Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

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28 October 2014

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) published in September its Manifesto for the 2015 general election.“Stand Up for Education” makes a compelling case for an education system that works in the interests of all children. Attractive in its design and clear in its message, the Manifesto spells out the NUT’s concerns about today’s education system and makes powerful recommendations for a constructive way forward.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, said: “The NUT’s Stand up for Education campaign has gained significant support from parents and the general public. We need to tackle child poverty and create a flexible and inclusive curriculum that benefits all.” She added: “Education must not be run for profit and we need to stop the fracturing of the school system through the free school and academies programme.”

The Manifesto also highlights the importance of Initial and Continued Teacher Education and stresses the NUT’s concern that staff without qualified teacher status are being employed to teach in academies and free schools. The Manifesto emphasises the importance of democracy in education and suggests that the power to plan and provide enough school places should be returned to local authorities. Teachers should be valued and trusted more, the Manifesto states, rather than being put under pressure to “teach to the test”, and teaching should once again be an attractive profession.

In the face of such a powerful document, clearly laying down such a coherent vision for the future, CSIE was surprised not to see a stronger call for including disabled children in ordinary local schools. In April 2014, at the NUT Conference in Brighton, members had voted to reiterate the NUT’s 2011 policy of “supporting inclusive education and developing disability equality in mainstream schools” and had instructed the NUT’s Executive to “campaign for a fully inclusive education system”.

The NUT has sent CSIE a copy of the manifesto and requested our reflections. Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, CSIE director, has sent the following statement: “CSIE unreservedly endorses the NUT’s Manifesto. It puts forward a compelling vision for education, backed up by coherent practical recommendations. Let us all try to make this vision a reality!”

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A call to unlock doors

24 September 2014

The first of two special issues of Race Equality Teaching has now been published, moving beyond race equality and covering the full equalities agenda in education. The nine articles in this special issue are arranged around the three “arms” of the public sector equality duty (Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010): to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who have and people who do not have the protected characteristics covered by the Act. The editorial has been written as an open message to political leaders on the urgent need to better promote equality in education. Personalised copies of this issue will be sent to political leaders and to bodies such as Ofsted and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The second special issue is due to be published later this year.

This RET special issue includes an article by CSIE director Artemi Sakellariadis, entitled “Issuing a ticket but keeping the door locked: the need for real change on disability equality”. The article describes the postcode lottery for disabled children confirmed by the recent Trends report, highlights the vicious circle of not developing provision because such provision has not been developed before, and suggests that the government’s promise of parental choice of school will remain hollow, until schools are offered support and incentives to include disabled children and young people. “After all,” the article concludes, “offering an entitlement without developing capacity is like issuing a ticket but keeping the door locked.”

In a recent blogpost, RET editor Gillian Klein explains why policy-makers cannot deal with the multiple challenges currently facing schools, unless they put equality at the heart of all they do. This resonates with CSIE’s recent blogpost, which says that investing time and energy to promote equality in schools is not only a moral and legal obligation, it also places pupils in a far better position to learn.

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What’s in a name?

10 September 2014

The new Children and Families Act has introduced wide-ranging reforms in the education of disabled children or those identified as having special educational needs. The new law applies to children and young people aged 0-25 and the Department for Education has been reviewing the terminology used in different parts of the sector. In the past, further education had used different terminology from schools, even when attempting to describe the same person. In an effort to allow for better monitoring and to improve the support provided by schools and colleges, the DfE has produced a set of proposals on appropriate terminology and consulted on these during August (and, granting a week’s extension, until today, 10 September).

In its response, CSIE stressed that any terminology used should be consistent with that proposed by UK disabled people’s organisations. For example, a clear distinction should be made between “impairment” and “disability” and the two words should not be used interchangeably.

CSIE’s response also drew attention to an important omission in existing data collection systems, which is in danger of being perpetuated. No information is currently available on the proportion of time that children and young people spend in different settings, for example on how time is divided between ordinary and special schools for children in dual placements. For children in special classes, units or resource bases in ordinary schools, no information is available on the proportion of time they spend alongside, or separated from, other pupils in the school, which means that pupils in such placements may have remarkably different experiences. The recent Trends report (“Contrasting responses to diversity: school placement trends 2007-13 for all local authorities in England”, researched and written by Dr Alison Black and Professor Brahm Norwich, published by CSIE 2014), recommended that the DfE collects time-based information from schools and colleges, in the way that USA data collection systems have been doing for years. A key aim of this consultation was to improve the experiences of disabled children and young people, or those identified as having special educational needs. It is hard to imagine how experiences can be improved, without a clear picture of what they are in the first place.

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Consultation or con-saltation?

06 May 2014

Setting a consultation period of only three weeks including Easter break and May Bank Holiday (total just 12 working days) the Department for Education has sought responses to the revised SEN and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years.

Blink and you’ve missed it. Such astonishing haste adds salt to the wounds of those concerned at the pace of change and the magnitude of major changes to the education system, especially as there is little or no evidence of how these changes will improve existing arrangements. We also deeply regret the limited number of closed and very specific questions on the online response form, the only route for submitting responses, which effectively deprived respondents of any opportunity to voice concerns about the current state of the Code of Practice and its fitness for purpose. We quip poorly that this seems more like con-saltation than consultation.

CSIE’s main response has been made through the collective voice of the Special Educational Consortium (SEC), of which CSIE is a member.

In its individual response, CSIE welcomed the newly added references to the Equality Act 2010 and to Article 24 (Education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and recommended that these should be mentioned consistently throughout the Code, so that new legislation can be understood in the context existing. CSIE’s response also called for a more thorough incorporation of the existing statutory guidance on Inclusive Schooling, as had previously been promised by the DfE. CSIE warned that, without strategic leadership and clear guidance on how to advance more inclusive education for disabled children and young people, the DfE could be in breach of its obligations to them.

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Postcode lottery for inclusion

18 March 2014

CSIE has been working with researchers at Exeter University to explore school placement trends (i.e. the proportion of children placed in special schools or other separate settings) of all local authorities in England. CSIE has been reporting local authority school placement trends since 1988. Work towards on this latest report has been funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to whom we remain grateful.

The new report provides up-to-date information for the years 2007-13. Like other Trends reports before it, it reveals a postcode lottery for inclusive education. There continues to be huge variation in the proportion of children regularly sent to special schools by each local authority. This ranges from 0.2% (the equivalent of 2 in 1,000 children) to 1.4% (the equivalent of 14 in 1,000) sent to special schools each year by different local authorities. These differences bear no simple relation to the size of a local authority or its social or geographical characteristics.

This detailed information, presenting school placement trends at local authority level, is unique to CSIE. It can help parents and professionals in negotiating children’s school placements and can support the efforts of those who want to lobby for change.

The new report will be launched in London on Thursday 27 March. The event is free but places must be booked in advance. Further information is available with all booking details.

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Page last updated: Friday 14 November 2014

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