same opportunity as other parents to state a preference for the school at which they wish their child to be educated."

The Government inserted paragraph 1 only at the eleventh hour, after intense lobbying from the United Nations Convention Campaign Coalition, of which CSIE is a member and which has been campaigning for full ratification of the Convention without reservations or interpretive declarations of any kind. The crucial item missing from paragraph 1 is a deadline by which the government intends to have met the commitment it has signed up to. Moreover, the absence of a deadline renders paragraph 2 ambiguous and in possible contravention of the principles behind the Convention, since article 24 clearly asserts: “States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels”

In refusing to give a deadline, the government is also ignoring the second UN committee report on the UK’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which last October criticised the government for its continuing lack of a comprehensive national strategy for the inclusion of disabled children into society. In attaching both an interpretive declaration (paragraph 2) and a reservation (paragraph 3), the Government also finds itself contradicting the European Union legislature, which managed to ratify Article 24 without any declarations or reservations, as have virtually all the 58 UN member nations that have so far ratified.

CSIE will be campaigning alongside disabled people’s organisations and their allies to remove all interpretive declarations and reservations. The UN’s own monitoring process on implementation, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities may also come into play. CSIE was extensively involved in the writing of Article 24 and in campaigning for full ratification.

back to top


Revision of the Index for Inclusion

23 April 2009

Index for Inclusion cover imageThe popular CSIE publication “Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools” was first published in 2000. At that time, the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) had funded the distribution of a free copy to all primary, secondary and special schools and LEAs in England. Since then, the Index has been revised (2002) and an Early Years version has been produced (2004) and revised (2006). During this time the Index has acquired an impressive international reputation: it has been translated in over 30 languages, while requests for new translations continue to be made.

Professor Tony Booth, principal Index author, and CSIE have recently launched a revision of the schools version of the Index; the new, revised edition is expected to be available in 2011. Our aim is to further develop this popular resource so that it reflects the current educational context of our country and becomes even more easily accessible and user-friendly for busy school staff.

Have your say

We are very keen to hear the views of school and local authority staff. Please let us know what you have found helpful in the Index and what changes you would like to see in the next edition. We want to hear from you however detailed or deep your use has been or even if you have considered but rejected using it.

We have included some questions to prompt your response. Please feel free to respond to some or all of them.

Please send us your comments either by post (CSIE, New Redland Building, Coldharbour Lane, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1QU) or by email at indexrevision@csie.org.uk by the end of May. Thank you.

back to top


UK Government held to account

1 April 2009

The Northern Ireland Education Minister has thrown a spanner in the works of the UK government's intention to make a reservation on Article 24 (Education) when it ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The UK Minister for Disabled People, Jonathan Shaw, had stated at a meeting of the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland concurred with this approach. On 27th March, however, the Northern Ireland Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane, stated that the Convention, including Article 24, should be ratified "without reservations or interpretative declarations ... It is important that children with special educational needs or disabilities can be educated together with other children and they all have access to the same range of educational opportunities." In addition, a statement from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission declared that it was "concerned that the proposed reservation and declaration in respect of education could hinder progress towards the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education in Northern Ireland".

As a consequence, on 30th March CSIE wrote to Jonathan Shaw (Word, 65Kb) to ask how he proposed to respond to her recommendation. In addition, Alasdair McDonnell MP has today (1 April) tabled a parliamentary question asking Mr Shaw to (i) outline his response to the Northern Ireland Education Minister's public statement declaring opposition to the proposed reservation on Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; (ii) to detail the impact of this opposition on previous claims that all of the devolved administrations concurred with this proposed reservation; and (iii) how, in light of this opposition in the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, he now sees the proposed reservations as necessary for England, Scotland and Wales.

There will now be a delay in the ratification process which provides a window of opportunity, and CSIE is urging all its contacts to write again to ask Jonathan Shaw to reconsider and to ratify the Convention without reservation or interpretative declaration. The possibility is now all the greater, inasmuch as the above shows how parts of the UK's own administration are at odds with his decision.

back to top


CSIE questions the extent of "parental choice"

11 March 2009

CSIE has written to Ed Balls, Minister for Children, Schools and Families, asking for clarification on the principle of "parental choice" and offering practical support to the DCSF in its work towards developing more inclusive provision throughout the UK. CSIE asked the Minister if the DCSF's commitment to "parental choice" is limited to respecting a wish for segregated education, or whether it extends to honouring the choice of parents seeking a mainstream school place for their disabled child. If it is an honest and full commitment, CSIE argued, there is no need for a reservation on Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, because the DCSF should be seeking to develop inclusive provision in every locality, in order to make the option of a mainstream place a real choice.

back to top


Children’s rights denied

3 March 2009

Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People, has expressed the UK Government’s proposed intention to attach a number of reservations to its ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These were presented by the minister to parliament on 3 March. CSIE has joined with 31 other organisations representing the entire spectrum of the disability movement in expressing our indignation at this.

Article 24 of the Convention commits the world to developing an inclusive education system where mainstream schools develop the capacity to include all disabled children and students. However, despite the many representations made by CSIE and disabled people’s organisations in writing to the Minister for Disabled People and in person to the minister responsible for Article 24 at the DCSF, the UK government seems to think it can pick and choose which rights to uphold and which to discard.

First, it intends to append an “interpretative declaration” to Article 24. This article stipulates for disabled children an “inclusive” education “within the general education system”. However, the minister has formally proposed to parliament that the UK government attach a declaration which interprets this as follows: “The General Education system in the UK includes mainstream and special schools, which the UK government understands is allowed under the Convention.” Indeed it is not. The Convention clearly states the right to inclusion, and the UK’s interpretation contravenes the very principle enshrined in it. Secondly, the minister has also proposed that the government attach a reservation whereby “The UK reserves the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community where more appropriate.” CSIE, along with all other members of the United Nations Convention Campaign Coalition, is calling on every one of our contacts to write to their Member of Parliament opposing this denial of disabled children’s fundamental human right to an education alongside their non-disabled peers, and to urge members to demand that the government ratify the Convention without any reservations or interpretative declarations, and to drop the ones that are proposed. For details on how to do this, see the entry below (13 February).

back to top


Call to action: CSIE invites inclusion supporters to write to their MP and/or the Prime Minister in support of ratification without reservations of Article 24 (Education).

13 February 2009

The UK government is preparing to ratify (bring into UK law) the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Governments can either ratify a Convention in full or express one or more reservations or interpretive declarations, to clarify their intentions and/or indicate which parts of the Convention they do not plan to implement. The UK government is considering placing four reservations (more than the total reservations placed by 47 other countries that have already ratified this convention) and, alarmingly, is considering a reservation on Article 24 (Education). CSIE urges all inclusion supporters to act now and help make the voice for inclusion heard.

The facts

The Convention

A landmark international treaty, the Convention sets out in detail all disabled people's rights and a code of implementation. A key document of the 21st century, all the more significant because it marks a paradigm shift in perceptions of disability. Article 24 stipulates an inclusive education system at all levels and specifies that disabled learners should not be excluded from the general educational system. The Convention has been written in collaboration with disabled people and spells out what should be in place in every country, so that disabled people can enjoy full and effective participation and inclusion in society. It was certainly not intended to offer a list of rights for governments to choose which ones to uphold and which not.

For more information on the Convention see the United Nations' Enable website.

The DCSF's position on Article 24

The UK can provide inclusive education in special schools, thinks Ed Balls; he wants to issue an interpretive declaration to say that special schools are part of a range of provision that makes up the country's general education system. The UK would then be free to continue systematically discriminating on the grounds of disability. But this is not all. Article 24 (para 2b) requires disabled pupils to access an inclusive, quality and free education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. The DCSF want to place a reservation here, so that disabled children can continue to be placed in day or residential special schools miles away from their home. Parents have to be offered the choice of special schooling, says the DCSF, and if this is miles from home then so be it. Such a reservation would perpetuate the long-established cruel system of educational apartheid.

For more information on the DCSF position see Appendix C of the Secretary of State's report on disability equality.

CSIE's position on these issues

The DCSF's insistence to contravene children's basic human right in the name of parental choice is unacceptable. The Department does not allow parents the choice of physically attacking their children or of subjecting them to conditions of child labour. Why allow them to breach their child's right to education without discrimination? In any case, parents formulate their choices within an existing context, not in a vacuum; in the current educational context many mainstream schools still feel ill-equipped to educate disabled learners. As more mainstream schools become willing and able to include all learners, parental choice for special schools is likely to diminish.

Special schools were established at a time when disabled people were not part of mainstream society. Our thinking has moved on and so should our educational practice. The imperative for inclusive education for all has not yet been fully understood; wider awareness of the social model of disability is needed. In assessing some children's "needs" many processionals still focus on physical, sensory or mental impairments and place children in institutions alongside others with similar impairments. No adult would choose their workplace by these criteria. It is unethical to deprive disabled children of the opportunity to grow up and learn alongside their non-disabled peers, and vice versa. The moral argument for inclusion is strong and remains undisputed. On the other hand there is a strong lobby of parents and professionals, many of whom have a vested interest in a particular school, insisting that special schools are necessary because they offer specialized provision not available in mainstream schools. We must not let the mistakes of the past shape our future. What is missing is consistency in the capacity of mainstream to respond to today's inclusive values. With the current emphasis on personalized learning, there is no reason why "specialized provision" cannot be made available in mainstream. Indeed, in many places, it is.

The government cannot pick and choose which rights to uphold -- this is unethical and an insult to the dignity of disabled people. Speak up now!

What you can do

a) Write to your MP

Every message helps. Whether you spell out your detailed thoughts or drop a quick line to ask for ratification of the Convention WITHOUT RESERVATIONS, your voice counts.

To do this, go to the they work for you website, enter your postcode and, on your MP's page, click on the option to send a message. It's as simple as that and it needn't take more than a few minutes.

b) Write to the Prime Minister

Many others are writing to him about this. The more letters he receives, the more likely he is to listen. Help him understand why a reservation on Article 24 is unethical or simply tell him how appalled you are that his government is considering this reservation.

To do this, address your letter to "Dear Mr Brown" or "Dear Prime Minister" and post to: The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA or fax it to 020 7925 0918. Emailing Gordon Brown may soon become possible; you can find out on the Number 10 website.

c) Ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same.

Do all three and give yourself a pat on the back. The sooner you do this the better; the government is still considering its position but may announce its decision in March.

Thank you in anticipation of your action. Every voice counts - united we are stronger!

back to top


CSIE writes to the Prime Minister

5 February 2009

CSIE has written to the Prime Minister (PDF 54Kb) expressing its deep concern at the government's response to ratification of Article 24 (Education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We argued that there is no need for a reservation and that failure to ratify without reservations would bring the UK government into disrepute with other governments worldwide. We also argued that it was unacceptable for ministers at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to go against usual practice by refusing a meeting with the UNCCC coalition, which represents the entire sweep of disabled people's organisations nationally.

back to top


The UK government has announced its intention to sign the Optional Protocol to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

3 February 2009

In a written response to a Parliamentary Question, Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People, confirmed that the government intends to sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The government signed the Convention on the first day it opened for signature (30 March 2007) and has been considering its position on ratification of the Convention and on signature of the Optional Protocol ever since. To date, there have been 137 signatories and 47 ratifications of the Convention, 81 signatories and 28 ratifications of the Optional Protocol.

The Optional Protocol creates additional functions for members of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, such that they can engage in individual communications and inquiries. In other words, individuals or groups of individuals who feel that their rights have been breached, can take their case to the UN Committee that has a remit to monitor the implementation of the Convention.

For more information on the Convention and the Protocol please see the United Nations' Enable website

back to top


Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader

Support our work

Help us to continue promoting the development of inclusive education. Make a secure donation at BT MyDonate.

news