We thought it might be useful to put some of the key questions
that people regularly ask us on the website, 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 SEN schools, but it's not really about time periods for us, it's more about capacity building the mainstream sector fully so that parents are confident that their children will be included, i.e. 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 child - no child can genuinely flourish in classrooms of 30+ students. So we would advocate smaller class sizes and smaller schools 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 headteachers, staff teams etc sharing the same site - none of these however are for separate provision, all three schools are inclusive.
We would also advocate initiatives such as 'quiet' settings within schools for any child to make use of.
Would you agree that to equip and train all teaching staff, plus to recruit an army of support staff would mean an investment of many millions of pounds? Do you think any government would do this?
We would not agree with this. We are asking for a transfer, or redirection of resources, NOT new money. The special school system takes up an enormous percentage of the school budget currently, when you take into account the numbers of children within it. We think any government should consider it at the very least as a cost effective measure - running two school systems is undeniably more expensive than running one – doing away with separate buildings, governing bodies, head teachers would obviously save money.
We also don't think it would require an 'army' of support staff but that these staff could be transferred and made good use of within mainstream if they so wished.
Whilst schools are exam factories, SEN pupils would constitute a major threat their perceived statistical superiority- how would this be overcome?
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 children and young people, not just those with SEN labels. We campaign for an end to measurement of achievement based solely on academic outcome.
Would you have classrooms with children with physical impairments, children with learning difficulties, children with high level support needs and non-disabled children all being taught together?
Yes, we DO have classrooms with all students being taught together. There is a myth that perpetuates that if special schools were to close there will be a 'tidal' wave of young people with 'unmanageable' needs 'pouring' into mainstream schools and overwhelming them. This simply isn't the case. The reality would be more likely to be one or two MORE young people with additional learning needs in a class.
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, these groups would never be defined by 'special need' or labels but by simply dividing a class group into smaller groups.
Would you have autistic children in units as is happening in some mainstream schools or do you advocate total inclusion?
We definitely do not advocate the use of separate units, or even classrooms for that matter, for children 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.
Would total inclusion ask far too much from a teacher to be almost impossible? Don't you think some teachers ought to specialise in teaching certain types of children?
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 sort of initiatives, along with creative planning and thinking to deliver the curriculum to all of their students.
We don't believe teachers should 'specialise' in teaching certain 'types' of children. Would you expect teachers to specialise in teaching children 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 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 children with behaviour issues? You can’t mean you want to include children who throw chairs or attack teachers?
Firstly for us, 'behaviour' is a form of communication. Allfie supports the inclusion of all young people 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 young people and firm, pro-active strategies support their inclusion. We uphold the right of all members of school communities to live without threat and physical danger. We recognise 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 urge all schools to ensure that the processes of differentiation, flexibility, School Action and School Action Plus as identified in the SEN Code of Practice are fully exhausted before action resulting in the exclusion of a young person is considered. We do not accept that exclusion is an option that results in positive change in young people.