ALLFIE responds to London Borough of Newham’s segregated school proposal
ALLFIE has responded to the London Borough of Newham’s plan to build a new segregated school, with the following letter.
The London Borough of Newham was once the proud leading council in England guiding other Local Authorities and educational institutions on how to make inclusive education within mainstream settings work for all its children and young people. Indeed, at that time, a generation of Disabled children and young people successfully completed their schooling alongside their non-disabled peers in mainstream provision. However, this previous approach is in complete opposition to what is now happening. Specifically, the building of a new segregated setting, as quoted on Newham Recorder website (on 29/11/2022) which states that:
“The school, which is named after the local landmark bridge, will serve up to 105 pupils aged five to 19, and will be a designated school to support children with autism.”
This is a huge disappointment and runs contrary to the SEND Code of Practice (2015) which refers to the Children and Families Act (2014) and expects a ‘presumption of mainstream’ in law. ALLFIE firmly believes that to specifically target and exclude Disabled young people by impairment is a contravention of the Equality Act 2010 and is counter to our broader obligation under the UNCRPD (2006) specifically Article 24, and Sustainable Development Goal No 4, which articulates the obligation to advance inclusive education and for the progressive removal of barriers to learning and participation.
The London Borough of Newham’s move to create segregated educational places for Disabled children and young people will reinforce and perpetuate discrimination experienced by Disabled people. This ableist and disablist discriminatory practice is evident through the group of Disabled children and young people selected to be segregated. ALLFIE knows that segregated education creates marginalization and discrimination; and for the London Borough of Newham which already has a disproportionate population experiencing social and intersectional inequalities, will make matters worse. This will further disconnect Disabled children and young people from the experiences within their families, friends and wider community.
The increase in segregated settings and placements for children and young people in the London Borough of Newham is a clear acknowledgment of the Government’s failure to address inclusive education within mainstream settings as a human right. The National Audit Office reported in 2019 that:
“The main reason why local authorities have overspent their high-needs budgets is that more pupils are attending special schools” (NAO, 2019, p.8).
Earlier still, the United Nations Committee in a concluding observation of the UK reported that there is concern about the ‘increasing number of children with disabilities in segregated environments’ (UN, 2017). Their concern was related to the persistence of a dual educational system that discriminates against Disabled children and young people.
We know that the creation of this segregated school in the London Borough of Newham is based on an unjust and discriminatory policy decision. To segregate 105 pupils in this segregated provision is 105 pupils too many. We also know that this creates barriers to Inclusive Education. That segregation disproportionately impacts on Disabled children and young people with autism and/or individuals labelled with severe and complex needs. We would expect as an educational right that Disabled children and young people with autism attend their local mainstream school with the appropriate support and resources.
ALLIE has evidence that Inclusive education within mainstream settings does work when Disabled children and young people are valued, are part of the decision-making process, and are taken seriously by providing the essential supports they require to participate and contribute to their local schools and communities.
We know that segregating children and young people will lead to yet more segregation, exclusion and isolation, reinforcing discrimination across all other areas of life. There is much evidence around this country of the ongoing violence and abuse of people with autism when they are locked away and removed from their communities. This has triggered UK Parliament to carry out a review of this horrific practice (UK Parliament, 2022). This practice of harm and discrimination must end. We know that current government failings to advance inclusive education are fueling segregated provision, feeding into a fear of difference and perpetuating discrimination.
ALLFIE calls for schools to have the funding to support and resource ALL children and young people in the communities where they live, with families and all other children. There have been decades of fighting to campaign for Inclusive Education to be acknowledged as a human right. We call on all Local Authorities to meet their obligation for the progressive realization of Inclusive Education and to end the segregation of Disabled children and young people in entirety.
We would welcome further conversation with yourself to share our position and look forward to your response.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE)