Memorandum submitted by Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE)


The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is a national inclusive education campaigning network that is run and controlled by disabled people. ALLFIE has over the past 16 years campaigned successfully for the increase of inclusion of disabled learners in mainstream educational settings, primarily within the compulsory schooling sector.


Many disabled young people have benefited from being taught alongside their non disabled peers whilst at mainstream school. However, when it comes to the 14-19 year old curriculum, too often disabled and non disabled learners are entered for different types of qualifications, which leads to segregation in the classroom and there after when entering into further and higher education.


ALLFIE considers the root problem of the great majority of disabled young people failing to access mainstream further and higher education is the accreditation system which closes rather than open doors for them. ALLFIE would like to give oral evidence as the only inclusive education campaigning network which is run and controlled by disabled people.


What we would like to see?

ALLFIE believes there is a need for assessment and accreditation. There are many areas of life where we want to be sure that individuals, who say they are qualified to do something, are able to do so. For example someone who says they can drive safely, can do so by demonstrating their driving skills and passing a driving test. Similarly, someone who wants to train as a surgeon has the right amount of knowledge to follow this profession safely through a series of testing and assessment processes. ALLFIE believes this can still be achieved through having one accreditation system which recognises every individual's attainment without using predetermined generalised standards. This is despite the failure of the Record of Achievements which were not universally accepted and valued by all.


We would like to see greater use of personalised assessment, on what the learner has achieved. One such certification model is worth exploring would be the Duke of Edinburgh Award, where young people complete four sections, skills development, taking part in physical activities, an exploration or expedition and service to others for 3 (Bronze) , 6 (Silver) or 12 (Gold) months. For skills, there is no distinction being made between vocational or academic ones or the level or type of courses for skills section. In particular:



All young people are awarded the same certificate once completed the sections, even though for example a Young Disabled person with learning difficulties may only learn to say a few sentences in French whilst his / her non disabled peers may be able to speak fluently.


The same award is given whether young person chooses to develop his / her academic or vocational skills at what every level which suits their abilities.


Young people can choose how they would like to be assessed, either by for example completing an examined course, Business course or to set up a business.


When young people report back on their adventures, they can do this in whatever way they see fit, it could be written, on tape, using pictures or given as an oral presentation at the end of the expedition. There are no standards set on the 'quality' or the 'quantity' of report work expected from the participants.


When exemptions are made based on verified evidence and alternative challenges are set for example if a disabled person is unable to complete the expedition walking distance, the same certificate is awarded without any references to this. The participant is expected to record his / her alternative challenge in a positive way when reporting back.[1]


Over the past decade or so there has been an increasing range of such awards based upon the successful Duke of Edinburgh Award assessment model which accredits what young people have attained without using predetermined set standards.[2] There is also a steady interest in personal assessment for some University course models.[3]


We know that the Duke of Edinburgh Award model (not perfect), that being on personal achievement is highly valued by educational establishments and employers alike. We hope that the Secretary of State's suggestion that there should be a move to more personalised assessment to measure how a pupil's level of attainment has improved over time will include the piloting of a national overarching award underpinning the Duke of Edinburgh Award's principles.


Why is the current accreditation system failing disabled young people?

Standard Measurements

The current accreditation system is obsessed with measuring achievements against what is expected of a non disabled learner. GCSE is a classic example where each grade is equivalent to what is expected from a learner of a particular age, 'C' Grade being of a standard of a 15-16 year old. If a learner is awarded a GCSE Grade G, then there attainment is what's expected from an 11 year old[4] [5]. Such standardised grades do not truly reflect the intellectual capacity of many disabled learners. This is because:


Disabled learners with physical and intellectual impairments may not be able to produce the quantity of work to gain the grade which reflects their intellectual ability.


"Shaz is consigned to a demotivated bottom Science set, because his physical limitations exclude him from the higher (GCSE) tier exam. The same is true of Khizer, now valiantly eye pointing his way through his GCSE English coursework. Intellectually he is capable of an 'A' Grade. But writing the quantity - not the quality - required for an 'A' Grade, letter by letter would take years. So he must be satisfied with a lower-tier syllabus, and at best a 'C'."[6]


Disabled learners with speech impairments who use communication aids have not been able to take for example the oral English speaking and listening unit and therefore get no grade to reflect their ability to communicate with others.


"Katie (communication aid user) was told she can't take the 'speaking and listening; component of GCSE English Language which shows how unaware and discriminatory the exam boards are"


Disabled learners grades do not reflect their overall intellectual ability.


"I received a CSE Grade 4 or a GCSE Grade F and O Level Grade U in English Language which would indicate my intellectual ability and command of English Language at a level expected from a 12 year old. I dispute this because at the time of taking the examination I was writing news items and letters which were published in national mainstream newspapers and magazines including the Star letter in Football Monthly!"


For many disabled young people lower educational achievements measured in these traditional ways are the result e.g. discrimination and / or failure to provide the support required to enable them to access the national curriculum on the same basis as their non-disabled peers. However, for some young disabled people these ways of measuring educational achievements are inappropriate and can result in the marginalisation and undervaluing of their educational needs and achievements.[7]


Different types of courses

Instead of reforming the accreditation system, Governments have tended to increase the range of certificates, noticeably, vocational (e.g. GNVQs, NVQs, Vocational O and A Levels and new Vocational Diplomas), basic literacy (Adult Literacy and Numeracy Level 1 and 2 qualifications), and those with learning difficulties (Certificate of Achievement Awards). The certificated courses are targeted at specific groups of learners. The more recent courses are aimed at the 'non academic' learners, learners with learning difficulties or learners without formal qualifications. Disabled young people are much more likely to be channelled into enrolling onto vocational courses[8] which do not enjoy the same parity of esteem with their academic counterparts, regardless what Government says by attempting to include an overarching qualification level framework[9].


"As soon as employers see youngsters that have got number or word power they will say hay, hay these are youngsters that have not survived at school very well otherwise they would had achieved GCSE English or Maths. No kid gets GCSE English and Maths will do Word or Number Power because they do not need to. So it is already an indicator to employers that these are youngsters that did nit survive the school process very well and have left schook without qualifications, probably did not attend, probably because they did nit conform and that is what it is telling them straight away." Says Sue Welling a Duke of Edinburgh Award Organiser[10].


The Alliance for Inclusive Education would like to see an accredation system which acknowledges and values all learners' achievements differently but, equally. We would like the Government to consider the Duke of Edinburgh Award model as part of their pilots for considering individual personal progress assessments. The Alliance for Inclusive Education would like to give oral evidence as we think the Government's approach to introducing more and more qualifications is undermining inclusive education for both disabled and non disabled learners alike.


This submission has been written by Simone Aspis on behalf of the Alliance for Inclusive Education. Simone Aspis is the Alliance for Inclusive Education's Company Secretary and is currently on the QCA Disability Advisory Panel advising on how qualifications can be inclusive of disabled learners. Simone is the author of the "One Award For All" which was published by Bolton Institute and has written and spoken widely on inclusive accredation systems.


May 2007

[1] Chambers J, (1988) A Challenge To The Individual, Duke of Edinburgh

[2] Award Network (2005) National Framework of Awards in Non-Formal Educational Settings, National Youth Agency : Leicester

[3] Centre for Recording of Achievement

[4] SEAC (1989) Assessing and Reporting Achievement at Age 16 or otherwise in Key Stage 4 London

[5] DES (1085) Introductory Booklet on GCSE, London

[6] Gold K (12/01/01) No Limits Times Educational Supplement London

[7] Morris J (Spring 2001) Social Exclusion and Young Disabled People With High Levels of Support Needs, Critical Social Policy London

[8] Burchardt T (2005) The Education and Employment of Disabled Young People Frustrated Ambition. Joseph Rowntree Foundation" Joseph Rowntree Foundation Bristol : The Policy Press

[9] Conlon Gavan, (2002), The Determination of Vocational Qualifications in The UK. London School of Economics London

[10] Aspis S (2001) One Award for All, Bolton Institute of Higher Education Bolton