Parliamentary Briefings & Consultation Responses

Letter to Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Education

ALLFIE’s Youth Parliamentary Officer, Maresa MacKeith, writes to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan MP, expressing concern that the Government’s national drive to improve school attendance will drive Disabled children away from their local mainstream schools and further encourage discrimination and segregation.

Sent on 7th February 2024

Dear Ms Keegan,  

I am from the Alliance for Inclusive Education recently employed in a new role as Youth Parliamentary Officer.  The Alliance for Inclusive Education, has over 30 years of experience, working as the only national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO), committed to addressing educational issues with the belief that all Disabled people should receive education together with the support they need in mainstream educational settings. This approach promotes inclusion in society by building friendships, and alliances and the understanding of the richness of diversity.  

We are writing to express our concerns regarding the national drive to improve school attendance. We are concerned that Disabled children are often driven away from their local mainstream schools. The introduction of the ‘Attendance hubs’ run by schools with excellent attendance records will make some schools less welcoming to Disabled children. Current schools that welcome Disabled children, will become more reluctant to continue doing so, as it will be another factor that will impact their school ratings.  

The sharing of ‘daily school registers’ will further encourage discrimination and segregation. Resulting in schools becoming more reluctant to enrol and support pupils who are more likely to have their attendance interrupted due to long-term medical conditions or a lack of support for pupils physical or learning needs.   

The present drive around ‘pupil engagement’ to increase school attendance with learning mentors, breakfast clubs and extracurricular activities is not addressing the systemic injustice of the lack of welcome and resources for Disabled children within mainstream schools. Many Disabled children cannot access school meals because of their dietary requirements and extracurricular activities do not include many Disabled children especially those requiring support and assistance. It is crucial to recognise that a child cannot increase their attendance in school if their well-being, physical and learning needs are not being met. 

Furthermore, the SEND and AP Improvement Plan, as outlined, aims to reduce individualised support, through Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP’s). This will make attendance at school for a lot of Disabled children more difficult. This approach will drive many Disabled children out of mainstream education. 

Considering these concerns, we respectfully demand that this initiative not be implemented, as it will further increase school segregation between Disabled and non-Disabled pupils, poverty, marginalisation and social inequalities.  Instead, we request that all mainstream schools receive the training and resources to accommodate the physical, learning and emotional needs of all children.

We propose that the £15 million currently allocated to the school attendance programme be diverted into resourcing mainstream schools to supporting Disabled children.  

Under the remit of my work as the Youth Parliamentary Officer, we would welcome the opportunity to speak to you and collaborate on realising a sustainable and successful plan for inclusive education within this agenda. We would appreciate if you or a member of your team could reply with some suggested dates for a meeting.   

Thank you for your attention to these critical matters, and we look forward to the possibility of working together to create a more inclusive education for all.  

Your sincerely,

Maresa MacKeith  

Youth Parliamentary Officer