Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

news & events

"Special" education revisited

21 December 2013

CSIE has worked in collaboration with Nottingham University and Graphic Inclusion, to produce a new resource which is free to view and download.

This is an animated story of how schooling for disabled children, or those identified as having special educational needs, has evolved over time. It provides an overview of 100 years in 15 minutes and shows how separate schools came into being at a time when disabled people were thought to have no place in mainstream society. In doing so, it dispels the myth that separate “tailor-made provision” was created as a better option for disabled children. The video also presents recent concerns about the current education system in England and shows how different ways of understanding disability are reflected in the law and in the way education is being shaped.

This animation will be of interest to teachers, teacher educators, students, parents and anyone else interested in how education responds to disabled children’s rights. In the first month of being available online, it has been viewed from 18 countries, including Belgium, Hungary, Spain, Luxemburg, Russia, India, Canada, USA, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. CSIE has received very positive feedback, including: “Great video”, “Fantastic resource” and “Essential training video for all teachers”.

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Running to stand still?

10 December 2013

As part of the passage of the Children and Families Bill through Parliament, the Department for Education (DfE) has been consulting on the draft Code of Practice and draft regulations and transitional arrangements.

CSIE’s main response has been made through the collective voice of the Special Educational Consortium (SEC), of which CSIE is a member. This includes the SEC statement informing the DfE that the draft Code of Practice could not be supported if it was laid before Parliament for approval in its current form, and the more detailed consultation response submitted on 9 December. Both these documents are available on the SEC website.

In its individual response, CSIE recommended that national and international equality legislation should be more clearly reflected in the revised Code of Practice and that the Department for Education should use the ongoing legal reform as an opportunity to safeguard and promote greater disability equality in education.

Our response focused on two significant aspects of the law reform. The draft Code of Practice reflects what is currently in the Children and Families Bill as this moves through Report Stage at the House of Lords. Both documents repeat what the last law reform established more than ten years ago: that children who want (and whose parents want) a mainstream education, will be placed in a mainstream school as long as this is thought to be compatible with the efficient education of others in that school. In our response, we argued that in the 21st century this sounds inappropriate and anachronistic. It would not be said for a child from an ethnic minority background, or who speaks little or no English. Schools are presented with small and large challenges all the time; on the whole, they do a very good job of responding, and often rising, to the challenge. If any school is concerned that the presence of one child could compromise the efficient education of others, the government should support it to organise teaching and learning in a way that benefits everyone; not say that they do not have to include disabled children. We argued that the pretext of efficient education of others allows schools to continue to exclude disabled children, and that this seriously undermines parental choice. Promising a choice without building capacity in schools is like issuing a ticket and keeping the door locked.

Our response also focused on the unexpected suggestion that children and young people can be placed in special schools indefinitely, even if their needs have not been formally assessed. We suggested that this appears to be an oversight, which we urged the DfE to rectify as a matter of urgency. We also added a brief note on why we think this could be detrimental for some young people, for the unlikely event that establishing such an enormous loophole in the system was intentional.

Finally, our response pointed out that a response time of only nine weeks seems astonishingly short for a consultation of this magnitude: 13 separate documents, a total of 239 pages, proposing major changes to the education system. We understand that this concern has been echoed by many others.

Earlier today, 10 December, it emerged that the Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA), after submitting its response to the consultation detailing why the draft Code of Practice is not fit for purpose, has called for a moratorium on this legislation. CSIE has registered its support for this call. IPSEA chief executive, Jane McConnell, said “Political enthusiasm for making a change must not be allowed to drive bad legislation forward”.

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First steps in exciting journey

14 November 2013

We are delighted to announce plans to offer a new resource pack to schools. In the first instance this will focus on better including disabled and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) children & young people, aiming to help all feel welcome, visible and respected in their local school.

The new resource pack has, for now, the working title “Give Me A Chance!” and will be developed in collaboration with staff and pupils in schools. We anticipate that it will include fact sheets, advice and helpful tips, suggestions for awareness-raising activities and examples of good practice. Materials provided will be useful for school displays, assemblies, peer mentoring, school council, curriculum planning, classroom organisation, use of other school spaces, staff training and whole school development.

We have secured funding to work with Bristol and London schools to create this new resource. Our fundraising challenge is not over yet, but we look forward to launching this project in the coming weeks.

This is an open invitation for schools to express an interest in taking part in this project. We are looking for five schools in Bristol and five in London willing to share their experiences and take an active role in generating resource materials. If your school has a strong track record of promoting disability equality or LGBT equality, or both, please speak to your colleagues and consider nominating your school. We will ask for a named person in each school to be the main contact, but hope that the whole school community will become involved in project activities.

We plan to bring together representatives of the nominated schools in early 2014 to confirm the outline of the resource pack and agree a manageable workplan. We will then work with these schools for the remainder of the school year and invite other stakeholder organisations working towards disability and LGBT equality to become involved in this process too. We anticipate launching the new resource this time next year, if not before.

Other schools are also welcome to contribute, by sharing with us their ideas and examples of what has worked well for them.

Please feel free to contact us through facebook (www.facebook.com/csie.uk), twitter (www.twitter.com/csie_uk), or email (admin@csie.org.uk) to ask any questions or to nominate your school. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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Hats off to Bulgarian schools!

14 October 2013

Conference in Bulgaria

At a conference in Sofia today, 14 October, we witnessed Bulgarian schools' resounding endorsement of the CSIE resource "Index for inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools" (Booth & Ainscow 2013, 3rd edition). Educators who, a year ago, were reluctant to engage with what they saw as too long a document, were today singing its praises! Schools reported that the Index has helped them stay focused and actively involve pupils and their families in school development. With the help of the Index materials they have improved their school environments, which has led to happier & more engaged learners, and established better communication systems with parents who now feel more involved in their children's school. Schools which have engaged with the Index are looking forward to continuing to use this for further school improvement.

Today's conference was part of a larger project in which CSIE has been working in partnership with the Centre for Inclusive Education, a Bulgarian NGO based in Sofia, to make a Bulgarian translation of the Index available to local schools. Professor Tony Booth, principal author of the Index, has also been involved in this project and was present at today's conference. We offer our heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved in the success of this project, especially those who initially felt overwhelmed at the task, yet persevered and are now reaping the benefits.

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Disabled children's rights are being breached

14 October 2013

Disabled children & young people who live in poverty are being denied their basic rights, says a new report from the office of the children's commissioner. The report explains that the government has a direct responsibility to tackle poverty: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that, where families or children cannot support themselves, the State will ensure they have an adequate standard of living (Article 27). Four in ten disabled children live in poverty and the impact of welfare, tax and public service reform has fallen disproportionately on them. Maggie Atkinson, the Children's Commissioner for England, says that the fact that child poverty still exists is "a national shame" and calls upon the government to take urgent action to ensure disabled children's rights do not continue to be violated in this way.

The research examined how poverty impacts on disabled children's rights as these are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. These documents state that disabled children have the right to the basic things they need for living, such as: the right to adequate food, clothes and heating; the right to support to live independently; and the right to help make decisions about where they live. On all these issues, the research found disturbing evidence that, for some disabled children & young people living in poverty, these rights are being violated. Some disabled children, young people and their parents are not able to heat their homes properly or to afford adequate clothing and/or food. Some were not informed or involved in decisions about changes to where they lived; some experienced delays in adaptations being made to their homes and some did not have enough space nor support for independent living.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that the government should urgently review the support available to families with disabled children and make sure that disabled children's views are heard when planning changes that affect them. The report also recommends that the government should publish clear information about disabled children's rights and services available for them, and should ensure that disabled children's rights are better understood by people working in local and central government.

The research was carried out by a team at the University of Central Lancashire who worked with a steering group of eleven disabled children & young people who led the research. They held interviews with 78 disabled children & young people, and with 17 parents, to understand the experiences of disabled children & young people living in poverty.

The government has dismissed the report, claiming it was based on too small a sample; in response, the Children's Commissioner has challenged them to speak to the young people involved in the study before doubting the truthfulness of the findings.

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Who wants an Equality Duty?

13 September 2013

Last Friday, 6 September, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) published its report on the recent review of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

ThePublic Sector Equality Duty is set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and says that public bodies must have due regard to the need to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between people who have, and those who do not have, any of the ‘protected characteristics’. The ‘protected characteristics’ identified in the Equality Act are: age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity (the Act uses the term ‘race’), marriage & civil partnership (in connection with eliminating discrimination), pregnancy & maternity and religion or belief. The Public Sector Equality Duty came into force almost two-and-a-half years ago, on 5 April 2011.

In May 2012 the Home Office had called for a review of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), as part of the Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities, which seeks ways for the aims of existing regulation to be fulfilled in the least burdensome way possible. In spring 2013 a call for evidence was announced, to which CSIE responded .

There appeared to be no official announcement of the report’s publication and some of those who saw it were quick to criticise the review as “ unnecessary and wasteful” and the report as “ an extremely amateurish, ignorant and inadequate piece of work”.

CSIE is alarmed at the ease with which equality seems to be brushed aside in the name of speed and efficiency, and at any suggestion that the rights of people at the margins of society could ever be considered burdensome or bureaucratic.

We stand by our claim that the PSED is not fully understood or implemented in schools and welcome the report’s recommendation that “the EHRC should produce shorter, more bespoke guidance clearly setting out what is necessary for compliance.”

Schools’ low awareness of the requirements of the Equality Act were also reported earlier this year by the Children’s Commissioner for England ina report on school exclusions. Yet the government has not taken action to monitor and improve the situation.

The report concludes that “it is too early to make a final judgement about the impact of the PSED and evidence, particularly in relation to associated costs and benefits, is inconclusive.” Nonetheless, we stand by our original assertion: the benefits of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations should outweigh financial costs in the process, by far.

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Children and Families Bill

18 June 2013

The report stage and third reading of the Children and Families Bill took place last Tuesday, 11 June, and the Bill received its first reading at the House of Lords on 12 June. The second reading is expected to take place on 2 July.

The Bill was left largely unchanged by its passage through the House of Commons, despite a number of amendments being tabled at Committee and Report stage. The Government continues to push forward its plans to change education law without a clear evidence base, while at the same time signaling that it sees no need for schools to respond to the call of disability equality. The Department for Education insists that all parents should have a real choice of school, but shows no intention of making the choice of mainstream possible for all parents in all areas.

The Children and Families Bill is expected to complete its passage through Parliament and receive Royal Assent in spring 2014 – a critical point in the Coalition Government’s term in office. The pace at which the Bill is progressing is worrying: key changes are being proposed with no clear evidence that they will bring improvement, or even protect current entitlements. Pathfinders designed to pilot some of the proposed changes are not due to conclude until after the new law is expected to be in place.

CSIE’s main concern, as we have said before remains the re-introduction of two clauses from the Education Act 1996, which had been repealed by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001. More than ten years ago these clauses had been removed in the name of disability equality. We struggle to understand why the government thinks it is appropriate to bring them back into law now. We also remain concerned that some disabled children and young people will not be covered by the proposed legislation, and disappointed that such a major law reform does not seek to replace the inadequate term “special educational need”.

We have also reported deep concerns with regard to the Draft Indicative Code of Practice published in March. We remain alarmed that the Statutory Guidance on Inclusive Schooling is at risk of being lost, despite government promises that this would not happen. We are also concerned at proposals to abolish the categories of School Action and School Action Plus without a suitable alternative, and believe that the introduction of Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans will only work if time limits for statutory assessments are specified, a standard format for EHC Plans is adopted, social care is made an enforceable part of EHC Plans and a single point of appeal is ensured. Without these amendments, we remain deeply concerned that current entitlements stand to be lost.

The issues are many and complex. If fully committed to disability equality, the Department for Education should be supporting schools to develop more inclusive provision for all learners; not introducing legal clauses that undermine parental choice and making it sound acceptable for schools to turn away disabled pupils. If nothing else, new legislation should be consistent with current national and international law:

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Always Someone Else's Problem

25 April 2013

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner published yesterday, 24 April, its year 2 report on illegal exclusions. "Always Someone Else's Problem" details the scale and nature of children illegally excluded from school, suggesting this affects thousands of children in several hundred schools. This report follows the March 2012 report "They Never Give Up On You" and the March 2013 report “They Go The Extra Mile”, both of which had explored inequalities in school exclusions. These earlier reports had highlighted alarming levels of inequality with regard to gender, ethnic background and perceived ability and had suggested that the current system of school exclusions is in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and of UK legislation.

This latest report states that, in some of the schools visited, some practices are clearly discriminatory and are contrary to schools’ legal duties. These include school rules on hair length or hair cut which only apply to boys; or which relate to hairstyles much more likely to be worn by a particular ethnic group. In both cases, breaches of these school regulations could lead to immediate short-term exclusions, without any notice given.

The inquiry found evidence of pupils being moved to other schools or sent home without an exclusion being recorded; having asked parents to keep children at home to avoid an exclusion, schools then coded their absence as ‘C’ (authorised absence).

In other instances young people categorised as having ‘special educational needs’ were sent home because their specialist teacher was unavailable or the school wanted to avoid the possibility of disruptive behaviour during an Ofsted inspection.

The report states: “This situation is unacceptable. It should be a source of shame to the education service. It means that even in what we believe are relatively small numbers, some children lose out on education through the action or inaction of the adults responsible for educating them.” The report suggests that urgent action is needed and makes a number of recommendations, including that schools illegally excluding pupils for one month should be fined an amount equivalent to the funding they receive for educating that pupil for a year.

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CSIE workshop in summer 2013
Anti-bullying strategies for a rich and positive learning environment

24 April 2013

About the workshop:

Do all pupils and staff feel welcome, visible and respected in your school? Do lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils and staff feel safe at school? Can disabled pupils and staff, current or prospective, fully participate in every aspect of school life? Ofsted’s report No place for bullying” (June 2012) said that LGBT and disabled pupils bear the brunt of bullying in schools. Do all staff at your school feel well-equipped to tackle homophobic and disablist bullying? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, this workshop is for you.

This workshop is designed to help staff in primary and secondary schools to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. It aims to do more than simply help schools fulfil their legal duties or do well in an Ofsted inspection. It is a practical, “hands on” workshop designed to be engaging and constructive. It highlights equality issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and disabled members of the school community, explores proactive and reactive approaches to bullying and offers a clear framework for advancing equality in schools. It encourages participants to consider experiences of discrimination from a range of perspectives and to take practical steps towards generating rich and positive learning environments from which everyone can benefit.

For further information or to book a place please visit CSIE training

Who should attend:


This workshop aims to:


At the end of this workshop participants will be able to:

Cost: 90 +VAT (total 108)

HALF PRICE offer: Places available at 45 +VAT (total 54) to delegates who participate in a 30-minute focus group discussion. This will take place straight after the workshop, to explore further ways in which CSIE can help schools promote equality.

Dates and venues:


Wednesday 19 June 2013 1.30 – 4.00pm

National Children’s Bureau (NCB), 8 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7QE


Thursday 20 June 1.30 – 4.00pm

Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James Street, Sheffield S1 2EW

For more information please see www.csie.org.uk/training/index.shtml

Feedback from previous CSIE workshops

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Lukewarm commitment to equality

19 April 2013

The Home Office has called for a review of the public sector equality duty (PSED), as part of the Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities, which seeks ways for the aims of existing regulation to be fulfilled in the least burdensome way possible.

The public sector equality duty is set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and says that public bodies must have due regard to the need to: eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations between people who have, and those who do not have, any of the ‘protected characteristics’. The ‘protected characteristics’ identified in the Equality Act are: age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity (the Act uses the term ‘race’), marriage & civil partnership (in connection with eliminating discrimination), pregnancy & maternity and religion or belief. The public sector equality duty came into force just over two years ago, on 5 April 2011.

The steering group which has been convened to oversee the review has called for evidence on: a) how well the PSED and related guidance are understood; b) the costs and benefits of the PSED; c) how organisations are managing legal risk and ensuring compliance with the PSED; and d) what changes, if any, would ensure better equality outcomes (for example legislative, administrative and/or enforcement changes).

CSIE has responded to this review and said that, in our experience, the PSED is not fully understood or implemented in schools. At a time when hate crime is reported to be increasing, the PSED should not be withdrawn but plans to support its implementation should be put in place as a matter of urgency. We also added that the benefits of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations by far outweigh any financial costs in the process. Our full response appears below.

CSIE submission to PSED review

The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) has been at the forefront of developments in inclusive education for over 30 years. Founded in 1982, the Centre has extensive experience of working to promote equality and eliminate discrimination in education for everyone regardless of age, impairment, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or belief. CSIE provides training and consultancy nationally and internationally and produces resources which support the development of inclusive education, some of which have become popular with education practitioners throughout the world. For more information please see www.csie.org.uk.

Our practical knowledge of the field and of relevant documentation, as well as our recent interactions with parents, schools, local authorities and other organisations in the sector, have led us to believe that the PSED is not yet fully understood or properly implemented in schools. In particular:

It follows from the above that the current legislation is not well understood in education; there is no immediate need to modify the legislation, but there is an urgent need to support its implementation. Hate crime, particularly disability hate crime, is reported to be increasing (see “Hidden in plain sight”, EHRC report of September 2011 and “Out in the open”, follow-up report of October 2012). Much more needs to be done in education, in order to eliminate discrimination and harassment, to advance equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who do not. Getting this right in education is a first step towards better appreciation of diversity and greater social justice. The benefits of achieving this by far outweigh any financial costs in the process. In order to ensure that the PSED is better understood and fully implemented, CSIE recommends that:

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Concerns over legal reforms mount

21 March 2013

Last week the Department for Education published an Indicative Draft of a new Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, intended to support the passage of the Children and Families Bill through Parliament. A Draft Code of Practice for formal consultation is expected to be published in September.

While we applaud the government’s intention to extend legal protection to the education of young people beyond statutory school age and up to the age of 25, we are deeply concerned at much of the content, or lack of it, of this document.

The new Code is expected to replace the existing Code of Practice and the Statutory Guidance on Inclusive Schooling. In doing so, a number of existing legal protections will be lost, or diluted. This is precisely what the Department for Education had promised would not happen, when it set the ball of legal reform rolling with the publication of the Green Paper in March 2011.

The Indicative Draft Code of Practice suggests abolishing ‘school action’ and ‘school action plus’ categories and replacing them with a single category of ‘Additional SEN Support (ASS)’. It also proposes, in line with the proposed Children and Families Bill, to replace statements of special educational need with Education, Health and Care Plans. It does not, however, mention time limits for statutory assessments, and it clearly reflects a reluctance to adopt a standard format for EHC Plans and significant slackening of review procedures. Also at risk of being lost are the definition of inclusion currently in the statutory guidance on inclusive schooling, as well as the detailed guidance on the steps schools and local authorities can take, to make sure that the presence of one child in a school is not thought to get in the way of the efficient education of other children.

The government continues to declare its genuine commitment to parental choice of school. This, however, could be little more than salt in the wounds of parents who find that, in practice, the choice of mainstream is not open to them. What good does it do to have “a right to express a preference”, when there are no plans to make the choice of mainstream possible for all children?

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Children and Families Bill

26 February 2013

The government is pushing forward with plans to change the law on the education of disabled children or those said to have special educational needs. These reforms have been hailed as the most significant reforms in the area for more than thirty years, yet they are being rushed through at a pace that leaves many critics significantly concerned. Alarmingly, the Pathfinders that have been designed to pilot some of the changes the government proposes to make, are not due to conclude until after the new law is expected to receive Royal Assent.

Almost two years ago, in March 2011, the Department for Education had published the Green Paper “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability”. This was around 10 months into the current government’s term of office. More than a year later, in May 2012, the Progress and Next Steps document was published, with details of the Green Paper consultation responses, changes already in place, and next steps in taking plans forward. In September 2012 the Department for Education published the draft provisions that were expected to form the basis of the proposed reform. The Education Committee conducted a pre-legislative scrutiny and published the report of its findings last December. The proposed Children and Families Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 5 February and received its second reading yesterday (Monday 25 February). Despite some of the Pathfinders having been extended to autumn 2014, the Children and Families Bill is expected to complete its passage through Parliament and receive Royal Assent in spring 2014, a time which could be significant for the lifetime of this government. In other words, as the media were quick to report, MPs have voted through a bill for key changes, with no clear evidence that these changes will bring improvement.

The Bill sets out to improve services for children who are considered to be vulnerable and seeks to reform the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs. With regard to special education reform, CSIE’s concerns are focused on the weakened wording for the local offer and for the amendment to the draft clauses which means that disabled children who do not fall under the current definition of ‘special educational needs’ will not be covered by this law. The government’s justification is that they are already protected by the Equality Act 2010, but the fact remains that they will not be entitled to an Education, Health and Care Plan (the proposed successor of the statement of special educational needs.) For more information please see the joint briefing produced by the Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) Campaign and the Special Educational Consortium (SEC), of which CSIE is a member.

CSIE is disappointed that such a major law reform does not seize the opportunity to replace the term “special educational need” which seems to us to have outlived its function. Repeated criticisms of the term had so far been met with the argument that it cannot be abolished because it is embedded in law. The current law reform provides an excellent opportunity to replace this term with alternative, more appropriate, terminology. The term “special educational need” first appeared in law in the 1981 Education Act, which stated that children should be identified as having special educational needs if they have “a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them”. This definition still holds today and appears in the revised Code of Practice (2001). It has repeatedly been criticised as inadequate and, in the words of Baroness Warnock in 2005, is “the purest vicious circle you will ever know”. She added: “Well, that is not much of a definition but it is the only definition there is.” More than 30 years on, the term may only seem acceptable by virtue of its longevity.

Above all, CSIE is concerned that the Bill re-introduces clauses from the Education Act 1996 which had been repealed by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA 2001). More than ten years ago, this Act had strengthened the commitment to inclusive education by removing two of the provisos of the general duty to educate in mainstream which had been in law since 1981. SENDA 2001 repealed two of the clauses from Section 316 of the Education Act 1996 (that the child receives the special education he or she requires and that there is an efficient use of resources) in the name of disability equality, on the understanding that these are matters of school organisation. These clauses had remained in Schedule 27 of the Education Act 1996, which was not amended by SENDA 2001.

Conditions specified in previous laws reflected the educational context of their time. The 1981 Education Act introduced the duty to educate all children in mainstream schools, as long as: this reflected parental wishes, did not hinder the education of other pupils and was compatible with the efficient use of resources. This, in the context of some children having been considered “ineducable” just 10 years previously (the Education (Handicapped Children) Act 1970 transferred the responsibility for providing for children categorised as “educationally subnormal (severe)” from health authorities to local education authorities.) The 1993 Act added a condition that the education received must be appropriate to the child’s needs and the 1996 Education Act, consolidating a number of education laws, maintained all four conditions. In the context of a national move towards greater disability equality, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001 removed 2 of the previous 4 conditions and stipulated that all children should be educated in the mainstream, as long as this is consistent with their parents’ wishes and with the efficient education of other children in the school. More than ten years on, in the context of today’s unconditional commitment to disability equality, there seems no need for any conditions to disabled children’s right to a mainstream education.

At a time when disability equality is more widely acknowledged and the government has confirmed its genuine commitment to parental choice of school, one could have expected that such a significant law reform would remove the third proviso on the duty to educate in mainstream (that this does not affect the efficient education of other children) on the understanding that this, too, is a matter of school organisation. This would have left only one proviso, that a mainstream education is consistent with parental wishes. We are deeply disappointed to see that the government has not seized this opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to disability equality. Instead, by keeping the existing proviso in the Children and Families Bill and re-introducing the clauses previously repealed, the government is effectively undermining parental choice. The message here is clearly that, for some parents, conditions will apply before their choice of mainstream can be honoured.

It is widely understood that the efficient education of other children depends on how teaching and learning are organised in a school. In some parts of the world there are no special schools; all children are educated in the mainstream. If some UK schools are concerned that the presence of one child will compromise the efficient education of others, they should be supported to develop their capacity to provide for the full diversity of learners; not be told that they don’t have to include disabled learners.

Last but not least, specifying conditions upon which parental choice of mainstream will depend, will be inconsistent with:

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Bias against inclusion?

12 February 2013

The long-awaited Children and Families Bill received its first reading at the House of Commons last Tuesday, 5 February. The Bill re-introduces clauses from the Education Act 1996 which had been repealed by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA 2001) in the name of disability equality. We are deeply disappointed to see such an assault to the development of inclusive education for disabled children and will be reporting on this more extensively after the Bill’s second reading, scheduled for Monday 25 February.

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Study visit from India

04 February 2013

We were honoured to have been invited to host a two-week study visit from a delegation from India, wishing to develop more inclusive education in their country. Senior government officers and teacher trainers from the Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat regions visited the UK from 21 January to 1 February and engaged in a rich programme of school visits, seminars and other events.

The delegation spent the first three days in London where, despite the beautiful inconvenience of the snow and some last minute rescheduling, we managed to engage in all planned activities. The delegation heard about LGBT equality from Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT and LGBT History Month and about disability equality from Richard Rieser, CEO of World of Inclusion and from Jonathan Bartley, Chair of the CSIE Council of Trustees and father of a disabled child. We visited Stoke Newington School and heard about their impressive efforts to promote LGBT equality and Bygrove Primary School in Tower Hamlets, to see their inclusive provision. Some of us even managed to attend the launch of CRAE’s report on the State of Children’s Rights 2012. On our way out of London we stopped at the Wroxham School and were impressed to see how Learning Without Limits looks in practice.

The end of the first week was spent in CSIE’s home city of Bristol. From here, we visited Emerson’s Green Primary School in South Gloucestershire, a mainstream school with a resource base for pupils with physical and/or visual impairments. Delegates were impressed with the school’s commitment to disability equality and the way the resource base forms an integral part of the school, intentionally moving away from conventional models of locating a “unit” in a particular space. We also visited Henbury School and heard from the school’s Equalities Manager. CSIE campaigner Em Williams facilitated a workshop on trans equality and Dr Lendvai and Dr Bainton, Lecturers in Comparative Public Policy and Education respectively, delivered “Translating experiences of inclusive education in the UK into practice in India”, a seminar to explore issues of “translating” policy.

On 28 January the delegation attended “Equalities in Education: the new landscape”, a conference held at the Institute of Education, in London. From there we travelled to Norfolk where we spent the final part of the study visit. Delegates visited Framingham Earl High School, Roydon Primary School, Colman Infant School and Broadland High School and were impressed with the diverse ways in which the Index for inclusion has helped school improvement. In Norfolk we were joined by Professor Tony Booth, author of the revised edition of the Index for inclusion, who delivered a seminar on the Index and engaged in conversations about adapting the Index for use in India. We were also privileged to be present at an Index Forum Meeting, at the start of a two-year schools improving schools project, using the language of the Index for inclusion.

We remain grateful to all presenters, in and out of schools, who gave so much time and energy and contributed to the success of this study visit.

Wordle: Indian delegation's feedback to CSIE

from participants has been overwhelmingly positive and included comments such as: "It was really exciting and we learnt a lot", “This study trip will help me to implement the Index for inclusion in the context of India”, "Well organised", "Sufficient material is provided and very useful" and "Facilitator provided good facilitating, more than what we expected". Improvement suggestions were mostly requests for more detailed information available earlier (though, in CSIE’s defence, study trip dates were only confirmed at the end of December) and more Indian food to be served throughout the study visit. We remain grateful to the chef at the Avon Gorge Hotel, Bristol, who adapted the standard menu and provided meals tailored to our guests’ wishes.

Each delegate has been given a copy of the Index for inclusion and both regions have made plans to translate and adapt this school improvement resource for use in their local schools. The delegation considered what barriers to learning and participation might exist in their local contexts, in addition to those already mentioned in the Index, and identified a number of issues including extreme poverty, language barriers and issues of caste and other social inequalities. We look forward to hearing how these and other plans to develop more inclusive education in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat take shape.

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Unleashing Inequality

10 January 2013

A new report by the Academies Commission published today, 10 January, says academies use covert selection methods to skew their intake. Unleashing Greatness: Getting the best from an academised system has found that some academies manipulate admissions to improve results and use covert selection methods, such as using lengthy admission forms or holding social events for prospective parents, to get round a ban on direct interviews set out in the admissions code. Such practices enable academies to select pupils from more privileged backgrounds and, the report says, have "attracted controversy and fuelled concerns that the growth of academies may entrench rather than mitigate social inequalities". In order to guard against this, the report recommends that academies publish an annual socioeconomic audit of how their intake compares with the pool of applicants.

The report also raises concerns about the process by which schools are converting to academy status and has found that some academy chains seem more focused on expanding their empires than improving their existing schools. This, the report says, raises concerns over government claims that an increase in the number of academies is driving up standards.

One of the key arguments for the academies programme had been that, by removing local authority control, schools would be closer to the local community and more directly accountable to parents. The report, however, has found that this is not so, and says: “We heard many tales where parents felt they were no longer able to have their voice heard”.

More information is available from the Academies Commission website and in the national press including The Guardian and The Independent.

Sadly, none of the above comes as a surprise. CSIE remains deeply concerned at the path that the state education system is being pushed along. Instead of seeking ways to promote equality and increase opportunity for all, state education is being shaped in ways which embrace, if not perpetuate, existing inequalities.

Meanwhile, it is being reported that the Conservative party has plans to allow private companies to run state schools for profit. This has been vetoed by the Liberal Democrats for the time being, on the grounds that it could be seen as back-door privatisation of the state education system, but is likely to be included in the Tory manifesto ahead of the next general election. What values underpin such choices? How can market forces and competition (which aligns success with academic achievement), offer equality of opportunity and help improve the life chances of those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds?

We urge all supporters of inclusive education to resist such paths to inequality. It is true that no one individual has the power to change an entire education system. It is also true that, if everyone who cares for the principled development of schools makes a small change in their immediate environment, the national picture can slowly improve. The CSIE resource Index for inclusion:developing learning and participation in schools (Booth and Ainscow 2011) is a values-based resource for school self-evaluation and improvement. It is available from all major booksellers, or directly from CSIEat a discounted rate.

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Page last updated: Monday 24 February 2020

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