We’re gonna need a lot more cannons…

inco14

Well, the blog has been somewhat neglected for a couple of months and I’m not even sure why. I’ve been busy doing… the usual, day-to-day stuff. I dunno; life takes over, no? The unplanned hiatus has, however, given me chance to step back and take stock. Within the four walls of my own school I feel like a lot has been achieved. But speaking to others from within and beyond education, and when I visit other schools, I am reminded that we have got things going a bit different at DTA; and now we even have data to back our claims up. Beyond those four walls I have received plenty of support, kind words, encouragement, and good constructive feedback too, but it does feel like just that; words not action. And y’know what they say about that… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a good few things that feel like a…

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Why it’s time disability rights activism got its mojo back.

Making rights make sense

Over half of disabled people are not in paid employment. For people with learning disabilities the percentage who have never had a paid job is a shocking 93%.   The vast majority of disabled people who are excluded from the labour market are so not by their impairment or health condition but by a combination of direct and indirect discrimination, wider barriers such as in relation to transportation, lack of supports, low pay and – for a significant number – lack of qualifications and experience. A target of reducing the numbers of disabled people forced to rely wholly on benefits, or charity, for their livelihood is therefore entirely laudable one, in the interests of disabled people and wider society, both socially and economically.

Throughout the 1990’s and the ‘noughties’ the goal of narrowing the gap in employment participation between disabled people & people with long term health conditions and the wider…

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Manifesto for change

SENCology

Just before the half-term break I was fortunate enough to attend the Educational Rights Alliance ‘un-conference’ on inclusion, supported by Irwin Mitchell, and was lucky to meet Polly Sweeney the co-author of the excellent set of resources compiled of factsheets and template letters.

The event was a gathering of parents/carers, SENCos, academics, lawyers, headteachers and deputies and one young man, Nye, who started the proceedings with his views on what school is like for a child with autism.  This was quite a unique event; motivated by a shared desire for change.  And, I have to say, it was a privilege to attend.

ERA Photo

I was there nice and early and took the opportunity for some ‘therapeutic chair arranging’ (see picture!) It was nice to chat with people as they arrived and take the time to stop and think – having time to pause is a luxury that the SENCo…

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Inclusion: the enterprise of putting all of the children into the same building?

inco14

or, what inclusion means to me (and why I don’t like saying it)

Finding a definitive, agreed meaning for the term ‘inclusion’, in the educational sense of the word, has proven impossible. So, from various things I have read, experienced, overheard and daydreamed about, this is my own definition (disclaimer; stolen and cannibalised from various sources):

Inclusion is the enterprise of ensuring equal quality of education and school experience for every child. It is not the enterprise of putting all of the children into the same building.

Pretty concise. But the issue of inclusion isn’t concise. This two sentence sound-bite exists for one reason and one reason only; I have learnt (the hard way) that the majority of people who make the mistake of saying ‘inclusion’ to me don’t want to hear my long version. Though, usually, they get to hear it anyway. To me, inclusion is an abstract concept…

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To include or not to include?

How can we put policy into practice?

In December I presented our LA SEN leader with a list of names of children with statements who should never have been placed in our mainstream secondary school, outlining the damaging impact their attendance had on staff, other students and most importantly those young people themselves, whose needs we were incapable of meeting.
In retrospect, this was a tad Toby Young of me. If parents and the young people themselves were keen to attend our school, they have that right.
So why did I do this? Having spent some years reconstructing our Learning Support department and buying in time from a Speech and Language Therapist, Art Therapist,
Psychologists (Education and Clinical) , interviewing and training up excellent practitioners as Lead Teachers in nurture and autism to help us all meet our students’ needs, surely I should feel confident to meet the range of needs in our area in our inclusive…

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Who’s Afraid of the Special School?

The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy

When Sam was a baby I vividly remember sitting in the car one afternoon and having a little weep.  It was a cold, autumn afternoon, I’d popped into town and, as you do, tuned into the radio on the way and an article, probably on something like World at One, caught my interest.   I sat, after I had parked, for some time, listening.  Even now, fourteen years later, I can remember that moment as if it was yesterday. The greyness around me, from the gravel of the car park, through the leaden sky, to the colour of the car even; an ordinary day, an ordinary mother and an extraordinary baby.  He sat beside me, wrapped up in his too large snow suit, sleeping soundly as I wept, for his lost future, for my lost career, my lost world, and my new one.

It was all about school inclusion.  The old…

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Entitlement? Yes. Inclusion? No.

Jarlath O'Brien

The school that I serve is non-inclusive, very non-inclusive. We are unable to effectively educate the overwhelming majority of children in this country. This is a statement of the obvious but some schools seem reluctant to admit that they are non-inclusive for fear of appearing elitist, slopy-shouldered or less than outstanding at something.

97.5% of school-age children in this country do not require a statement of special educational needs or education, health and care plan (EHCP). Of those that do, approximately 60% are educated in mainstream schools. Interestingly this picture is variable across the country. In Surrey, where I work, only 40% of children with statements or EHCPs are educated in mainstream schools.

1.1% of all school-age children in this country are educated in special schools and this is a statistic that has been relatively stable for over twenty years. The discussion about inclusion has, I’m sure, persisted for far longer…

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