My name is Yewande and I am an office volunteer at ALLFIE. A few weeks ago, I was working with our Campaigns Coordinator Simone, looking through the new Government consultation. It is called “Schools that work for everyone”. Their plan is to make schools more selective and to introduce more grammar schools. So my job was to find out if the consultation showed how these changes are going to affect disabled pupils (including those with SEN). The subject of grammar and selective schools has always been a controversial one so I was interested to see what the new Prime Minister and her Government’s take would be on them. This blog post is going be about what I think of the consultation.
Worryingly, there is no mention of disabled pupils or those with SEN in the consultation. My view is that grammar school and selective education is not good for disabled children and young people. I believe that education should be inclusive of all children and young people regardless of ability. Inclusive education is a fundamental human right, and should be taken seriously.
I also believe that when it comes to selective education, a limited view of “ability” is being tested. The test criteria are most likely to be very narrow; as a result many disabled pupils will not be able to pass, due to the nature of their impairment. The testing will not be broad enough to accommodate the fact that people learn in different ways, especially when you have an impairment.
One of the main points of the consultation is that some schools will still remain non selective. If parents of disabled children cannot get them into selective schools, then the next step usually would be to send them to a non-selective school. This may seem like a positive development; however it is still a cause for concern. It is fair to say that more of the funding will go to selective schools, because the Gov. wants to make most schools selective. When the funding goes to the selective schools, it means that non selective schools will have fewer resources. This will result in non-selective schools having fewer students and fewer good teachers. Most parents and teachers do not want to be part of a school that does not have enough money. Low student and teacher numbers can lead to poor quality education, and may even mean closure for some non selective schools. This puts parents of disabled children and young people in a difficult position. If their child or young person is not getting a good education in a non-selective mainstream school, many of them will feel that they have no choice but to send them into segregated provision, by that I mean special schools and special units.
In conclusion, I believe that the Government plans are a huge step back for inclusive education. Even if a small percentage of disabled children and young people are chosen to attend selective schools, it is still wrong because education should welcome all pupils instead of fitting a few into narrow criteria. The disabled pupils who get selected have less chance of receiving an inclusive approach to their learning, even if they are struggling with certain aspects of it. We should find ways of improving our education system for disabled pupils by exploring various learning styles and showing teachers the different ways that children and young people learn. The Government also should provide funding and resources for schools to develop an inclusive ethos.
The Government is showing that inclusion is not a priority for them by not mentioning disabled pupils and students in the consultation. If more parents start to feel that they have no option but to send their child or young person to segregated provision, the less chance there is for children and young people to be educated together. If children and young people of all abilities are not educated together, there is less opportunity for us to create an inclusive society.
ALLFIE Office Volunteer