We thought it might be useful to present some of the key questions
that people regularly ask us, with our responses to them. So if you have
a question, check here first!
Do you call for the gradual closure of SEN schools? If so, over how long a time period?
We do call for the gradual closure of special schools, units and specialist colleges. However it's not really about time periods for us, it's more about capacity building the mainstream sector so that disabled learners and parents of disabled children are confident that their inclusion is fully supported with appropriate resources etc.
Some parents say that the small SEN environment has saved their child- what would you say to parents who opt for discrete SEN schools?
We would say that the current mainstream model does not work well for any learner - no child or adult can genuinely flourish in classrooms of 30+ students. So we would advocate smaller class sizes and smaller schools and Post 16 institutions generally within the mainstream. We have good examples from the 'Human Scale Education' Movement of how schools can be restructured to answer this problem, e.g. a large comprehensive school restructured into three different schools with separate head teachers, staff teams etc sharing the same site - none of these however are for separate provision, all three schools are inclusive. We believe a similar approach could also be adopted by Post 16 institutions and universities.
We would also advocate initiatives such as 'quiet' settings within schools for any child to make use of.
Would you agree that to make Inclusive Education a reality it will require all teaching staff to be fully equipped and trained, plus the recruitment of an army of support staff, all of which would mean an investment of many millions of pounds? Do you think any government would do this?
We are asking for a transfer, or redirection of resources, NOT new money. Special schools takes up an enormous percentage of the school budgets currently, when you take into account the numbers of learners within it. We think any government should consider it at the very least as a cost effective measure – running a parallel segregated education system is undeniably more expensive than running a single system.
The local Academy school says they are struggling with my child, and suggests that maybe I should consider alternative provision. I have no idea what the academy means by alternative provision and should we accept it.
Alternative provision is educational or vocational training that is usually provided off-site. Usually the alternative provision is run by a different education provider, not your child’s school. Children are often placed in alternative provision when the child’s learning and behavior is having an impact upon the school’s ability to meet their SAT and GCSE targets. Alternative provision is aimed at children with emotional and behavioral difficulties and/or learning difficulties. We believe that all “alternative provision” should be on the school, college and university site and available for the school or college community to use regardless whether they are or are not disabled.
Does ALLFIE think schools and colleges are becoming “exam factories” – what does this mean for the inclusion of SEN pupils and students?
This is absolutely true and is one of the biggest barriers to inclusion presently. Again, we see the present system as being bad for all learners, not just those with SEN labels. We campaign for an end to measurement of achievement based solely on academic outcome such as qualifications.
Would you have classrooms and lecture rooms where disabled and non-disabled learners with different and significant impairments are taught together.
Yes, we DO have classrooms and lectures with all students being taught together. There is a myth that perpetuates that if special schools and specialist colleges were to close there will be a 'tidal' wave of disabled learners with 'unmanageable' needs 'pouring' into mainstream schools and Post-16 institutions overwhelming them. This simply isn't the case. We believe there is sufficient resources around the support disabled learners onto mainstream courses provided by education providers.
We do also have good models of classes being taught in smaller groups, e.g. teaching environments with central hubs and 'satellite' areas. In an inclusive school, colleges and universities, these groups would never be defined by 'special need' or labels but by simply dividing a class group into smaller groups.
Would you have units for certain groups of disabled learners such as learners with Autism as is happening in some mainstream schools and Post-16 institutions or do you advocate total inclusion?
We definitely do not advocate for the use of separate units, or even classrooms for that matter, for learners with a particular label. We have many examples of young people with all levels of autism and other related labels being included successfully and thriving within mainstream environments. Search our magazine online for examples. Whilst we do not advocate for separate units, nevertheless opportunities should be there to do 1-1 work with disabled learners when necessary.
Would total inclusion ask far too much from a teacher or lecturer to be almost impossible? Don't you think some teachers and lecturers ought to specialize in teaching certain types of learners?
We have great models of inclusive schools where I think the teachers would laugh if you asked them if their jobs were 'impossible'. Most inclusive schools use mixed ability teaching, team teaching, these sorts of initiatives, along with creative planning and thinking to deliver the curriculum to all of their students. We believe Post 16 institutions and universities can learn from inclusive schools.
We don't believe teachers and lecturers should 'specialize' in teaching certain 'types' of learners. Would you expect teachers to specialize in teaching learners of a particular race or sex?
At the moment there is a small and voluntary SEN training module within teacher training but that clearly isn't working. We would advocate a compulsory element of teacher and lecturer training to focus on inclusive teaching practice.
Isn’t it easier and cheaper to have specialist resources in one place, i.e. physiotherapy equipment, hydrotherapy pools?
We would like to see these resources disconnected from education – they really have nothing to do with education and are more to do with ‘care’. We believe these resources should be being accessed outside of education hours and outside of education provision, perhaps in ‘Community Resource Hubs’ which everyone, young and old, could access when necessary.
What about learners with behavior issues? You can’t mean you want to include learners who throw chairs or attack teachers?
Firstly for us, 'behavior' is a form of communication. Allfie supports the inclusion of all learners in a safe environment in which they and other people are protected from harm. We are supportive of all strategies which develop positive relationships. We advocate the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of all learners and firm, pro-active strategies support their inclusion. We uphold the right of all members of the student communities to live without threat and physical danger. We recognize the need to use strategies including mediation, restorative justice, circles of support and time apart to reduce short term threat and facilitate successful inclusion. We do not accept that exclusion is an option that results in positive change in young people.
Do we need to have specialist colleges for disabled learners?
No, because we believe that all disabled learners should be learning alongside their non- disabled peers in Post 16 and Universities. Education is much broader than learning about a particular subject area. Students attending colleges and universities are thinking about ideas and learning about the world of work for example. Having a diverse student body provides ample opportunities for students to think about how they can create educational, leisure and working opportunities which are inclusive of everyone.
Does ALLFIE think colleges are being inclusive by providing foundation for learning courses such as preparation for independent living and employment courses for learners with learning difficulties?
No because these courses are only available for students with learning difficulties. Non-disabled students do not normally go onto these courses. We believe learning about independent living can be done whilst attending mainstream courses and at home or out and about with families and friends.
Colleges cater for learners with a wide range of abilities, which requires courses designed for students at different levels of their learning. Isn’t it sensible for young people to attend courses which are best suited for their levels of learning?
ALLFIE is not against courses that are differentiated on learning ability such as Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced levels. However, such courses need to be flexible enough so the curriculum content can be differentiated for learners so they are able to progress whilst learning alongside their non-disabled peer group.