Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

Social and educational justice - the human rights framework for inclusion

Special schools remain as obstacles to inclusion

A human rights report calls for the phased closure of separate, special schools as a main task in developing inclusive education. The report, written by Sharon Rustemier for CSIE, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, says segregated schooling violates children's rights. All resources from special schools should be transferred to mainstream settings, which should be restructured to increase their capacity to respond to student diversity in its entirety.

The report, Social and educational justice - the human rights framework for inclusion, was published by the Centre at the close of Inclusion Week (November 11 - 15, 2002) being held across the UK and in many other countries around the world. It says that the central problem in the development of inclusive education in the UK is the continuing philosophical, financial and legislative support of segregated schooling. It shows how segregation in separate special schools is internationally recognised as discriminatory and damaging to individuals and society. As well as violating children's rights to inclusive education, segregated schooling breaches all four principles underpinning the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report acknowledges progress in developing the capacity of mainstream schools in the UK to enable all children and young people to learn together, but stresses special schools remain as a fundamental obstacle to inclusion.

The author says adoption of the term 'inclusion' into common education language can signify a genuine desire to improve the experience of all learners. Yet, in many cases, it seems a concept misunderstood or even deliberately distorted. Contrary to social justice, it has become widely accepted that there are exceptions to who can be included. 'Inclusion has come to mean almost everything but the elimination of exclusion,' says Sharon Rustemier.

Social and educational justice also challenges several widely held assumptions sustaining segregation. These include deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs about the impossibility of ever including all children in mainstream, the supposedly 'huge expense' of full inclusion, and the so-called sanctity of parental choice. According to the author there are limits to parental choice. 'Children's rights to inclusive education are universal - they apply to all children, everywhere, including those whose parents would prefer them to go to special schools.'

Linda Shaw, CSIE Co-director at the time of publication, adds:

Sharon Rustemier's report delves deeply into international human rights agreements and standards and the philosophy behind them and uncovers a catalogue of uncomfortable facts. CSIE hopes that the greater understanding in this report of human rights and of what is at stake when they are denied will help bring about a change of hearts and minds which heralds the dawning of a fully inclusive education service.

Page last updated: Friday 15 June 2018

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