Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

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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: Thursday 11 September 2014

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