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Where are we now with Inclusive Education?


According to Richard Rieser, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) cuts and the failure of mainstream schools to carry out their statutory responsibility to include students with SEND, including those with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Issues, is fast becoming a national disgrace.

The Education Select Committee (July 2018) examining the unprecedented growth in exclusions, unlawful off-rolling and demand for Alternative Provision said:

“An unfortunate and unintended consequence of the Government’s strong focus on school standards has led to school environments and practices that have resulted in disadvantaged children being disproportionately excluded, which includes a curriculum with a lack of focus on developing pupils’ social and economic capital. There appears to be a lack of moral accountability on the part of many schools and no incentive to, or deterrent to not, retain pupils who could be classed as difficult or challenging”….

“Off-rolling is in part driven by school policies created by the Department for Education. The Department cannot wash its hands of the issue, just as schools cannot wash their hands of their pupils…The Government should issue guidance to all schools reminding them of their responsibilities to children under treaty obligations and ensure that their behaviour policies are in line with these responsibilities…The Government and Ofsted should introduce an inclusion measure or criteria that sits within schools to incentivise schools to be more inclusive”.

There is also an unprecedented growth in parents home educating their children, often not by choice, but as a last resort.

Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education,  speaking on 5th July to Children’s Services Conference:

“We know there has been a steady movement of children with special educational needs out of mainstream schools and into specialist provision, alternative provision and home education. At the same time, rates of exclusion have begun to rise after a period of having calmed down. I hear too many stories about off-rolling, with schools finding ways to remove pupils, outside of the formal exclusions system. And of what is, essentially, pre-emptive exclusion, where parents looking at secondary schools are actively or in some way subtly discouraged from applying to a particular school for their child. And I want to be clear right now: this is not okay. SEND pupils are not someone else’s problem. Every school is a school for pupils with SEND; and every teacher is a teacher of SEND pupils. And all schools and colleges – alongside central and local government – have a level of responsibility here, it cannot just be left to a few…..But mainstream schools and colleges – with the right support and training – should also be able to offer strong support for many more children and young people with EHC plans, as well as high quality SEN support for those without plans. So I want to both equip and incentivise schools to do better for children and young people with SEND”.

Fine words! But there is still a coyness to speak of inclusion from the Tories. The lack of inclusiveness is witnessed by the number of school students being educated in special schools, rising from 86,000 in 2006 to 115,000 in 2018. In 2015/16, 6,685 pupils were permanently excluded from school, with 339,360 fixed period exclusions. This was a 40% increase from the previous year. Last year, 48,000 pupils were educated in alternative provision and outside special and mainstream schools. Children in care, children in need, children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children in poverty are all more likely to be excluded than their peers. Pupils with Special Educational Needs are almost seven times more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils with no SEN. 2,000 children with SEND have no educational provision at all [1].

A cut of 8% in real terms between 2015 and 2020 has just been increased by the Government’s refusal to pay for the full 3.5% pay award, recommended by the Pay Review Board. Schools will have to find at least 1%. As pay is a very substantial part of school budgets, this effectively takes the reduction up to 9%. On top of this, Local Authority Higher Needs Budgets are massively overspent and leading to unlawful reductions in funding for those with Education Health and Care Plans. Despite secondary pupil numbers rising by 54,485 from 2014 to 2018, the number of teaching assistants (TAs) has been cut by 6,100. Parents are challenging this and have already halted reductions in Bristol with a Judicial Review. Surrey and Hackney parents are awaiting their day in court.  The Government must be made to fund SEND to meet the needs of those with a Plan and the far larger number who require School Support. A National Association of Head Teachers survey of 600 primary head teachers showed 94% found it harder to resource SEND than 2 years ago and only 2% said top up funding was sufficient to meet Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Disability discrimination against students and staff is increasing.

Showing their anger at real spending cuts in schools, over 2,000 head teachers demonstrated in Whitehall on Friday 28th September. High among their concerns was their increasing inability to put in place the provision required by children with SEND.

One head teacher from Suffolk told how she had been bitten by a pupil this week.”It wasn’t his fault. It was because of a situation outside of school, and his emotional support had been cut two weeks earlier because of the cuts.” She could not give her name in case the pupil was identified, but she added: “We have children who are distressed and angry and we can’t help them.” Another Suffolk head teacher, Kelly from Springfield Infants School, said: “It’s head teachers here protesting because there’s no one left. We are using people left, right and centre to cover all sorts of jobs in schools.” Stockport head teacher, Jim Nicholson, said he was fed up with hearing this government line of a rise in school funding.”We have seen how our colleagues are having to lay off staff and our vulnerable pupils are not getting support. We’d all rather be back in school teaching but we’ve had enough”.[2]

Campaign for more SEND funding locally, to put pressure on the Government to increase funding overall. On 21st November participate in a National Day of Action to get equality for disabled students and staff in our colleges and schools. Organise activities and protests in every educational establishment. End discrimination against disabled students and staff. https://neu.org.uk/funding

At the Labour Party Conference in the same week, a reference back to ensure the principle of inclusive education is at the heart of Labour’s proposal for a National Education Service was carried unanimously. Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:

“Too often those who suffer from staff shortages are children with special educational needs and disabilities. So our National Education Service Charter, the result of thousands of submissions from our members and others, guarantees it will be truly inclusive. That is why our Shadow Children’s Minister, Emma Lewell-Buck will lead plans to stop those with special educational needs and disabilities from falling out of the school system. And we would back it up with a record investment in modernising school buildings to make sure they are accessible to all who could learn in them. Providing an excellent education to the many and not a privileged few.”

Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/342/34202.htm

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-45665122

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