July 2017 Briefing: General Election analysis
How has the General Election changed the outlook for inclusion?
As many of you know the General Election produced a surprise result, a hung parliament where no one single political party has overall control. Whilst the Conservative Party won the majority of parliamentary seats, they did not gain sufficient seats to govern by themselves without the support of other political parties. So they have secured support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
The great news for ALLFIE is that the government have ditched their plan to expand selective education in the state sector. This success is no doubt down to all the people including ALLFIE members and supporters who have campaigned against these divisive plans to bring back grammar schools.
We are now in a period of ‘wait and see’ so we must organise ourselves to seize every opportunity to get our voices heard and make a real difference in the lives of disabled pupils and students and their families.
(Policy and Campaigns Coordinator)
The Government have, for the moment, dropped their plans to create more grammar schools.
However they are still going ahead with plans to change how much money schools will get for their pupils. The current funding situation is already difficult for good inclusive schools that welcome disabled pupils. We hope the government’s plans will ensure that good inclusive schools can still afford to take disabled pupils.
The Government are also thinking about making some changes to further education. One possible change is to allow disabled students to take a year to develop their basic and work-related skills in work they are interested in doing. The one year course should allow disabled students to go onto other courses or into work – more detail to follow.
Department for Education Ministers
Following the election, Theresa May has undertaken a cabinet reshuffle, including the replacement of some of the existing Ministers of State for Education.
Justine Greening MP
The Secretary of State is responsible for the work of the Department for Education including early years, the school curriculum, school improvement, the establishment of academies and free schools, further and higher education and apprenticeships and skills.
Justine Greening continues as Secretary of State for Education. She has been reappointed despite strong hostility to the government’s grammar schools and school funding reforms.
Nick Gibb MP
The responsibilities of the Minister of State for School Standards include headteachers and teacher recruitment, retention, training, schools funding, the curriculum, assessment and qualifications as well as school accountability.
Nick went to school in Maidstone, Leeds and Wakefield before going on to study law at Durham University. He was formerly a chartered accountant specialising in corporate taxation with KPMG. ALLFIE’s experience of Nick Gibb is that he has a very traditional view of education.
The responsibilities of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System include developing and maintaining a strong school system, school governance, performance, admissions and school capital investment. Lord Nash runs the charity Future, which works with young people and sponsors academies including Pimlico Academy and Millbank Primary Academy.
ALLFIE knows Lord Nash too well – from when we staged a sit-in at the Department for Education to secure a meeting with him to discuss the Children and Families Act’s failings in upholding disabled pupils’ and students’ rights to inclusive education.
Joe Johnson MP
The remit of the Minister of State for Universities and Science covers universities, higher education policy and widening participation and social mobility. Despite this the same Minister oversaw the savage cuts to Disabled Students Allowance which are starting to have a negative impact upon disabled students’ participation in higher education.
Anne Milton MP replaces Robert Halfon MP
The portfolio of the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills focuses on post 16 education policy and funding, covering adult education, apprenticeships, technical training, careers education and reducing numbers of young people not in education or training.
Anne, a former grammar school pupil, has over 25 years’ experience working in the National Health Service including a period of time as a trained nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital She appears to have no experience of education and apprenticeships either at the coalface or around public policy.
Robert Goodwill MP replaces Edward Timpson MP
The portfolio of the Minister of State for Children and Families covers major areas of children and young people’s policy including the provision and funding of school education up to the age of 16 and 25 if disabled. It includes SEN and disability, children in care, care leavers, adoption, child protection and improving social mobility.
Mr Goodwill has said of his new role:
“I am delighted to be appointed Minister of State for Children and Families. It is vitally important that all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, get a good start in life, have an education experience that allows them to reach their full potential, and lead a productive and fulfilling adult life. I am looking forward to hearing from families about their experiences, and to listening to partners who have expertise in this area. I want to continue to work with them to ensure we have an education system that provides the best possible support to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.”
It is very disappointing that the new Minister does not mention anything around his role in promoting disabled pupils’ and students’ human and civil rights to inclusive education and addressing issues of disability equality in mainstream education.
Robert was educated at the Quaker Bootham School in York and has been a farmer (since 1979) of 250 acres of land near Malton, which has been in his family since 1850. He is the managing director of a funeral company.
It is interesting that the two new Ministers have no experience of education or disabled pupils, which could work in our favour.
Angela Rayner MP remains the shadow Secretary of State for Education.
Angela is a mother of two disabled children, both of whom attend mainstream schools. We look forward to Angela providing strong opposition to government proposals to expand segregated education, particularly given the Labour Party General Election Manifesto support for implementation of disabled pupils’ and students’ rights to inclusive education under Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Queen’s Speech
This year’s Queen’s Speech was later than usual due to the General Election and so on the 21st June the government set out its two year legislative programme. Whilst the political agenda will be dominated by Brexit, the speech also included a range of proposed bills and policy reforms which are of interest to ALLFIE and the inclusive education movement.
It was expected that, if the Conservative Party had overall control, laws would be introduced to lift the ban on the creation of new grammar schools and increase selective education within the state education system, as set out in their manifesto. Similarly, the Democratic Unionist Party has pledged their ongoing support for increased academic selection in the Northern Ireland education system. Therefore in theory, with the DUP’s support, the Conservative Party could force grammar school policy changes through Parliament.
What does ALLFIE think?
The great news for ALLFIE is that the government have, for the time being, ditched their plan to expand selective education. This success is no doubt down to all the people including ALLFIE members and supporters who have campaigned against the government’s divisive plans to bring back grammar schools. However, the government have not given up on the possibility of increasing selective education sometime in the future as suggested in the Queen’s Speech:
“We will look at all options and work with Parliament to bring forward proposals that can command a majority.”
ALLFIE will be keeping a very close eye on education policy developments to make sure that selective education is not introduced by the backdoor!
Fairer Funding for Schools
According to research by the Education Policy Institute, schools will face cuts in real terms of 11% per pupil as a consequence of school funding reforms. The London Council’s Talking Heads research reported that disabled pupils have been and will continue to be adversely affected by the school funding cuts. For instance:
“70% of primary schools have already reduced their numbers of Teaching Assistants, impacting especially on children with Special Educational Needs…”
Just a year ago, a survey by The Key found that over 80% of mainstream schools felt they no longer have sufficient resources to cover all the pupils’ SEN and reasonable adjustments requirements under the Equality Act, a view echoed in the Local Government Association’s response to the Department for Education consultation on the High Needs funding formula:
“If councils do not receive sufficient funding to cover high cost SEND, they will not have the resources to allocate extra funds to highly inclusive schools that take higher than average numbers of pupils with additional needs. Equally, mainstream schools may find it difficult to accept or keep pupils with SEND because they cannot afford to subsidise the provision from their own budgets, as they are already under significant pressure.”
When there is a cut to inclusive education, the whole school community is affected as everyone loses out on educational and social opportunities for developing and strengthening community cohesion. As a result of growing discontent from school heads, unions and parents together with a rebellion of backbench MPs, the Conservative Party were forced in their manifesto into announcing £4 billion for schools by 2020, to make up some of the shortfall in school budgets. Whilst no detail was provided, fairer funding for schools was announced in the Queen’s Speech.
What does ALLFIE think?
Whilst we expect that fairer funding for schools will focus on individual school budgets, we will be seizing every opportunity to highlight the impact that savage cuts are having on schools’ ability now to develop and sustain inclusive education practice.
The Government have promised to invest half a million pounds in technical education.
In the Post 16 Skills Plan the government has accepted all 34 recommendations from the Sainsbury Independent Panel on Technical Education to improve vocational education, covering apprenticeships, reforms to vocational qualifications, career guidance and sufficiency of funding levels. Recommendation 27 drew our attention as it could have an impact on disabled students’ access to mainstream education.
“Individuals who are not ready to access a technical education route aged 16 (or older if their education has been delayed) should be offered a “transition year” to help them prepare for further study or employment. The transition year should be flexible and tailored to the student’s prior attainment and aspirations.”
The transition year should consist of a tailored study programme reflecting the student’s prior attainment, needs and their longer term aspirations. The objective of the courses focuses on developing personal behaviours, basic skills and work-based experience rather than acquiring various level 1 qualifications which are below GCSE Grade C standard. The transition year is intended to be a stepping stone onto further study or into employment rather than an end within itself.
What does ALLFIE think?
Whilst the panel did not provide any further guidance, they suggested the transition year programme would be similar to study programmes undertaken by low attainment students with more emphasis placed on progression. We are concerned that the transition year, like any other discrete course claiming to be tailored around a disabled person’s needs, will just become another merry-go-round course that leads to no progression onto mainstream courses. As usual it’s very disappointing to see no innovative methods such as pilots on how mainstream vocational courses and study programmes can accommodate a disabled person needing a more personalised study programme during their transition year.