Inclusive education election guide

ALLFIE sets out their six manifesto demands for inclusive education and Disability human rights alongside key findings from the four main political party manifestos.

The general election is fast approaching and the leading political parties are campaigning for every vote they can secure from us. We have set out the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green Party education policies and approaches to securing disabled pupils’ human rights to inclusive education, alongside ALLFIE’s six manifesto demands for inclusive education.

Given that all the main political parties have acknowledged in their manifestos that there is a crisis in special educational needs funding and provision for disabled pupils and students, we are very surprised by the lack of specific policies to implement change.

Read the full ALLFIE Inclusive Education Election Guide 2019 analysis, with side-by-side comparison table of the four main political parties’ position in relation to ALLFIE’s manifesto.

  1. Legal and human right to inclusive education

All of the main political parties have so far remained silent on proposing changes to the Children and Families Act, which forced disabled children and young people into segregated educational settings. Whilst the Labour Party will incorporate the social model of disability into the Equality Act, this initiative will nevertheless have a limited scope for improvements in disabled people’s rights to inclusive education because education segregation on the grounds of disability is permitted. Further, the Labour party’s national education service remains silent on implementing an inclusive education policy despite it appearing in their “Breaking Down Barriers” disability manifesto.

Labour and the Green Party simply rely on the UNCRPD and neither has made any commitment to ending segregated education, meaning that disabled pupils continue to experience a lottery on whether they will secure a well-supported educational placement. As long as segregated education is an option, the state will require an oppressive administrative process for deciding who does and does not fit the criteria to receive a mainstream education.

  1. Education, health, care and transport services and support

Only Labour and the Liberal Democrats provide specific proposals on what they would provide for disabled pupils and students in mainstream education. However, both parties focus on providing pupils and students with mental health services, including school counselling, mental health, first aid and the like. Other than mental health, there is no mention of increasing the provision of speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, these and other services that many families have complained are just not being provided in mainstream educational settings. Similarly, the provision of social care for disabled children and adults in mainstream education settings is absent, whilst priority is given to securing free social care for the older generation in all the political parties’ policies.

Given that all the political parties have cited the SEND provision crisis in their manifestos, there is a curious lack of policies in all manifestos except Lib Dems on the funding of SEND services such as specialist teachers for disabled people with specific impairments, educational psychologists and other professions which education providers can use to support inclusive education practices. The Lib Dems are the only party that specifically said how they would target additional funding, through providing additional monies for schools to cover the costs of their pupils’ education, health and care plans.

Given the struggle that many disabled students and families have in securing coordinated services and support, we are very surprised that no political party has provided any specific proposals to ensure that education providers are able to secure what is required to enable disabled students to thrive whilst learning.

  1. Inclusive learning environment

Not only are the education buildings in need of repair and maintenance, many of them are not designed to be inclusive of all. Further, pupils and students have less control over their learning environments as a result of the relaxing of school building regulations and the use of private investments in developing new education facilities. The Green Party is the only party with a policy to make schools more accessible, whilst Labour and the Liberal Democrats have focused on funding a back-log of school building repairs which does not guarantee inclusion or full access.

  1. Inclusive curriculum

The Conservative Party are offering to fund enrichment activities whilst retaining the national curriculum’s focus on academic subjects. The other three parties want to broaden the curriculum’s offering to include personal and social education, as well as vocational and non-academic subjects. Whilst a broader curriculum offering will mean that pupils and students, including disabled ones, are better catered for in educational settings, this alone will not promote inclusive education practices. Other than the Green Party, none of the political parties have proposals to make the curriculum content suitable for disabled people with different abilities and access requirements, not to mention a better representation of disability in course curriculums.

  1. Inclusive assessments

All the political parties except the Conservative Party have policies to scrap the existing performance measures, which only report students’ performances in SATs and academic qualifications. Whilst these are good policies, they mean very little if what counts, namely the assessment systems of GCSEs, A Levels and other qualifications, remain inaccessible for disabled pupils and students. None of the political parties are planning any reforms to the qualification systems which disadvantage disabled students.

  1. Workforce development

The political parties that have focused on the workforce have confined themselves to either increasing the number of SENCOs in schools or training in mental health. Without mandatory inclusive education training, which must be embedded into continuing professional development courses educational practitioners, the struggle for inclusive education will continue.

After reading and analysing the Conservative, Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour Party manifestos, we have concluded that none of them are offering any credible plan for the development, funding and implementation of an inclusive education service. Whoever forms the next Government, we will have to demand that they work with ALLFIE and our allies to co-produce and co-implement a fully inclusive education system.

Simone Aspis

ALLFIE Campaigns and Policy Coordinator

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