Celebrating 30 years of Campaigning for Inclusive Education: Why ALLFIE is Important

Alliance for Inclusive Education Trustee, Joe Whittaker, takes us through the history and introduces the principles of ALLFIE and Inclusive Education. We ask you to join our celebrations by sharing our Twitter messages with your followers, using hashtag #ALLFIE30

#ALLFIE30 logo

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is and has, for 30 years, been the reliable voice, consistently advocating Inclusive Education with Disabled learners and their families, to professionals, local authorities and national government. ALLFIE  remains the ‘Go To’  place because it is unique, as an organisation, created and led by Disabled people, specifically focused on campaigning for effective supports for all Disabled learners to be fully included in all sectors of mainstream education services.

After 30 years ALLFIE continues to articulate and apply key principles guided by a Disabled persons’ right to belong to their community and be free from segregation because of corrosive prejudices suggesting that Disabled learners are in some way faulty.

ALLFIE Principles

ALLFIE’s key principles for inclusive education:

  • Diversity enriches and strengthens all communities
  • All learners’ different learning styles and achievements are equally valued, respected and celebrated by society
  • All learners are enabled to fulfil their potential by taking into account individual requirements and needs
  • Support is guaranteed and fully resourced across the whole learning experience
  • All learners need friendship and support from people of their own age
  • All learners are educated together as equals in their local communities
  • Inclusive education is incompatible with segregated provision both within and outside mainstream education

ALLFIE has dislodged the mantra that people of a similar age learn in the same way, at the same time, at the same pace, with the same methods, with the same teacher, all at the ringing of a school bell.  People learn more effectively when they have full access to mainstream learning environments, where they feel safe, welcomed, valued and supported to navigate their individual journeys within a network of relationships that enhances their  confidence aspirations and imaginations.

ALLFIE knows inclusive education works, ALLFIE also knows Inclusive Education is not a simple destination, it is a continually evolving learning process throughout life. Such a process demands we work in collaboration with all interested parties, simple political alignment in this endeavour is an illusion. Sustainable change requires respectful engagements with participants who can hold radically different perspectives but can gather around key principles, it requires us all to be inclusive in our struggles.

The History: From Integration to Inclusive Education

ALLFIE is able to change in the light of experience and evidence.  Such a change happened with the language of the Integration of Disabled learners into mainstream schools. This integration was recommended by the Warnock Report  (1978) the recommendations of this report were largely incorporated in the 1981 Education Act.

ALLFIE recognised this application of ‘Integration’ was not working, it proved to be a huge disservice to many Disabled learners. Integration required a significant shift in thinking and practice. ALLFIE campaigned against an approach that integrated Disabled learners into mainstream schools, without the necessary supports for Disabled learners, not simply to be located into mainstream settings but to be fully supported to participate and contribute in mainstream settings.

It was wrong to integrate or place a learner using a wheelchair in a mainstream school when that school is only fully accessible to people who can climb stairs. Or where a learner, whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) and there is no BSL interpretation available to fully access the curricula and the wider cultural relationships inside and outside the mainstream setting. These integrated ‘placements’ resulted in deeper isolation and continued segregation in mainstream settings for many Disabled learners.

Integration put the Disabled learner into mainstream schools without a corresponding emphasis on the supports they required to be fully included in that mainstream school. ALLFIE highlighted the weakness of integration as practiced in the late 1980s. That shift from integrated education to inclusive education was highly significant and is when ALLFIE changed its name in the early 1990s and subsequently influenced the national debate away from integration education to inclusion education. This was not simply a change in vocabulary but a conceptual shift that required mainstream settings to change, to value and provide essential supports to all Disabled learners and not expect the Disabled learner to ‘fit in’ to the mainstream setting as it was. This shift in emphasis to the supports available in mainstream settings changed the educational landscape. Effective supports brought into mainstream setting by Disabled learners included:

  • Individual learning plans
  • Peer supports
  • Learner centred curriculum
  • Criterion based assessments
  • Circles of Support
  • Peer/buddy supports
  • Spider diagrams for planning
  • Mind maps for organising thinking processes
  • Team teaching
  • Learner and teacher support assistants
  • Buildings and resources made more accessible
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
  • Facilitated Communication
  • Curriculum differentiation
  • Classroom and examination supports and differentiation
  • Multi-sensory learning methods
  • Diverse Teaching/learning styles
  • Multiple intelligences
  • Simultaneous translations
  • Sign language
  • Lip speaking
  • Multi-media approaches

And many more personalised teaching/learning supports and education innovations, which highlighted the lack of support available to other learners. This transformation in the mainstream settings was a direct result of Disabled learners changing the educational landscape and from which all learners could benefit.

‘Inclusion Now’ magazine

ALLFIE included many features articles in ‘Inclusion Now’ magazine. Inclusion Now magazine was  first published in 2001, and continues today, created and published with important allies to show examples of inclusive education in mainstream settings from around the country.

Building Alliances: Disabled People’s Organisations

Disabled Peoples Organisations, (DPOs) are run by Disabled people for Disabled people, they started in the early 1970s, to fight the blatant discrimination against Disabled people in U.K. society. DPOs articulated the damaging consequences of disability discrimination for society. Disabled people activism was instrumental in bringing about Disability Discrimination Act (195). Inclusive Education however, was not high on the agenda of many DPOs. Some anecdotal evidence suggested that Disabled activists had been so oppressed by their schooling experiences, why would activists want to return to such issues, which they had survived only to have those oppressions re-stimulated?

ALLFIE understood the damage of segregated schooling for many disabled people from its powerful project  ‘How Was School?’, which, looks at Disabled People’s experiences of education over the last 100 years through the telling and recording of personal memories and histories of school. This truly unique collection designed and delivered by Disabled people has produced an oral history resource that will serve as an archive in the public interest but will also be a practical tool for schools, colleges, universities and other education providers that segregation can deepen the isolation of Disabled persons through all aspects of their lives.

Whilst this dialogue between ALLFIE and other DPOs continues, it is fair to claim Inclusive Education is on the agenda of many DPOs. The move to a wider Overarching DPO, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) where ALLFIE is an enthusiastic partner with many other powerful DPOs. Such powerful alliance has achieved international collaborations with The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD 2007) This comprehensive rights convention contains Article 24, fought for by and consistently advocated for by ALLFIE, which establishes the right to Inclusive Education around the world.

ALLFIE is currently engaged in the continued struggle to sustain the key principles of Inclusive Education which, despite the current political moves to systematically segregate rather than include,  ALLFIE will continue to campaign for the rights of all Disabled learners to enjoy and flourish in an Inclusive Education with all other participants around the world.

Joe Whittaker, ALLFIE Trustee

We ask you to join our November celebrations and support us by sharing our Twitter messages with your followers, using hashtag #ALLFIE30


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