by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
In the second part of our interview with Simone Aspis, policy campaigns co-ordinator for the Alliance For Inclusive Education, we talk about the work that ALLFIE does for disabled children and young people, and how segregated education affects society.
Tell us about the work you do with ALLFIE. What are the problems you’re trying to tackle?
“I’m policy campaigns co-ordinator for the Alliance For Inclusive Education, which is an organisation run and controlled by disabled people that promotes inclusive education for all disabled learners. Regardless of ability, impairment and health condition we believe that all disabled learners must have the right to access mainstream education with appropriate support. Our organisation, even though it’s controlled by disabled people, our membership consists of parents, families, educational psychologists, schools, education providers, so we do have a range of allies within the education profession who believe in inclusive education based on the social model of disability, based on six demends for inclusive education that ALLFIE have, which are:
– “Disabled people and young peoples’ rights to access mainstream education
– “The right to access the appropriate support
– “The right for disabled people to attend courses in accessible buildings
– “The right that the course curriculum should be accessible for disabled learners – not just in terms of how information is provided whether in braille or large print, but also, so that disabled young learners can work alongside their non-disbaled peers on the same course
– “The right for qualifications to be fully accessible for disabled learners
– “And that all teachers and all staff working in education provision should have disability quality training.”
“So those are the six demands we have for inclusive education and anybody who becomes a member supports those demands. So we use those demands to inform our campaign around inclusive education.”
What are you currently working on?
“Since 2010, since the coalition government have come into government, there’s been an onslaught against inclusive education practice. It’s the first time really over a number of years that there’s now a steady decline of disabled children and young people accessing mainstream education. What we’re clearly seeing is a move from policies that support mainstream education moving much more to segregated provision.
“The big piece of legislation that we’re working on is the Children and Families Bill, and we’re focusing on the special educational needs framework, which is the legal framework that provides disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) – the rights to access mainstream education, the rights to additional support, the rights to assessment, whatever they need to access mainstream education.
“So what’s happening now is, for example, disabled children and young people must be educated in a mainstream school. Underneath the new provision, in the Children and Families Bill, the SEN provision, that is changing so that any disabled child can be placed in a special academy outside the protection of the SEN framework, which means that no longer do families have that right to mainstream education. So local authorities can say ‘ah, no mainstream school wants you, we have a special academy for you.’ The special academies will obviously be motivated to take on all the children and young people that mainstream don’t want, and they’ll be outside the SEN framework – which is really important because what that means is that children can be placed into academies without a statutory assessment, without SEN, without needs being identified, without the additional support they may need. And more importantly, they won’t have the right to appeal against the local authority’s decision. So once a child is placed in a special academy, your rights go out of the window.”
“The second thing, also about the SEN provisions, is that the local authorities will have much more incentive to place children and young people into special academies, because it will cost nothing to the local authorities because it will be a school funded by the Department of Education. If they place that same child in a mainstream school and they need additional support, then the local authority will have to pay for the additional support. So there’s the incentive to place as many children and young people into the academies outside the SEN framework, which means families and children will no longer have the entitlement.
“The SEN will also allow for private special schools to become special academies and therefore funded by the Department of Education. So you’ll have more and more schools and colleges that are going to be able to become special schools and colleges funded by the state. More and more of these schools get funded by the state – less money available in the mainstream to support children and young people to access mainstream education right? Because the budget ain’t going to get any bigger. It’s the same budget and it means less money for mainstream, more money for special school provision, and therefore the implications will be and the assumptions are that more and more disabled children and young people will be and should be placed in segregated provision, which goes totally and utterly against the government’s UN conventions on the Persons with Disabilities, Article 24, which makes it quite clear that governments have an obligation to promote inclusive education and to develop the capacity of mainstream schools and colleges to become more inclusive for disabled learners. Therefore there is this contradiction that this Bill will be working against this. The government, whether they like it or not, they’ve signed the convention and they’ve signed Article 24, with provisions in there which basically say that this government have made a commitment to building an inclusive mainstream model, to deliver inclusive education practice, and we see absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever in the SEN provisions that are coming through Parliament now.
“So from our perspective, completely outrageous. This government are saying we want genuine choice of education provision for disabled people and young children. If that’s the case, the reality is you’ve got to ensure that disabled learners wanting to access mainstream have that absolute right to access mainstream education. And this bill doesn’t do it. If anything, it reduces disabled learners’ access to mainstream education. So what you’re going to find is more and more disabled people and children are going to end up being segregated from birth. They’re going to be much more segregated and isolated from mainstream society, and just have less opportunities than non-disabled people. What’s really important is the Commission for Equality of Human Rights made it quite clear in their reports that government should be looking into the effects of social isolation through segregated education provision, on both the lives of disabled people and society as a whole.”
Do you think the move toward segregation will have a huge effect on non-disabled people and their attitudes towards disabled people?
“Absolutely. If disabled people are not growing up with non-disabled people, how can we ever learn to treat each other with respect, with dignity, provide the opportunities, make the adjustments that are needed to be more inclusive?
“And also, through segregation you breed ignorance don’t you? There’s been an increase in disability hate crime. Is that increase in disability hate crime only just a result of welfare reforms and the crap that the media is putting out about disabled people but has that also risen because actually more and more disabled are now being pushed into segregated education against their wishes, and therefore through more segregation you breed much more ignorance, and therefore that does give rise to an increase in tensions in the community – disability hate crime is on the rise as a result.”
If you would like to sign ALLFIE’s six demands, find out more about ther campaigns or contact ALLFIE e-mail or visit their site through: