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Does ALLFIE think schools and colleges are becoming “exam factories”? If so, what does this mean for the inclusion of SEN pupils and students?
This is absolutely true and is currently one of the biggest barriers to inclusion. We see the present system as being bad for all learners, not just those with SEN labels. We campaign for an end to achievement being measured purely on academic outcomes such as qualifications.
The local academy say they are struggling with my child, and suggest I should consider alternative provision. I have no idea what this means and whether we should accept it.
Alternative provision is educational or vocational training that is usually provided off-site. Usually it is run by a different provider, not your child’s school. Children are often placed in alternative provision when their learning and behaviour is affecting the school’s ability to meet their SAT and GCSE targets. Alternative provision is aimed at children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and/or learning difficulties. We believe all “alternative provision” should be on the school, college and university site and available for the school or college community to use regardless of whether they are disabled or not.
Wouldn’t fully inclusive education be very expensive because of the need to train teachers, provide equipment and recruit support staff? Do you think any government would do this?
We are not asking for new money but for resources to be transferred. Special schools take up a huge amount of the education budget considering the number of learners they serve. We think any government should consider it as a cost effective measure. Running a single inclusive system would undeniably be cheaper than running two parallel systems.
Some parents say that the small SEN environment has saved their child – what would you say to parents who choose special schools?
We say 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 advocate smaller class sizes and smaller educational institutions within the mainstream. We have good examples from the ‘Human Scale Education’ Movement of how schools can be restructured, e.g. a large comprehensive school split into three schools with separate head teachers, staff teams etc sharing the same site. None of these are for separate provision, all three schools are inclusive. We believe a similar approach could be adopted by post 16 colleges and universities.
We would also advocate facilities like ‘quiet’ areas within schools for use by any child.
Do you call for the gradual closure of special 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 building the capacity of the mainstream sector so that disabled learners and parents of disabled children are confident that their inclusion is fully supported.