Letter to Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee
Our Director, Tara Flood, writes to the Education Select Committee to express her concern about the SEND Inquiry.
Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP Chair, Education Select Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 26th November 2018
Dear Mr Halfon,
I am writing to thank you for the opportunity to give oral evidence to Committee members last week; however it is important to share our very real concerns about restrictions the Committee have placed on the parameters of the Inquiry.
I am extremely concerned that the current Terms of Reference and therefore Committee members are ignoring the UK Government’s blatant disregard for its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in particular Article 24: the Right to Inclusive Education. Evidence for this includes:
- Between 2010 and 2017 the percentage of children in England with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) attending maintained special schools increased from 38.2% to 43.8% while those attending state-funded secondary schools declined from 28.8% to 22.2% . These figures do not include Disabled pupils and students, with SEN, being home educated, in residential special schools or in specialist psychiatric inpatient units.
- Over 1000 children with statements for learning difficulties or ASD are boarding in residential special schools, over one third of them in another local authority area (plus many more in independent special schools).
- According to 2016 NHS England figures there were 1,129 Disabled children and young people in 52 week placements.
- In 2017 the DFE agreed applications to open 1600 new special free schools which takes even more money away from mainstream.
In July this year, the Secretary of State, Damien Hinds, acknowledged the decline in inclusion in his inaugural speech. He said:
“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…… 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 yet the Education Select Committee is missing the opportunity to include the declining numbers of Disabled pupils & students with/without SEN included in mainstream education in the Terms of Reference of your SEND Inquiry.
When the UK Government ratified the UNCRPD in 2009 it committed “to continuing to develop an inclusive system where parents of disabled children have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff, which have the capacity to meet the needs of disabled children”. However since UNCRPD ratification, policy and legal changes, including the SEND reforms, have done nothing to realise this commitment.
In 2017, the UN Disability Committee reviewed the UK’s progress on implementation of the UNCRPD. The UN Disability Committee concluded the Government’s approach to Disabled people of all ages is causing a ‘human catastrophe’. With regard to education the Committee expressed objections to the UK’s growing reliance on special schools and claimed that little had happened to implement inclusive education in mainstream settings. According to the UN, the UK should commit to ensuring all Disabled children receive an inclusive education and at the very least the Government should be considering how to embed the recommendations for Article 24 implementation as set out in its Concluding Observations document.
We are deeply disappointed that the SEND Inquiry is ignoring the impact of austerity on Disabled pupils & students with/without SEN and the impact of endless cuts to SEN support services at a local level, which is driving Disabled pupils & students with/without SEN out of mainstream education, resulting in increasing numbers of Disabled pupils & students with/without SEN being out of education entirely. Instead the SEND Inquiry seems to only want to focus on highlighting tweaks to the current SEND reforms rather than shine a bright light on the ideology behind the reforms that is focused on the Coalition Government’s 2010 commitment to ‘reversing the bias towards inclusion’ – a bias that was proved not to exist.
When you became Chair of the Education Select Committee you were quoted as saying the Committee ‘should be more effective in considering social justice issues of disabled pupils and students with SEN in education system when scrutinising Government’s education policy and legislation’. If you still believe this you should stop this sham of an Inquiry and broaden the Terms of Reference to include an investigation into the Government’s shameful disregard for the human right to an inclusive education for ALL Disabled pupils & students with/without SEN.
It is our belief that unless there is a fundamental shift in the focus of the SEND Inquiry to include the Government’s UNCRPD obligations, the Education Select Committee is failing in its role to ‘monitor the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Education…’ and in this case the impact on Disabled pupils & students.
I look forward to your response.
Tara Flood, Director