Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education


  1.1  The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) was established in 1982 to promote the education of disabled and non-disabled children together in mainstream schools and the gradual ending of the practice of educating disabled children separately in "special" schools. In collaboration with schools, local education authorities (LEAs), organisations of disabled people, parents and academics it has developed expertise on inclusive education, including the development and evaluation of practical tools for implementing inclusive education in schools and early years settings. CSIE closely monitors the development of inclusive education at national and international levels, both in practice and in the interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and is participating in the drafting of the new UN Convention on the rights of disabled people.

  1.2  Copies of some of the Centre's most recent publications are provided as evidence for this inquiry and outlined in this Memorandum. Further information about the full range of CSIE's work can be found on the CSIE website ( as can links to other voluntary organisations pursuing similar aims and work.


  2.1  The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001) requires schools and colleges in England to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled students are not disadvantaged. From 2006 schools are also required to promote disability equality. Internationally, inclusive education is promoted in key human rights instruments, notably UNESCO's Salamanca Statement (1994) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). A new Convention on the rights of disabled people currently being drafted at the UN is on the way to agreeing inclusive education as an entitlement for all.

  2.2  The Government's strategy for special educational needs, Removing Barriers to Achievement, and the effective examples and work towards inclusion taking place in many schools, represent progress towards inclusive development. But CSIE is deeply concerned that only two years into this strategy and despite the promising examples of inclusion working, there are renewed calls for segregated "special" provision. In CSIE's view, it is unacceptable to rely on segregated schooling as a solution to discrimination which still exists in some mainstream schools and to difficulties in the early stages of a long-overdue restructuring of mainstream education to become more inclusive. Resorting to segregation and responding to discrimination and difficulties with further discrimination is not a proper response from a human rights perspective and undermines those efforts which are being made in mainstream to uphold rights and develop inclusive provision.

  2.3  The evidence presented in this Memorandum covers a number of the issues identified by the Committee, and is organised under the following themes:

    —  inclusive education as a pressing human rights concern (section 4)

    —  statistical evidence of variations between LEAs in effecting inclusive education and of poor

    —  overall progress towards inclusion (section 5)

    —  positive developments in inclusive education (section 6)

    —  the damage caused by segregating pupils into "special" schools (section 7)

    —  children and young peoples' views supporting inclusive education (section 8)

    —  problems with the concept and definition of "special educational needs" (section 9)


  3.1  In light of the evidence presented, CSIE hopes that the Committee will endorse the goal of inclusive education for all children and young people and recommend that the Government:

    —  honour the human rights aspects of inclusion and renew its commitment to ensuring inclusive education for all children and young people;

    —  focus on identifying the further steps necessary to continue building the capacity of mainstream schools to support the full diversity of pupils;

    —  increase efforts and resources for awareness raising and training for inclusion, eg to tackle gaps that have been identified by Ofsted;

    —  continue awareness raising on legislative requirements to include children and young people and ensure their implementation; and

    —  halt the building of new "special" schools and ensure the effective transfer of resources from existing ones to mainstream schools.


  4.1  There are compelling human rights reasons for reducing segregation of children and young people "with special educational needs" and ensuring inclusive education for them all, without exception. An examination of international human rights agreements and standards as they relate to inclusive education was commissioned by CSIE and published in 2002 (Social and Educational Justice—the human rights framework for inclusion, written by Sharon Rustemier). As discussed in the report:

  4.1.1  The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993) and the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994) recognise the rights of all children and young people to fully supported inclusive education and the responsibilities of governments to provide it.

  4.1.2  Segregated schooling violates children's right to inclusive education and breaches all four principles underpinning the Convention on the Rights of Child—the principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, optimal development, and listening to the voice of the child.

  4.1.3  The existence of separate "special" schools is seen in international human rights agreements only as an interim measure until mainstream schools have developed the capacity to accept all children.

  4.1.4  Following its General Discussion on the rights of children with disabilities in October 1997, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically stated that legislation that segregates disabled children into separate institutions "for care, treatment or education" was "not compatible with the principles and provisions of the Convention". And in a General Comment in 2001 on the aims of education the Committee made clear that denying disabled children mainstream education alongside their non-disabled peers falls far short of human rights standards.

  4.1.5  According to international human rights standards, parental choice in relation to their children's education is limited by children's rights and the state is expected to constrain parental choice when it violates the rights and best interests of the child. A human rights based commitment to full inclusion is incompatible with a view that parents should be allowed to choose segregated education in "special" schools

  4.2  Further evidence of the ongoing commitment of the UN to inclusive education as a human rights issue is demonstrated in the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child which are published three times a year to report the results of the CRC's examinations of governments' progress in implementing children's rights. Analysis by CSIE of these assessments clearly demonstrates the Committee's ongoing concern with educating disabled children in appropriately supported mainstream settings rather than in segregated "special" provision.

  4.3  The UN Ad Hoc Committee responsible for the drafting of the new Convention on the rights of disabled people completed its sixth session in August 2005 and expects to finish its work at two further sessions in 2006. So far negotiations on Article 17 (education) have shown agreement on inclusive education as a human right for disabled pupils, although debate continues on the extent to which education in separate groups should also be an entitlement for some disabled pupils and what form, if any, it might take. CSIE has submitted a series of position papers as part of the ongoing discussions and these are available on the Centre's website.


  5.1  CSIE has for many years monitored the percentages of children and young people placed in "special" schools in LEAs across England, based on figures provided by the Government, and has consistently found large variations between LEAs, despite being bound by the same national Government policy on inclusion and placement. Its most recent analysis covers placements of pupils aged 0-19 in "special" schools and other segregated settings during the period 2002-04 (Segregation trends—LEAs in England 2002-04 Placement of pupils with statements in special schools and other segregated settings, written by Dr Sharon Rustemier and Mark Vaughan OBE). The analysis again showed that the practice of inclusive education is unacceptably varied across England, with wide variations in LEAs' placement of pupils with statements of special educational needs in mainstream and segregated settings.

  5.2  By way of illustration of this variation in practice, the latest analysis found that the five LEAs with the lowest percentage of pupils segregated in England in 2004 were Newham (0.06%), Rutland (0.23%), Nottinghamshire (0.45%), Nottingham (0.47%) and Cumbria (0.49%). In contrast, LEAs with the highest percentage pupils segregated were South Tyneside (1.46%), Wirral (1.34%), Halton and Knowlsey (both 1.32%), Stoke-on-Trent (1.23%), and Birmingham and Lewisham (both 1.21%). This means that in 2004 pupils with statements of special educational needs in South Tyneside were 24 times more likely to receive a segregated education than those in Newham, London.

  5.3  The analysis also revealed that the national percentage of 0-19-year-olds given a statement in "special" schools and other segregated settings in England fell only marginally from 0.84% in 2002 (103,721 pupils) to 0.82% in 2004 (101,612 pupils). One third of LEAs in England actually increased segregation of disabled pupils over the three years under review. These findings should be seen against a backdrop of legislative reform which supposedly increased children's right to mainstream schooling.


  6.1  Over the years, CSIE publications and conferences have provided examples of inclusion working well in practice. Work by other voluntary organisations and increasingly by academic, government and other institutions, nationally and internationally, has also shown how effective practice can be achieved. The most recent work on inclusive practice by CSIE involved a two year research study into the use of the Index for Inclusion, a set of materials to help mainstream schools reduce barriers to learning and participation written by Tony Booth and Mel Ainscow and first published by CSIE in 2000. In 2005, CSIE published the results of this study in Learning about the Index in Use, written by Sharon Rustemier and Tony Booth, which illustrates how the Index is being used and what can be learned from these experiences in terms of the five phases of the Index process—getting started with the Index, finding out about the school; producing an inclusive school development plan; implementing priorities and supporting development and reviewing the Index process. The authors selected examples of inclusive development using the Index from hundreds of positive examples collected from primary and secondary schools across England.

  6.2  In addition, one of the briefing papers prepared by CSIE for the sixth session of the Ad Hoc Committee drafting the new Disability Convention gives information about examples of inclusive education from countries across the world (Briefing (2) from the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) July 2005, Ending Segregation and Developing Inclusive Education—A Worldwide Movement). The briefing gives access information and a brief summary of relevant content for nine different websites. The Inclusion Week Magazine, published in 2002 as part of CSIE's Inclusion Week from 11-15 November, which saw more than 250 inclusion events, also contains positive examples of inclusive development in schools across the UK and overseas.


  7.1  A 2003 report from CSIE illustrates the damage of segregation to individuals and society, drawing on the substantial bodies of educational and social psychological evidence. The Case Against Segregation Into Special Schools, A Look At The Evidence, by Dr Sharon Rustemier, shows how segregated schooling is linked with stigma, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination—the very conditions which disabled adults identify as among the biggest barriers to respect, participation and a full life.

  7.2  This analysis of research shows that segregated "special" schooling has been associated with impoverished social experiences, abilities and outcomes; reduced academic experiences in terms of curriculum provision, outcomes, examination opportunities and accreditation; lower student aspirations and teacher expectations; high absence rates; difficulty in re-integrating into mainstream; poverty in adulthood; and poor preparation for adult life. Negative consequences for segregated pupils identified in the research also include depression, abuse, lack of autonomy and choice, dependency, lack of self-esteem and status, alienation, isolation, fewer friends, more restrictive interpersonal relationships, bullying and limited life-styles.


  8.1  CSIE has made efforts over the years to include the views of children and young people in its publications and conferences. Although this is not an area which is part of the Committee's terms of reference for this inquiry, we suggest it is, nevertheless, an important area for consideration when investigating special educational needs. When young peoples' views have been sought as part of educational research and in other forums they have spoken out against segregation and put forward a vision of an inclusive school as their preferred choice of learning environment.

  8.2  As a project for Inclusion Week (see paragraph 6.2), CSIE summarised and amalgamated its work and that of other bodies so that young peoples' views could be presented in a Young Voices feature throughout the Inclusion Week Magazine.


  9.1  CSIE's experience indicates there are considerable limitations with the practice of identifying and labelling some children as having "special educational needs" and selecting them for separate treatment within mainstream or in separate "special" schools. The root of these problems is the association of a definition of "special educational needs" with a medical view of disability and difficulty in learning as resulting from personal deficit and difference. Such an association is not only disrespectful and hurtful to the young people themselves but has repercussions for the way they are supported to learn.

  9.2  Using a label of "special educational needs" and a medical model of disability when educational difficulties occur deflects attention from barriers in the environment such as inaccessible buildings, inflexible curricula, teaching and learning approaches, and school organisation and policy. The responsibilities of schools and other institutions in these situations are considerably weakened. A "special educational needs" label can also lead to lower expectations by teachers of pupils' potential and, together with other group headings such as "ethnic minority", "gifted and talented" and "English as an additional language", contributes to a fragmentation of schools' efforts to respond to the full diversity of students.

  9.3  An alternative way of approaching disability and educational difficulty is through a social model which views the problems children and young people experience in school not as stemming primarily from their impairments, whether cognitive or physical, or from their social and economic circumstances, but from barriers to learning and participation inherent in the school setting itself or arising from interactions between students and their schools. Inclusive education can be understood as the practical outcome of a social model approach to disability and difficulty in learning and it is this approach which is adopted in the Index for Inclusion referred to in paragraph 6.1.

  9.4  A medical or individual model of disability and educational difficulty with its categorisation of difference as "special educational need" is still embedded in Government policy and legislation and is operating in schools alongside a social model. This creates considerable problems for all those trying to pursue inclusive education. The social model and the medical model are radically different approaches with the potential to produce radically different experiences for pupils. A social model approach looks towards making resources available in mainstream settings and adapts and restructures mainstream curricula and classrooms to respond to the full diversity of children. A medical model, on the other hand, focuses on diagnosis, labelling and segregation into "special" services and settings. Such a gulf in understanding means that trying to operate both at the same time or to amalgamate them risks conceptual incoherence and forces a moral dilemma on school staff.

  9.5  This short review of problems with the definition of "special educational needs" completes CSIE's memorandum of evidence to the Committee.

September 2005

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