Change that leads to better lives

Where next for inclusion?

Linda Jordan and Julie Pointer from NDTi discuss highlights from the recent inclusive education event 'Where next for inclusion? – from rhetoric to reality'.

As part of its responsibility under articles 7 and 24 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UK Government is committed to inclusive education of disabled children and young people and the progressive removal of barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education. The Children and Families Act 2014 secures the general presumption in law of mainstream education in relation to decisions about where children and young people with SEN should be educated and the Equality Act 2010 provides protection from discrimination for disabled people.' SEND Code of practice (section 1:27).

And yet we know that the numbers of children being included in mainstream schools is on the decrease, and of those children and young people excluded from school 66% who are permanently excluded and 75% in pupil referral units have special educational needs.

NDTi and In Control recently held an event titled “Where next for inclusion? – from rhetoric to reality” The main purpose was to bring together a community of people committed to making inclusion a reality for all children and young people and to start a discussion - where next?

Of course you would expect in the room those already committed to inclusion - The Alliance for Inclusive Education, the World of Inclusion, Inclusive Solutions, Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education, Inclusion North and Karen Flood (Co-Chair of the Learning Disability Programme Board) who co-chaired the event and spoke passionately about her own personal experiences of being excluded from mainstream education from when she was small and being left to feel stupid.

What saddened us the most was those not in the room. Despite sending notification to all schools (25,000) and leafleting all of the main teacher unions at their conference in April we only had representatives from five schools. We were reminded of what works for inclusion, how simple it can be when you have committed and willing people who want to make it work and the impact that inclusion has on everyone involved. Heera shared his experience of becoming friends with Wilf, who has autism, at his local secondary school and told the audience how he would be at a real loss without Wilf in his life – “friendships start with a simple hello – let’s not overcomplicate things!”

We heard from schools that are committed to including everyone in their school – “It’s nothing special that we do at our school – just looking for solutions not barriers” – Ben Wassall, Head Teacher, Chillingham Road Primary School, Newcastle; and from young people, disillusioned by education who had spent time talking to children about their experiences of school.

Tara Flood, Chief Executive from Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) gave the audience three challenges:

  • We need parental demand for and confidence in inclusive education
  • We need to better describe good inclusive practice and seek out real examples
  • We need to embed Article 24 of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities into our education system

Colin and Derek from Inclusive Solutions talked about how service-centred planning addresses specialness and person-centred planning addresses ordinariness. The day was beautifully captured graphically (as detailed in the above illustration) by Pen Mendonca.

The day ended with some action planning and a real commitment to try and move forward with the inclusion agenda and to continue to celebrate positive examples.

Only in the news this month there has been a great example of how children use their imagination to find a way to include their friends. It happened on a sports day at St Oswalds Catholic Primary School in Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan. A group of 10 year old boys decided to hold hands and run behind their classmate Daniel, who has cerebral palsy and allow him to take the gold. The boys made this decision without any adult intervention as they were concerned that their friend was upset at always coming last.

Daniel’s mum responded with “the children that ran the race are absolutely brilliant, all of the children in the class, everyone, are supportive of him and make sure he is always included. This is inclusion, but the kind that you can't teach, this comes from the heart.”

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