Letter to Claire Coutinho MP, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing
ALLFIE’s letter to the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing regarding the importance of inclusive education and our concerns with the current education system, including the absence of a fully implemented Article 24 (on inclusive education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
As the Director of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, I welcome you into your new appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing). Our work intersects with several areas of responsibility under your portfolio including, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), alternative provision, the policy to protect against serious violence and online safety and preventing bullying in schools. During this time of uncertainty, it is vital that Disabled people have educational equity, and that inclusive education is placed at the heart of the education agenda so that the potential and life courses of Disabled people can be fully realised.
We would like the opportunity to meet with you at this crucial time of the SEND Review, to discuss the importance of inclusive education within mainstream settings. ALLFIE has over 30 years of experience and is the only Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) in the field of education. We passionately believe that inclusive education is a fundamental human right, as set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and is the basis for all Disabled people to develop, achieve and thrive.
ALLFIE have been active in the recent SEND Review consultation, enabling a wide range of partners to be involved in the discussion including teaching professionals, parents and by centring the lived experience and voices of Disabled children and young people themselves. We believe that the SEND Review could be a vehicle for real, positive transformation, if it centres a truly intersectional, inclusive vision and is led by the experience and expertise of Disabled People and our organisations.
We need a clear and comprehensive working definition of inclusive education that is aligned to the UNCRPD on inclusive education. This knowledge is essential to embed into the development of successful national education standards and that all Disabled young people, parents, institutions, local authorities, and funding agencies are expected to use to guide their practices, operations and decision-making.
Unfortunately, the current framework sees educational inclusion underfunded, with baseline funding decreasing in mainstream settings and funding increasingly being invested in segregated provisions, which consequently limits the life chances and potential for Disabled people to achieve in all areas of our society. We are gravely concerned by recent reports that suggest that Local Authorities are being pressured to cut SEND funding in exchange for broader financial assistance from the Government1. In this current crisis, schools are considering a four-day week2, facing financial collapse3 and are unable to retain essential SEN-focused staff4. We need adequate funding to be protected and not used as a tool to balance Local Authority budgets. Education is a human right, and it is necessary that Disabled people, who are disproportionately impacted by every aspect of this crisis, are given the right to lifelong mainstream inclusive education. Educational support is not synonymous with care and therefore it is necessary that Disabled pupils are not framed in this way, but are instead truly included within their communities and as part of society.
We know from this summer’s statistics5, that the permanent exclusion rate for pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) is 0.08, higher still for pupils labelled with SEN with no EHC plan (SEN support) is 0.15, compared to 0.03 for those without SEN. The suspension rate is also higher at 12.98 for pupils with an EHC plan and 11.86 for pupils with SEN support, compared to 2.80 for those without SEN. Thus, the Government’s own data makes a compelling argument for a change to the current status quo. Your own data tells us that there is a necessity for the implementation of inclusive education as set out by the UNCRDP, article 24.
The work of the SEND Review will define outcomes for Disabled people and we would welcome establishing a long-term, equitable and consultative relationship with yourself and the Department. We look forward to speaking to you and working with you to realise the sustainable and successful vision of inclusive education.
Director to Alliance for Inclusive Education