“Special Education Week …. Autism and ADHD Awareness Month.
‘Kids with Special needs aren’t weird or odd. They only want what everyone wants…. to be accepted.”
Inclusive Policies for those with disability or with Learning difficulties
Labour’s approach to how to best include children with Special Educational Needs requires careful planning. The following needs consideration:
- Inclusion in society is a human right.
- Exclusive practice is discriminatory.
- The word “mainstream” is not necessarily a large, busy school.
- Children and adults learn from working alongside others.
- Differences should enrich our lives, not divide us.
- All involved in education need training on SEN.
- Specialist staff need specialist training.
- Schools may need to be adapted for accessibility
Therefore, Labour should continue with the policy of Every Child Matters, but in future should allow for more variety of provision, smaller accessible schools in some cases or units within schools. Specialist support will be made available in all schools for provision of SEN as listed below, ensuring that all children enjoy learning, can form positive relationships with each other and lead fulfilling and constructive lives.
If we were to design an education system that segregated on the grounds of race, there would quite rightly be an uproar. Why is it then that there are those who feel it is acceptable to segregate some children from others on the grounds of gender, of creed, or on the grounds of disability?
Educate to suit the child, not mould the child to fit the school
Why should we be surprised that adults who were segregated from others while children sometimes feel alienated from one another and communities live with social friction and with its associated problems?
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (1)
Our school system is the key place in our society where people from all backgrounds learn to live together. Inclusion is not just about a few children with learning, physical or behavioural impairments being ‘placed’ in mainstream schools. It is about creating a society where all people can find their own unique place and work together for the benefit of all. If this work is not started at school – then what hope do we have as a society?
(Alliance for Inclusive Education) (2)
Examples of children with specific learning difficulties SpLD
A child who experiences a specific learning difficulty, for example dyslexia will of course need extra support in school.Dyslexia (3,4) is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence. The same applies to individuals with dyscalculia. Dyscalculia (5) is difficulty with numbers. It is separable from the individual’s ability with mathematics. People are often good at mathematics but have specific difficulties with numbers. Other children may have been diagnosed with dyspraxia, which can impact on their daily lives. Dyspraxia, (6) also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a disability that affects movement and co-ordination. Evidence indicates that it is caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. Having dyspraxia does not change how intelligent a child is, but it does affect their learning ability. They may need extra help at school to keep up with their classmates. It is therefore imperative that there is specialist provision within all schools allowing focus on these specific difficulties yet there must be opportunities for these children to spend a large part of their school day with their peers.
Other specific conditions, which can affect a child’s ability to learn, include ADHD and ADD. (7) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a type of ADHD. Extra support for these children should be provided. Adequate funding to schools to support this additional provision is essential, and will be guaranteed by a Labour government. For a child to be excluded from other aspects of school life unaffected by their specific difficulty would therefore be discriminatory and would deny that child basic human rights.
Inclusive Policy of children with moderate learning difficulties MLD
The same arguments about human rights and rights to inclusion apply to those with moderate learning difficulties. The same principles listed above apply. It is also recognised that all people will gain a greater understanding of the population if encouraged to mix at school and the benefits of this to the harmony in society cannot be understated, while also enhancing the opportunities for those with MLD.
The Centre for studies on Inclusive Education and the Alliance for Inclusive Education put forward very convincing arguments, supported by studies for Inclusion.
When the Coalition Government came to power, the following was in the Queen’s Speech outlining the details of its first proposed education legislation, the academies bill, all contain important indicators for the future of SEN.
The Coalition programme for government included promises to:
• ‘remove the bias towards inclusion’
• ‘improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren’
• ‘prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools’
• ‘tackle bullying, especially homophobic bullying’
• ‘ensure that all new academies follow an inclusive admissions policy’
‘work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible’.
The following is noted from “SENCO Update” (8), showing the move away from Inclusive Policy
1.“The undertaking to prevent the closure of special schools and ‘remove the bias’ towards inclusion in mainstream schools will not come as a surprise to those familiar with Conservative Party policy. It follows the undertakings in their election manifesto and reflects what they have been saying for the last five years.”
2.“The coalition government should have no difficulty in developing a shared implementation plan for specialist provision. The Liberal Democrats are thought to want to stop any reduction in special school places and to support the development of more co-located special schools on mainstream campuses.
However, there will be resistance to these moves to limit inclusion among disability rights and inclusive education advocates, and these groups will no doubt argue that the government will be out of kilter with international efforts to implement Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
Some might welcome this policy in the belief that inclusive policies of the previous New Labour government failed, and that MLD children may benefit from focussed approaches in Special Schools. However, as stated earlier, the segregation is both inadvisable and discriminatory. Labour should adopt an inclusive policy, but ensure more flexibility, regarding the size of the nature of the school environment, e.g. smaller schools, nurturing environment, adaption of schools for access. It is ever more clear that New Labour’s focus on league table benefited very few children, indeed maybe none, and it diverted resources and attention away from Inclusion.
Furthermore, clarification should be made regarding the terms Integration and Inclusion. To many, they are interchangeable terms. In fact, they are fundamentally different.
Integration is when a child meets the school;
Inclusion is where the school meets the child.
With the correct focus, with adequate funding, with removal of the obsession with league tables, with investment and flexibility, inclusion is not only the best policy for children with SEN, but also better for those in the more general population. It is the responsibility of a government to ensure that such very vulnerable children are not discriminated against, and have access to their human rights.
For a Labour Party, that turn its back on human rights, is not worthy of the name of a party with a history of supporting the vulnerable and ensuring rights for all people. Labour must show that Every Child Matters.
References and Further Reading
Centre for studies on Inclusive Education
The Alliance for Inclusive Education
Advice for Inclusion – dyslexia
Biright Solutions for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia – Information
8.http://www.senco-update.com/article/government-remove-bias-towards-inclusion SENCO Update –Refers to SEN Policy