Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) (E 29)

Introduction

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is a national campaigning and information-sharing network led by disabled people. ALLFIE campaigns for disabled people to have the right to access and be supported in mainstream education. While some progress has been made towards this goal, disabled learners are the only group of people who can still be lawfully discriminated against, even with the Equality Act (2010) in place. We believe that education should support the development of physical, vocational and academic abilities through mixed-ability tuition so that all students have the opportunity to build relationships with one another.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) welcomes the Government’s commitment to improve schools’ educational standards through developing better teaching standards, more focused school inspections and measuring UK pupils’ performance against their peer group from other countries.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education welcomes the opportunity to engage with the Government on following proposals within the Education Bill:

· School Admissions (clause 34)

· School Exclusions (clause 4)

· School Inspection Standards (clause 40)

· School Workforce Training (clause 15)

· Qualifications and Curriculum (clause 20-22)

· Careers Education and Guidance in Schools (clause 26-27)

· Post-16 Education and Training (clause 62-64) & (clause 67-68)

· Apprenticeships (clause 65-67)

· Chief Executive’s function of skills funding (clause 68)

ALLFIE understands the Government is committed to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which includes Article 24 in relation to disabled children having a right to a mainstream school placement:

" States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity ... In realizing this right, S tates Parties shall ensure that .. . persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live ."

ALLFIE would like to work with the Government to ensure the Education Bill underpins the spirit of the Article 24.

SCHOOL ADMISSIONS (CLAUSE 34)

ALLFIE believes the schools’ adjudicator has an extremely important role to play in determining whether a school’s admissions policy complies with the Schools’ Admissions code. The schools’ adjudicator role is particularly essential now with new wave of academies, voluntary and community foundation, free and maintained schools all having their own admissions policies which must comply with the law. We have noticed that previously the schools’ adjudicator has had a vital role in upholding complaints made about school admissions policies in relation to children with SEN. [1] Without this very important and low cost appeals procedure these complaints may not have been raised at a strategic level, which has led to mainstream schools having to modify their policies in order to make it easier / fairer to admit children with SEN. We therefore believe parents’ ability to hold schools to account can be maintained through the schools’ adjudicator keeping its functions in reviewing schools admissions policies when asked to do so.

ALLFIE wants the schools’ adjudicator role in admissions policies complaints to be maintained.

The Government wants to remove the role that admissions forums have in increasing the accountability of schools admissions protocols within a local authority area. These forums allowed parents to raise issues of concern which may help to identify particular problems and challenges local schools face in taking their share of children with special educational needs.

ALLFIE wants some kind of local coordination of the schools admissions role which is accountable to both parents and to local communities.

SCHOOL EXCLUSIONS (CLAUSE 4)

Twenty per cent of children have identified special educational needs. [2] These children are eight times more likely than other children to be excluded from school. [3] In 2007/8 pupils on School Action Plus were most likely to receive a permanent exclusion from school and were about 20 times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than those with no special educational needs. [4] The Department for Education’s own statistics confirm the primary need of most children with SEN being excluded are of a emotional, social and behavioural nature. ALLFIE welcomes the Government’s Targeted Mental Health in Schools fund to improve their pupils emotional well-being, which should help to reduce the rate of school exclusions.

The UK Resilience Programme (UKRP) is being piloted in the UK and aims to build resilience and develop problem solving skills. The second interim report found that this programme did have a beneficial influence on the behaviours of the young people. For instance, it reduced reported depression and anxiety, and young people reported that it gave them skills to help resolve difficult situations and avoid arguments and fights. One of the schools reported that they saw a 50% reduction in fixed term exclusions. [5]   

ALLFIE would like the Government to consider strengthening school’s duties to arrange special education needs provision which will prevent a high percentage of these children being excluded from school.

ALLFIE wants all schools to be under a duty not to exclude but to be required to arrange support provision as soon as possible to prevent the child being excluded.

Whilst a small percentage of disabled children, including those with SEN statements, will be reinstated in a mainstream school by a tribunal order, nevertheless many school children with SEN will simply lose this legal provision if the new exclusion panels have no reinstatement powers.

ALLFIE is concerned about the Independent Review Panel having no ability to reinstate a child if they hold the school exclusion to be unjustified. We do not consider a review panel only having the ability to "advise" a school to reconsider their decision to exclude a child to be at all an adequate remedy. We are concerned that there will be a perverse incentive for schools to exclude more children because there will be no requirement to have them back on the school roll. We are not convinced that financial penalties will act as a sufficient deterrent for schools that have been advised that their exclusion of a pupil was unjustified.

ALLFIE wants all schools to be under a duty not to exclude a child from the school roll. Where a child’s conduct may lead to being excluded in the long-run then the school must be under a duty to bring in additional provision at the earliest stage possible.

ALLFIE wants the Independent Review Panel to have the power to reinstate children.

SCHOOL INSPECTATIONS STANDARDS (CLAUSE 40)

ALLFIE appreciates the Government’s intention for school inspections to become focused on what is genuinely important in schools. We believe schools should be inspected on how well they comply with the disability equality duty provision as set out in the Equality Act 2010 Public Bodies and Schools Disability Equality duties on a regular basis.

ALLFIE wants inspections to include the school’s performance in relation to complying with their disability equality duty on a regular basis.

SCHOOL WORKFORCE TRAINING (CLAUSE 15)

Ninety-nine per cent of disabled children, including those with SEN, are being educated in mainstream schools. It therefore should be a requirement for all trainee teachers to learn how to work inclusively with all children, including those who are disabled, in mainstream school settings, underpinning a sound understanding of inclusive education and disability equality principles. The Teachers Development Agency (an independent body) in R 2.8 regulation:

"Training may take place in a special school, particularly where a provider chooses to offer an additional specialism in special educational needs (SEN). However, training in a special school alone may not provide the opportunity for a trainee to demonstrate all of the QTS standards."

ALLFIE thinks that all trainee teachers (including those in special schools) must be able to teach disabled children in mainstream school settings in order to gain their qualified teacher status. We believe the training school network must consist of good inclusive school practice which trainee teachers can take into their own schools.

"Teaching staff want to see the highest quality, world class education for all our pupils. Disability Equality Training is essential in ensuring that ALL children are able to access the education that they deserve. We do not see this as an add-on, or as relevant only to schools with high numbers of pupils with additional needs – we see it as essential in creating a mindset of high standards for all".

Nigel Utton, Head Teacher and Chair of Heading for Inclusion

ALFIE wants all trainee teachers to be taught and gain experience of teaching disabled children in good inclusive mainstream school provision, underpinning disability equality principles.

QUALIFICATIONS AND CURRICULUM (CLAUSES 20 AND 22)

ALLFIE welcomes the Government’s commitment to be an international leader in improving and obtaining the best educational outcomes for all UK children. However ALLFIE is concerned about the detrimental effect of using international performance standards to measure UK pupils’ absolute achievements against those from other countries. The University of Cambridge ‘The Costs of Inclusion: a study of inclusion policy and practice in English primary, secondary, and special schools‘ (2006) identified "contradictions inherent in [the] interface of the standards and inclusion agendas" if comparisons are being made between disabled and non-disabled pupils achievements both in the UK and internationally.

The Commons Education and Skills Select Committee recommended in their SEN investigation that:

"The Government should give careful consideration to the impact that key drivers such as league tables are having on admissions - particularly to the most successful non-selective state schools. There is strong evidence that the existing presentation of performance data in league tables does not reflect well on many children with SEN and consequently acts as a disincentive for some schools to accept them. This cannot continue." [6]

Therefore ALLFIE would like to see the international surveys and comparisons to be made on how inclusive are our qualifications and mainstream school provision against other states. We do not think it will always be appropriate to use comparison standards of educational standards by children from different countries without a strong commitment of inclusive education and equality.

ALLFIE wants international surveys to be based on comparing our quality of inclusive education against other states.

ALLFIE wants OFQUAL to judge its qualifications on how inclusive they are against those from elsewhere.

CAREERS EDUCATION AND GUIDENCE IN SCHOOLS (CLAUSES 26-27)

ALLFIE welcomes the move for schools to arrange independent careers guidance and advice if the advisors are well-informed about what mainstream education opportunities are available for young disabled people. ALLFIE knows anecdotally how poor the information, advice and guidance around careers for young disabled young people can be. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) ’Staying On‘ report [7] highlighted how careers advisors tailor their advice to what people with a particular impairment should do rather than base it on an individual’s aspirations.

"Stereotyping - careers advice, the choice of subjects to study at school and for an apprenticeship, and work experience placements are all subject to stereotyping that tend to have an impact more significantly on distinct groups, including girls, the disabled, the working class and some ethnic minorities. The result is that young people’s options and aspirations are limited at an early age. "

The ‘Staying On’ report also notes that disabled young people are not receiving information about opportunities in work-based learning and apprenticeships, and that the information received on further education options is often negative. This is an email ALLFIE received on 3rd February 2011 from a parent about her disabled daughter making transition plans:

"Before Christmas 2010 we'd met with a new Connexions officer.  She was a bit taken aback when she offered Sam a full-time placement post-16 special school and we said "no"....  Bit of a waste of everyone's time.  What was good was Sam’s teacher and teaching assistant were there and the next morning they had loads of ideas to put together a person-centred programme based on what we know works for Sam."  

The EHRC report attributed this lack of information and inadequate guidance to professionals not believing that young disabled people could cope with certain choices as a result of viewing disability through a medical model , resulting in a ‘damage limitation exercise’.

ALLFIE wants all careers guidance advisors to be under a duty to advise all disabled young people of the mainstream educational and training opportunities on offer.

POST 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING (CLAUSES 62-64 & CLAUSES 67 – 68)

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 24 section 6 states:

"States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. To this end, States Parties shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities."

ALLFIE would like the Government to undertake a review of 16-plus education in light of its commitment to provide general mainstream life-long learning opportunities for disabled learners after the YPLA functions are abolished. Fifteen per cent of young disabled people at 16, compared with 7 per cent of non-disabled people, are not in education, employment and training. This increases to 27 per cent and 9 per cent for disabled and non - disabled people when they turn 19 years. [8]

Disabled young people are four times more likely to be attending a further education segregated course, rather than a ny specific mainstream accredited course. [9] One of the big issues which ALLFIE has identified is how the YPLA and Skills Funding Agency fund educational and training opportunities for young disabled people, which encourages educational institutions to place young people on segregated rather than mainstream courses.

ALLFIE hopes the abolition of the YPLA will allow for a fresh approach to the funding of mainstream rather than discrete educational and training opportunities for young disabled learners.

ALLFIE wants the 16-plus funding policy to award rather than penalise education providers who want to support disabled learners onto their mainstream accredited courses.

ALLFIE looks forward to advising the Secretary of State on how he can discharge the YPLA’s functions in a manner which supports inclusive educational and training opportunities for disabled learners. Currently YPLA 16-plus funding policy discriminates against disabled young people who want to participate in mainstream accredited courses. It is YPLA policy to withhold an element of funding from education providers if some students do not pass the qualification at the end of their mainstream courses. This has lead to a massive majority of learners with learning difficulties being placed onto discrete independent living and entry to employment courses because education providers are guaranteed 100 per cent funding for all their students.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S FUNCTIONS OF SKILLS FUNDING (CLAUSE 68)

ALLFIE welcomes the Government’s intention of increasing the age that learners can gain up to their first level 2 and level 3 qualifications or other qualifications without having to pay fees from 19 to 25 years of age. For disabled learners we want the age limit to be removed. Too often disabled learners take longer to complete their courses or may return to education later on in life after having a difficult time whilst at school.

ALLFIE wants the upper age limit to be removed for disabled learners to gain up to their first level 3 award.

APPRENTICESHIPS (CLAUSES 65-67) (Clause 65)

ALLFIE welcomes the Government’s commitment of ensuring that disabled young people are able to take full advantage of apprenticeships. We want to know whether disabled young people will be in the priority group for apprenticeships training funding.

ALLFIE wants young people to have the opportunity to follow their career interests rather than being restricted to an occupation path well-trodden by disabled people with similar impairments. For example, many disabled young people with learning difficulties are advised to undertaker catering, horticultural or retail work, which is unrelated to their own career interests.

February 2011


[1] http://www.schoolsadjudicator.gov.uk/

[2] http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationdetail/page1/DCSF-00213-2010 ‘ Breaking the link between special educational needs and low attainment - Everyone's business ’

[3] http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000860/sfr18-2009v2.pdf Statistical First Release ‘Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions from Schools and Exclusion Appeals in England 2007-08’

[4] http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/STA/t000965/osr25-2010.pdf ‘Department for Education Children with special educational needs 2010, An Analysis, 19 th October 2010’

[5] http://www.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/DFE-RR006.pdf

[5]

[6] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmeduski/478/478i.pdf

[7] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/ehrc_education_60pp.pdf : EHRC (2009) ‘Staying On’

[8] Social Market Foundation 2007 ‘Disability, Skills and Work - Raising Our Ambitions

[9] LSC (2008) “Review of provision for Learners with LLDD in West Midlands 2007-08 Page 21 http://readingroom.lsc.gov.uk/lsc/WestMidlands/LSC_West_Midlands_-_Review_of_provision_for_Learners_with_Learning_Difficulties_and_or_Disabilities_(LLDD)_in_the_West_Midlands_2007-08.pdf