SEND Review Consultation Submission: Right support, right place, right time
ALLFIE’s response to the Government’s SEND Review Green Paper
Who is the Alliance for Inclusive Education?
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is the only national organisation led by disabled people working on educational issues and, in particular, working to promote the rights of disabled students (including people with SEND) to be included in mainstream education. Inclusive education benefits everyone; it is only through disabled and non-disabled people playing, learning, working, growing up together, and establishing relationships that we will achieve an inclusive society that welcomes all.
What key factors should be considered when developing national standards to ensure they deliver improved outcomes and experiences for children and young people with SEND and their families? This includes how the standards apply across education, health, and care in a 0-25 system?
ALLFIE is gravely concerned that the SEND national standards agenda is about the Government wanting to save money, rather than enabling disabled students to have a great education within mainstream settings. As this young disabled person told us:
“….I read through the summary document, so the main thing that stuck out for me is that it was very money focused. It was like, ‘oh we will put funding into here and funding into here’, it wasn’t really focused on the needs of the children…”
ALLFIE is also worried that the national SEND standards will remove disabled children and young people’s rights, regardless of their ability to attend mainstream education. The national SEND standards set by the Government will determine the eligibility of educational placements for different groups of disabled children and young people. Parents are concerned that the SEND standards will make it harder to get their children into a mainstream school or college.
“The exclusion of parents from decision-making limits who is accountable within that process, and the issues around what counts [as] inclusion in mainstream education are not being addressed; instead prioritising ‘specialising’ SEND provision that owing to segregation seems problematic.” (Parent of disabled child)
The national SEND standards will re-enforce ableism in the mainstream education system, where only disabled children who require minimal disability-related adjustments can be educated full-time in mainstream schools and colleges. Disabled children’s medical diagnoses will determine if and to what extent they will benefit from mainstream education regardless of age.
“The national standards will set out the full range of appropriate types of support and placements for meeting different needs. This will include setting out when needs can and should be met effectively in mainstream provision, and the support that should be made ordinarily available in mainstream settings to facilitate this… For those parents and carers with children with complex needs, there will be greater clarity too in when a special school is appropriate. There will be greater clarity about which partners should fund specific forms of support and provision.” (SEN Green Paper)1
Unlike now, disabled children with complex needs will no longer begin their education in mainstream nurseries if the national SEND standards set out that the appropriate school placement for disabled children with complex needs is automatically a special school; this is ableist. As this disabled person highlights:
“This risks increased discrimination at an earlier age, prioritising the medical model of disability, with a complete lack of inclusivity or intersectionality considered.” (Disabled student)2
The Government’s ableist SEND proposals suggest that parents can expect their disabled children with complex needs to be eligible for a special school placement, based on the assumption that such children cannot be afforded the same opportunities in mainstream educational settings. As this disabled student highlights:
“At special school I was not taught to read or write, so my mother took me out of school to teach me at home for a couple of hours a day. After a year and a half, I had learnt enough to spell out everything I wanted to write and say, using the alphabet divided into colour coded groups and stuck to the e-tran frame. Each letter is two looks on the board. I have a separate board with numbers stuck to it for maths.”
“If I had been going through UK education now, I would be automatically enrolled in special education and would not access higher education. The Disability Discrimination Act [now the Equality Act] ensured that more assessment was required and that this could provide access to support.”
As more disabled children end up in segregated education, mainstream school’s ability to accommodate those within their remit will become more challenging – as this disabled student observes:
“I don’t know, well for me in school there was only one person who had wheelchair access so I think the school helped with what they could for the one person, but they didn’t do much more…”
The national SEND standards will weaken the operation and implementation of both the Children and Families Act (Section 34, the Presumption of Mainstream Education) and the Equality Act 2010’s disability-related duties, where currently non-selective education providers must make reasonable adjustments for all disabled students, regardless of ability. If the national SEND standards become law, then only a limited range of mainstream schools and colleges will be expected to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children and young people with or without complex needs. By implication, the Children and Families Act and the Equality Act provisions will cover a narrower range of disabled students. Further, education policy agencies and education institutions will be constrained on what they can do under their Equality Act Public Sector Equality Duties.
Benefits of Inclusive Education
Since 2006, schools have had a duty to promote ‘community cohesion’ and successive governments have since recognised the role education plays in this. In 2012, the Coalition Government published a policy document recognising the importance of developing inclusive communities and making the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) a living reality for disabled people in Britain.3 ALLFIE believes that inclusive communities can only be achieved if disabled and non-disabled people have shared lives, beginning with their educational experiences.
Inclusive education reduces the fear of human differences, accompanied by increased comfort and awareness (less fear of people who look or behave differently); growth in social cognition (increased tolerance of others, more effective communication with all peers); improvements in self-concept (increased self-esteem, perceived status, and sense of belonging); development of personal moral and ethical principles (less prejudice, higher responsiveness to the needs of others); and warm and caring friendships.4, 5
Overwhelming research demonstrates that inclusive education has either a neutral or positive impact on non-disabled children’s academic learning and progress. The biggest gains are around the personal and social development of non-disabled children, where those attending mainstream schools with a strong ethos of inclusion are more likely to support inclusion and have friendships with disabled peers.
The Government must start implementing the recommendations set out in the UNCRPD’s Monitoring Committee’s report, which includes co-designing an education system that is fully inclusive of disabled people. Whilst the Government’s intention behind the SEND Green Paper’s proposals is to increase the number of disabled children and young people within mainstream education, certain actions are required that would necessitate legislative changes to the Children and Families Act and Equality Act.
National inclusive education standards must be informed by the following:
Rather than having national SEND standards, we propose that there must be national inclusive education standards, which clearly set out the difference between integration and inclusive education. Many parents and young people’s experience of mainstream education is one of integration; where disabled children and young people are expected to fit into the existing education structures, which do not accommodate disability equality. In such situations, disabled children and young people are exposed to high degrees of stress, which can lead to long-term mental health challenges and psychiatric conditions. One disabled university student, who has recently left mainstream school, shared their experience of having to learn within a sensory environment that caters solely to the needs of their fellow non-disabled peers:
“There’s a higher chance of success in mainstream but it can get distressing with the surroundings, noise and how big classrooms were, but I really did like my classes. Conduct of classes was harsh/intimidating (it went from strict rules and limited freedom over to respect trust and freedom.. there were many banned items, i.e., phones, while fashion and hairstyle were dictated by [the] school…”
It’s difficult to ascertain what constitutes inclusive education practice – there is no definition or criteria (full-time, part time, hours in mainstream and outside mainstream school placement).6 Local authorities, education practitioners, educational institutions, and parents do not have a shared working definition of inclusive education. Currently, there are no inclusive education principles to guide the UK’s education system in developing inclusive education principles. If the Government’s goal is to increase inclusive education, then the national standards must become national inclusive education standards informed by principles which will guide the UK education system.
Inclusive Education is Based on ALLFIE’s Seven Principles:
- Diversity enriches and strengthens all communities.
- All learning styles and achievements are equally valued, respected, and celebrated by society.
- All learners are enabled to fulfil their potential by taking into account individual requirements and needs.
- Support is guaranteed and fully resourced throughout the whole learning experience.
- All learners need friendship and support from people their own age.
- All children and young people are educated together as equals in their local communities.
- Inclusive education is incompatible with segregated provision both within and outside mainstream education.
We propose that the UNCRPD Article 24’s General comment 4 definitions7 are used to inform what constitutes segregation, exclusion, integration, and inclusion within our education system.
Ending Segregated Education
Over the past forty years, education reorganisations8, school choice expansions9 and professional workforce up-skilling programmes10 have all failed to make any real difference to improving inclusive education practice within mainstream schools since the 1981 Education Act. Over the past decade, the Conservative Government has focused on expanding segregated education provision, which relieves mainstream schools of their responsibility to become inclusive of all disabled pupils and therefore undermines disabled students’ right to inclusive education. This parent represents a prevailing view that:
“We need to close special schools to improve inclusive mainstream education overall.”)
Parents of disabled children and young people being educated within segregated education continue to believe in and campaign for their children’s human right to inclusive education on ideological grounds.11 Parents do not actively choose residential special school or college placements. On the contrary, research indicates that many parents (up to 84%) want their child to be educated with appropriate support in a local school, whilst living at home. In 2012, NASS research highlighted that families were often forced to make difficult choices, and in some instances, be apart so that they could receive all the support they needed.12
“Placements are generally made when the placing local authority has been unable to meet the needs of the child or young person through their own (local) provision.”
“I had to go to boarding school. I had no say in what was going to happen. Parents do not have a choice. Their rights are dictated by professionals.” (Ian, How Was School 2014)
Parents have also expressed their feelings of injustice after their disabled children were forced into both residential and day special schools, because mainstream schools failed to support their disabled children’s inclusion.
“When my child went to mainstream school, I saw that in lunch time other children were making him do things because he was “different”, so I thought maybe it’s not the right place. Although I was thinking a special school would be bad, but I changed my mind as my child didn’t have the right support [in mainstream school] and was not treated right.”
“Although she is in a mainstream college, her education is still separate to a degree: separate physical spaces, e.g., courtyard and she gets no homework, has no self-directed study, and no expectation of socialising.”
“The unit in the mainstream school was small and separate from the main building. Some of his lessons [were] done in the unit and some in the other [mainstream] classes. The building [unit] was too small, needed decorating, it was horrible, low ceilings – it looked like a prison. My son did not like this and would refuse to go to school.” (Parent of a disabled child, 2022)
“They [mainstream school] were meant to be champions of disability, but I distinctly remember there was a medical centre and my friends weren’t allowed to hang out in the medical centre when it was cold but I was and if I wanted to see my friends, I had to go outside, or they had a specific Disabled dining table that my friends weren’t allowed to sit if they were able bodied.” (Disabled person)
Young disabled people do not actively seek a special school placement.
“I wanted to go [to special school] because I have special needs. I found that I was intimidated in primary, and other children used to bully me based on my appearance and I would go home and cry. I do think I was excluded because I am a disabled person.” (Disabled young person)
The Government’s intention of expanding special academy programmes to accommodate the raising of the number of disabled children with specific or complex needs is not what parents of young people want either.
“We were told that, for children like our son, with severe learning disabilities and [who were] non-verbal, inclusion was not “meaningful”, that there were no options and that he would have to go to a special school, even if we didn’t want it. How could a little boy go from living at home with his loving family and attending his local primary school to being sent away to a residential school?” (Parent of Disabled child), evidence to ALLFIE, 2017)
“[The] majority of the parents felt that because of the level of their children’s needs the option for mainstream was not an option available for them and felt they had been persuaded towards placing their children in a special school.” (Parents’ group members, 2022)
ALLFIE’s 2015 “How Was School?” project13 captured 100 years of disabled people’s educational experiences, mostly in segregated education. The project demonstrated that whilst the environment and the nature of SEND provision, in both residential and day special schools, may have evolved, the impact of the segregation and institutionalisation of disabled children and young people remains the same. The experience of institutionalisation cannot be improved, because it is founded on the mindset that disabled people are not full members of society. Many of the participants in “How Was School?” have experienced lifelong effects from childhood segregation.
The 2017 Lenehan Review of Residential Special Schools and Colleges14 reported systematic failings of residential provision, which includes residential special schools and colleges, to provide meaningful education and safe care. ALLFIE believes residential special schools and colleges should not be viewed separately from other residential institutionalised settings such as Winterbourne View and St Andrews Special Hospital with the same deficient and, in the case of the former, criminal approach to disabled children and young people. Disabled children and young people in these settings are inevitably, harmfully, disconnected from their families, communities, peer group, and positive identities around disability.
Human Rights Principles
Inclusive education starts from the position that all disabled people, regardless of ability, must be educated within mainstream education. The right to inclusive education cannot be realised whilst some disabled children and young people (i.e., those with complex needs) continue to attend special schools.
Disabled people’s right to inclusive education are not clearly outlined within the Human Rights framework, nor is the Children and Families Act presumption of mainstream education aligned with UNCRPD Article 24; the expectation is that the UK will develop a fully inclusive education system that is inclusive of all regardless of impairment or ability. Comment 4 provides very clear guidance on what is meant by inclusive education, alongside important definitions of segregation, exclusion, and integration.15,16
Social Model of Disability
The inclusive education guidance set out in UNCRPD Article 24, comment 4 emphasises changes within the state-funded education system, so that education provision works for disabled students rather than against them. The social model of disability requires the Government to remove the attitudinal, organisational, and environmental barriers that disabled people face in accessing and participating within mainstream education.17
“My local village primary school went out of their way to include me, both in the classroom and out of it, by, for example, joining my class on school trips and residential [trips]. Where possible, the teachers sent lesson plans and resources in advance so my carers could adapt them to make it easier for me to join in… My table had table raisers so my wheelchair fitted under the table, and my class partner sat on a stool. The layout of the classroom was adapted so I could access the parts of the room I needed to. For our music lesson[s], I took [part] in Soundbeam so that I could join in. In games, my peers took it in turns pushing me, as far as I was concerned the faster the better.” (Disabled student)
The common thread is that mainstream school practice needs to be changed, rather than individual disabled students being expected to fit into the existing educational structure. Whilst the schools can make some reasonable adjustments, we know that a lot more work needs to be done to ensure that all disabled students are fully included in mainstream education. Consequently, educational structures must change at a national level; it cannot be left for individual schools to do the best they can, which is often limited, in challenging barriers.
Other factors to consider are:
Throughout history, governments have viewed SEND framework failures as separate from the elitist education system. It does not matter what the Government does to the SEND framework, failures will continue within a market-driven education system, dominated by academic assessments and examinations.
“Academisation is all about assessment and exams, not creativity or diversity or the future of more diverse and inclusive education.” (Parent of disabled child)
“The GP [system] is prioritizing academic achievement and behaviour standards within the overarching aim of academization. This is clearly ableist as a strategy in addressing SEND provision.” (Parent of disabled child)
“The normative testing regime, which has been likened to an ‘exam factory approach’, leads to the internal, external, and informal exclusions currently rife in our schools, especially in academies. Disabled students, including those from black and racially minoritized groups, as well as students from deprived and under-resourced backgrounds are more likely to experience institutional prejudice leading to very unequal outcomes.” (Disabled teacher)
“A common thread I’ve encountered along the way is the pressure placed upon teaching staff to deliver measurable, results-based teaching practices, which aren’t as inclusive as they’d personally like. A significant proportion of teachers seem to find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to inclusion, as accountability on other aspects of their role is immense, including attendance, exams results, and progression. All of which have real educational value, but result in completely diverse outcomes for students with disabilities in comparison to, so-called, able students. Although teachers are expected to design lessons incorporating differentiation, the success of this is not always measured to account for the different ways of learning or differences in abilities learners have. This causes barriers to learning for many children and young people, who struggle to fit into the requirements of a system primarily focussed on exams and grades.”18
Children and young people who are disruptive or low ability in year 11 are particularly affected; at the time where their academic achievements count towards the school’s performance. When the Government’s education policies are centred around academic attainment for exampleProgress 8 and Attainment 8 performance targets, school league table positions, behaviour and discipline standards, and OFSTED inspection grades, then no SEND system reforms will make any difference.19 Standards agenda, league tables, reduced funding,20 school and classroom sizes, ableist predisposition within mainstream schools, by differentiation rather than accommodating children with SEND, and assessing them against typical classroom behaviour or standards all imply that children with SEND are only suited to specialist placements.
If the UK education system remains the same, where the values of inclusion, equality, and diversity are not at the centre of what matters in education institutions, then it makes no difference what the SEND standards are, as disabled children and young people will remain unwelcomed by an education system that is underpinned by ableism.
What components of the EHCP should we consider reviewing or amending as we move to a standardised and digitised version?
Parents, disabled children and young people are subjected to various assessment processes which continue to reproduce the status quo, favouring the state, local authorities, and education providers. Disabled students’ experiences comprise of both the experiences of parents and the disabled students themselves, both of whom are frustrated fighting against bureaucracy.
“Had an EHCP/School Action Plus, followed by a statement for the final two years of secondary education. This led to being asked to start over again rather than a smooth support transfer and this was phrased as empowerment. This had to await an official diagnosis which is difficult when doctors can’t easily [provide one].” (Disabled student)
“Very often systems are reworked on a regular basis, for example, assessment processes, with very little real understanding of the impact those decisions have on the very people they are supposed to assist. Even if this is done through co-production, often the delivery is a postcode lottery for recipients. When guidance is woolly and caveats allow diverse delivery options, the bias that exists for that ‘organisation’ allows the embedded culture to dominate.” (Disabled student)21
The SEND review’s proposals will drive the SEND assessment and plans to focus on the disabled child/young person’s medical diagnosis, aligned with appropriate placement as pre-determined by the SEND national standards, which includes the expectation of disabled children with complex needs being placed in special schools.
“The medical model has been foregrounded yet again and the review is lacking an inclusive framework taking into account working with schools and communities.” (Parent of a disabled child)
We are fearful that increasingly IQ and aptitude testing are used as standardised tests related to medical cognition and will become a stronger feature of the assessment process associated with the medical model of disability. The national SEND standards, from what we can see, will simply focus on a child’s medical diagnosis, SEND provision and school placement. There appears to be no acknowledgement of the intersectional factors parents and young people consider as important, both in the current and proposed SEND assessment arrangements.
Disabled children and young people are not just disabled, as they may face intersectional discrimination, which invariably affects their access to mainstream education. Both education, health and care (EHC) plans and assessments fail to view disabled children and young people in a holistic manner. This includes a failure to consider how gender, race, sexual orientation, and family background can impact access to mainstream provision. As these parents have articulated:
“The plan must provide support around our cultural identity (religion, language) and community life.” (Parent of disabled child)
“We often find that parents from Gypsy and Traveller communities can feel unsure about what to expect from schools if their child needs additional support or can feel scared that mainstream services will not be welcoming to them because of their ethnicity or culture.”22 (Parent of a disabled child)
Disabled young people should be included in their plan from an early age, so that they can learn how to be involved in decision-making and learn choice and control in their lives. The EHC assessment and plans must be child-focused, allowing them to be involved in making decisions about the nature, type, and level of support they need to flourish.
“I think people should try to consider what the child wants to get out of their life and their dreams and ambitions and their life goals – instead of just viewing it is a medical condition and something that needs to be resolved quickly.” (Eva, disabled student from RIPSTARS – Parliament)
“Currently, many disabled young people do not sufficiently engage with the education, health, and care assessment process because it focuses too much on the disabled young person’s disability and what can be made available within the compulsory education aspects of schooling and college. There appears to be no proposals on how the EHC assessments and plans will be more holistic to reflect disabled children and young people’s multiple identities.”
“The social aspect of learning, i.e., being on campus or student halls is completely disregarded in terms of support, i.e., this might mean your home [local authority is] not that of your place of education assessing your Disability Support Allowance. This doesn’t take into account that you might live in a different area and multi-agency support, e.g., medical, etc. It only takes into consideration immediate educational access issues.” (Disabled student, 2022)
“They [Mainstream School] broke everything down for me but my secondary school that was awful they just didn’t care enough or do enough and… obviously everyone is Disabled, or near enough but the amount of care needed for the amount of students, there wasn’t enough funding for [name of school] to get enough staff so they were always understaffed so someone suffered somewhere, so it was a very weird experience.” (Disabled student, 2022)
Recently, RIPSTARS, a group of disabled young people, undertook research, which concluded that the ECHP process must be person-centred and based on the assumption that they will be educated within a mainstream school or college.23 The researchers identified the following broad areas of EHC plan content that should be included:
- About the young person (covers likes and dislikes, relationships, friendships, what sort of help is needed and when, etc)
- Supporting independent living, choice, and control over their life
- Education and educational outcomes that cover the support that the child or young person requires, both in terms of compulsory lessons and activities, alongside extra-curricular activities, play dates, socialising both in and out of school, ambitions, and preparing for independent living
- Health needs (covering physical, mental, and sexual needs), instead of focusing just on managing medical conditions
- Identification of disability-related access requirements without having to disclose medical condition(s)/information
- Centred round the social model of disability and human rights, as set out in the UNCRPD.
Disabled children and young people must have the opportunity to express the nature, type, and level of support they require to live fulfilled lives. The assessment and planning process must work with disabled children and young people to enable them to set out guidance on how personal assistance should be provided in way that supports their independence. As disabled children and young people become older, the type and nature of personal assistance will change, reflecting a higher degree of decision-making, cognition, and bodily autonomy.
“A standardised method that is more simple for students is more desirable. It needs to be updated [in terms of] different kinds of provision, assuming that this is done in the correct way…” (Disabled student)
Disabled young people have said that they want to be able to express their views in any way they choose, be supported by someone who understands their communication method, see their EHC plan before it is signed off, and be given the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.
The Government’s proposals to have transition disability-reasonable adjustment passports that have no status in law will not be effective if they do not enable disabled students to have the same experiences of campus life as their non-disabled peers. Such passports will not address the administrative hurdles disabled students experience. As one disabled student comments:
“Getting through the independent assessment and Disabled Student Allowance helps but is a separate process and leads to up to three bands of assessment. There is a huge knowledge gap between academic staff and students who have come through different types of education.”
The EHC assessment and plans must be child-centred and reflect their right to inclusive education and independent living, underpinned by the social model of disability and human rights principles. The assessment must focus on enabling disabled children and young people to have a good childhood/early adulthood that encompasses all aspects of their lives covering identities, education, employment, leisure activities, friendships, relationships, family, and more. The plans must be reviewed in line with the child’s or young person’s age. Whilst parents play an important role in the assessment process, if a disabled child or young person expresses a different choice, this must also be facilitated and acknowledged.
The Government wants to introduce multi-agency panels that would themselves introduce a degree of independence into the local authorities’ EHC assessment and plan decision-making processes. ALLFIE is concerned that the multi-agency panels would bring in additional bureaucracy and extensive delays. Concerns have been expressed by parents that this will encourage more parent-blaming and pit parents against each other, if children do not get the support to flourish within mainstream education settings.
Naming a School in an EHCP
The Government intends to allow parents to state a preference for a mainstream school placement, even though their child would be eligible for a special school placement under the proposed national SEND standards. Whilst the Government has stated that the presumption of mainstream education will be retained under the Children and Families Act, we noted attempts to weaken disabled children and young people’s rights to education within mainstream schools and colleges. Specifically, the Government have set out that special schools will be appropriate placements for children with complex needs within the SEND national standards. If local authorities, SEND multi-agency panels, and tribunals will be required to work in line with the national SEND standards, then parents of children with complex needs wanting a mainstream placement would not get redress if the national SEND standards dictate that such children are placed within special schools.
It is rare that parents get to decide the mainstream school for their Disabled children. Many young disabled people and their parents find the system works against them, especially when there are no consequences when the local authorities flout the law through delaying or doing-nothing until the tribunal process is engaged. Now, the Government wants to introduce mandatory mediation and local panels before parents can go to the tribunal. Should the education system be mediating about a child’s educational barriers? Our education system should be doing what the law requires and the appropriate place is a tribunal. Apart from introducing yet more bureaucracy, the requirement that the tribunals will need to work in line with the national SEND services will mean that disabled children’s rights to mainstream education will be substantially weakened. Our members are very angry that the Government wants to attack disabled people’s civil and human right to inclusive education:
“The underlying layers of bureaucracy in the SEND Review are disgusting. The parent and their child should have the right to go to the mainstream school of their choice.” (Parent of disabled child)
“The hidden cannon in a national SEN standard is reducing the educational and life prospects of disabled young people, [in addition to] the addition of more panels in disputes and reviews as effective gatekeeping by wearing down families and setting barriers to choice.” (Parent of disabled child)
Whatever modifications are proposed, they will be ineffective if there is no clear division between the local authority being both the assessor and gatekeeper of resources and where disabled people’s support arrangements must be tied to specific funding streams. The redress systems are simply inadequate to deal with the systematically unlawful practices that the local authorities engage with. As this disabled student points out:
“Parents, Ofsted, and the Department for Education [should] have more powers in regards to SEND education as local authorities are not fit for purpose in my opinion…Personal Budget. Independent investigation of local authorities. Abolish [the] courts tribunals for the interest of families and SEN students.”
More specifically, the SENDIST have no remit to deal with local authorities who do not promptly arrange the SEND provision within the child/young person’s EHC plan. Similarly, the SENDIST have no power to order the school to pay compensation for the emotional distressor their education loss a pupil experiences, as a result of disability discrimination. Many schools are ordered to write a letter of apology; this is not any real deterrent. Disabled children and young people must have the opportunity to be financially compensated for any successful school-related disability discrimination claim.
Further, there needs to be one single, rather than three distinct redress systems for dealing with EHC provision. SENDIST can order local authorities to arrange education provision. However, SENDIST can only make recommendations around the health and care provision that the local authority should arrange. ALLFIE believes that all public bodies must be placed under the same duty to arrange the SEND provision that they are responsible for.
Whilst the Local Authority and Social Care Ombudsman can investigate complaints, the compensation awarded for parents is wholly inadequate for the loss of education provision and associated consequences. The redress system needs to be strengthened dramatically so that local authorities are held to account for flaunting the law or stalling arranging or funding of what disabled children and young people are entitled to whilst in education. All agencies with a responsibility of redress must have significant powers to ratify situations many parents and young people are facing, when local authorities fail to uphold disabled children and young people’s right to inclusive education.
Question 12: Develop and implement inclusive post-16 options
We are concerned that other reviews, such as the schools Bill, are not forming part of this SEND paper, which will affect the outcomes of this review.
Implementing inclusive post-16 options requires the end of segregated education. Once disabled children start being educated within special schools, they stay on throughout sixth form. 59% of disabled pupils continue being educated within their segregated sixth form.24 This figure does not include the true picture of disabled young people who continue to be educated within segregated education settings, such as learning foundation courses for people with learning difficulties provided by mainstream further education and community colleges. Some parents have described local authorities as deliberately withholding information about some options and steering them towards a single provider, influenced more by costs than the young person’s needs.25
Two thirds of parents reported that young people were not very well supported, or not supported at all to understand their post-16 options and/or express their preferences.26 Additionally, 71% of young disabled people have either limited or no involvement in making decisions about their post-16 options. Disabled young people are less likely than their non-disabled peers to be offered both academic and vocational pathway options.27 Only a minority of disabled students remain in sixth form after the end of compulsory schooling. Disabled sixth form students have faced disability discrimination even after successfully completing primary and secondary mainstream schooling.
“Despite getting good GCSEs, the COLAI got nervous about Ethan doing three academic A levels and suggested a BTEC would be better. Ethan with his parents had several meetings with the school, bringing along an advocate from World of Inclusion to convince the school Ethan could do it.” (Disabled student)
“She applied to Cardinal Pole School (CPS) for sixth form but was refused because she had SEND. CPS stated her needs could not be met, thereby demonstrating their discriminatory attitude to Disabled students. She appealed this decision and her family requested HLT name CPS in Part I of her EHC plan. HLT named CPS who broke the law by refusing to admit her.” 28
Disabled young people are much less likely than their non-disabled peers to stay in school or go to sixth forms (39% as opposed to 63%).29 Disabled young people are more likely to go to general further education colleges than their non-disabled peers (39% as opposed to 24%). Clearly, the minimum GCSE requirements needed to enrol onto a range of mainstream courses prevents lots of disabled young people benefiting from mainstream education.30
“GCSE caps mean that fewer students will progress. Diversity and logistics to support disabled people will disappear esp. around cost becoming a priority.” (Disabled student)
So, many young people with SEND with lower academic attainments will be further disadvantaged by being denied access to the broad and balanced curriculum.
“[My] daughter is in an agricultural college after deciding in Year 5 that she wanted to work with animals. Her mainstream secondary school wasn’t ideal, but she did an access course there that led towards the current college. Despite finishing school at 16, [my] daughter enrolled early as there is no post-16 provision where [we live]. There she was deemed capable of working towards Entry Level 1 and 2 in Maths and English. Other options currently need to be explored that offer better education, more longer-term support, and vocational learning. This is being achieved through an SEN personal budget for a five-day package including travel training and more social care support.” (Parent of disabled child)
Instead of being offered mainstream educational opportunities, young people are directed onto specially designed learning programmes for students with learning difficulties, including English and Maths at an appropriate level, as well as independence, social, and employment skills31, sometimes on segregated campuses, such as Newham32 and Bromley further education colleges.33 The Government has intensified segregated education post-16 options such as supported internships and traineeships which often excludes a broad curriculum. Whilst disabled young people experience the workplace, they nevertheless receive literacy, numeracy, and employability skills training with only their disabled peers on the employment or college site. Young disabled people are denied access to mainstream courses, which are often needed to move beyond entry level jobs and occupations. Segregated education offers a very narrow curriculum, which will hamper disabled people’s opportunity to engage in occupational roles, career progression, and future employment earnings.34
“At age 25, disabled young people are much more likely to find themselves in semi-routine and routine jobs with low occupational status than non-disabled young people.”35
Whilst the majority of disabled young people with learning difficulties are stuck on the segregated course treadmill, there have been a few examples of them being catered for on mainstream courses:
“My most recent college, they couldn’t do enough to make feel [me] included, not like G’s, we had what they called quiet space, where if things got too much we could go and do our homework, we could sit and read a book, we could sit and listen to music for a little while and then go back, but from a teacher perspective, my teachers were always checking in on me and always pushing my limits to help me grow as a person but not enough to make me shut down and if they did, they always apologised and they always worked out with me and figured out what it is that made me shut down, even my class members. A hoist at a place at one of the theatres we went to visit broke down and some of my class members at 16 and 17 and I am 18 because I am the oldest there and they were cussing because the hoist broke down and they offered to take me to the toilet and I was like no, no, no. But they taught my classmates to be respectful, they let me speak but they always adapted things around me. They always changed things, even classmates put in ideas to adapt things. My experience at that college was great…” (Disabled student, 2022)
Todd Scanlon36 completed an accredited mainstream scaffolding qualification. Additionally, Hannah Payton37 completed Zumba and sports qualifications. Finally, George Webster38 graduated from a mainstream theatre and music school. Further education colleges must make all accredited courses inclusive of disabled students regardless of ability. Not all disabled students will be able to pass examinations, but they have the right to life-long learning. Segregated education provision must end for disabled students to have the same occupational and career opportunities to their non-disabled peers. The Government must stop local authorities and post-16 educational institutions from pooling together funding for disabled young people to run segregated courses. This practice is incompatible with the Presumption of mainstream education under the Children and Families Act 2014 and undermines disabled people’s human right to inclusive education.
Inclusive educational opportunities require more than having the support needed whilst within formal learning. The young disabled people who were able to continue in mainstream education reported difficulties of securing the support required to be independent learners and to enjoy student life on par with their non-disabled peers.
“There’s support everywhere there and all students can access it. There’s special support I have for some subjects. Once a week there’s a specialist that helps with ideas and writing and so on. The lecturers also are helpful. I also get extra time for exams, essays and deadlines.” (Disabled pupil)
Post-16 support must cover all the support disabled students need to flourish, including extra-curricular activities, library and private study, team-based assignments, and maintaining relationships off campus. As these disabled students highlight:
“There aren’t the logistical supports for what is being planned in the SEND review. The way higher education does its disability funding and assessment is not on the same rationale as local authorities and can lead to a situation where one is required to start from scratch. Disabled students are therefore often left to resource themselves.”
“The average cost to a disabled student is actually over £16,000. If you want to join college clubs [that] can add to costs but international students can pay anything up to £100,000. Accessible and/or specialist accommodation can cost up to £10,000 a year, and is often the highest for disabled students and segregated to 1st year accommodation, excluded from peers etc.”
Whilst disabled students without learning difficulties are still able to access mainstream educational opportunities, this is not on par with their non-disabled peers. Disabled students can often find themselves only being offered vocational course options, rather than a range of academic, vocational, and professional courses available for their non-disabled peers. Currently, post-16 provision seems to focus on segregated educational and training provision, which only prepares disabled young people with learning difficulties for entry-level jobs. The suggested 16 plus provision does nothing to support disabled people entering into employment or preparing for higher education. As there is no expectation that some disabled students may want to attend university, it’s no surprise that there are no proposals on how the Government will attempt to deal with the barriers disabled young people experience in their transition from further to higher education.
Excellent Provision Everywhere
To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should introduce a new mandatory SENCo NPQ to replace the NASENCo?
ALLFIE is concerned that the Government wants to weaken the status of SEND training. One of the reasons that SENCO qualifications has been set at level 7 is to recognise the professional level of knowledge, skills, and practice needed to support disabled children and young people through the development and implementation of their SEND provision within mainstream school settings. For too long, disabled children and young people have relied upon untrained and unqualified staff to support them with their learning. SEND expertise must be viewed as valuable (high status) and not the easy option (historical reputation). Downgrading the status of training is nothing more than this Government’s lack of value placed on disabled people’s education.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should strengthen the mandatory SENCo training requirement by requiring that headteachers must be satisfied that the SENCo is in the process of obtaining the relevant qualification when taking on the role?
The SEND review proposals are heavily reliant on professional workforce development to improve disabled children and young people’s educational experiences within schools and further education. SENCO qualification reforms, Initial and Early Career Teacher and teaching assistant training have all been mentioned. Other than the Department for Education publishing guidance for teaching assistants, there is no mention of workforce development for non-teaching staff, such as pastoral support, lunchtime and break supervisors who all have a responsibility for ensuring that disabled children and young people feel comfortable and safe outside formal educational settings. This parent of a disabled child explains:
“The most important thing for any young person including disabled young people is to have strong relationships and consistency. In my experience the RELATIONSHIP with the [learning support assistant] is very important and was broken without any warning. [My son’s learning support assistant] told us with a week’s notice that she was going to be assigned elsewhere. No communication about this was forthcoming from the school. This happened more than once. On another occasion, the SENCO left with zero notice.”
All practitioners are responsible for creating an inclusive environment within and outside the classroom settings. We expect teaching practitioners to be supported in developing inclusive learning environments, classroom teaching methods, and curriculum delivery. We must expect lunchtime and breaktime supervisors to be equally skilled in developing inclusive play areas, team games, and other activities or quiet spaces that are welcoming to disabled students. They should be able to identify and deal effectively with bullying and support disabled students to develop friendships. However, over the past decade, training has focused on individual SEND interventions instead of good inclusive education practice. As these participants in our SEND review consultation events highlighted:
“A focus on barriers that stop inclusive education from working, looking at barriers and a focus on the social model and human rights differentiation of the curriculum.” (Disabled person)
“The individuals to have [an understanding] of neurodiversity and hidden disabilities.” (Disabled pupil)
The SEND review must focus on shoring up excellent inclusive education across all types of education, including higher education. Just because disabled students have had good experiences within further education and compulsory education does not automatically mean they will have the same experience within higher education. For disabled students to have excellent provision everywhere, it must include higher education institutions, as this disabled student highlights:
“What training will Government provide to higher education and those who teach and support disabled students in higher education to receive students from this new system. A likely outcome will be that universities will not be receptive as they do not understand Disabled Students Allowance. This includes administrative support in the Disabled Students Allowance form and often they will not. Even if it works for primary education, secondary education, and further education, it will not plug into higher education.”
Simply focusing on professional workforce development will have a limited impact on providing excellent provision for disabled students. An inclusive pedagogy will be insufficient if other aspects of our education system are not in place to raise the standard of provision for disabled students.
ALLFIE wants the Government to consider more broadly exactly what constitutes excellent provision. It must start by making school and learning environments more inclusive.
“I went to mainstream for primary and secondary and college, yeah, I think like with me there wasn’t many disabled students, like the others were saying within both my primary and my secondary. I think so with myself, I can really speak for myself here, but with myself I had physical needs, but once I had hit 16 it was then then I needed a wheelchair, so then I realised there was more things were wrong within the school like I was stuck on the top floor and no one could get me down, when there was a fire alarm and I was on my own in the school because they couldn’t get me down. Going into what was then college and then I started university as well, those were tough because they just didn’t know what to do because there just wasn’t many students, so it was like trial and error.” (Disabled pupil)
Some disabled children and young people find being in school or on campus challenging even with a highly trained workforce.
“In a formal classroom setting, I find the size and structure difficult to cope with. This causes barriers which impact on how I work in groups and communicate with other pupils in the classroom, including forming relationships. At school, before lockdown, I often felt a lack of motivation and was considered by others as socially awkward. I was made to feel that my epilepsy and other impairments were an issue to my learning. With remote learning, I find it easier and less stressful because I don’t have to deal with the school processes and structures. I have my own routine, I don’t have to move from one class to another, and I have my own desk with my laptop and phone to do schoolwork. As a result, I now spend the week working on subjects which I do well in, which makes me happy, and I feel motivated to do more work in my own environment. I also have fewer distractions, which gives me time to pursue topics and subjects I love. Remote education gives me control over what I’m doing with my learning and motivates me to dig deeper into the topics I have learnt.” (Disabled pupil)
“I think that the Department for Education should talk with pupils to find out about our experiences on the good and bad things about home-schooling and remote learning. I don’t think we should go back to the old ways of schooling, children should have access to both in person classroom and/or remote learning and this should include: flexible timetable, choice of in-person classroom or remote learning, and access to support assistance outside of the classroom. I think these changes would improve accessibility of schooling and learning for all children.” (Disabled pupil)
“Education is such an empowering thing and should be accessible to anyone wanting to learn. Unfortunately, most schools only promote brick universities, which cannot always cater to everyone’s unique needs and learning styles. Lives are constantly being changed thanks to online university, as people have the chance to achieve things they could only ever dream of before. With flexible online education, the possibilities are now endless.” (Disabled student)
These disabled students highlight that excellent provision simply cannot focus on professional workforce development. These disabled students highlight the need for the Government to consider more flexible ways of arranging education provision. This should include blended and remote learning options, as well as the 9-4 structure and greater of control over learning. Excellent provision must strike a balance between compulsory subjects and enabling disabled students to have the freedom to explore areas of personal interest.
“More democratically run sessions, an open curriculum more based upon life experience, inclusive and more flexible with a wider audience. Some of this probably is the case today, but students should be able to contribute to [the] subject and have a less authoritarian style of education.” (Disabled student)
Excellent services should include student services on a self-referral basis. For instance, The Place to Be offer spaces where children can talk to trained play counsellors without an adult referral. Disabled students want self-referral services:
“I think just having, what I said about my secondary school having a student services, uh or like a support hub, which has all the support there that you could ever need with regard to physical, mental, and emotional needs, I think that was just really good.” (Disabled student, 2022)
Excellent inclusive education provision requires the introduction of incentives. If the Government wants more disabled people to thrive in mainstream education then incentives must centre around the inclusivity of the educational institution, the promotion of positive wellbeing, good mental health, community cohesion and learning progress and attainment.39,40 Such incentives should be drawn up in partnership with inclusive education practitioners, disabled people, disabled children and young people and their families. Further, Covid-19 experiences around education should give the Government an opportunity to consider the impact an inflexible education system has had upon disabled students.
- Create a more flexible and individually responsive school system for all children
- Centre on social, emotional, and mental health, as well as academic needs for all children
- Benefits of technology for children’s learning, school, pupil and parent relationships, and re-imagine therapies
- Enhance strengths and abilities that children have developed during lockdown, including greater creativity, improved technological and fine motor skills, improved independent learning, and time management
- Developed child-centred targets
- Develop more explicit teaching around social communication and interaction to support children and peer learning support
- Improve the understanding of why children with SEND can become anxious in school and how the school environment, processes, community, interactions, and teaching can adapt to address this.41
The Government has removed inclusive education statutory guidance, which placed a duty on local authorities to have an inclusive education strategy. The statutory guidance included a definition of inclusive education, alongside local authorities’ duties in championing and coordinating inclusive education practices within their local schools, which could adopt a more blended way of learning.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that introducing a bespoke alternative provision performance framework, based on these five outcomes (effective outreach support, improved attendance, reintegration, academic attainment and successful post-16 transitions), will improve the quality of alternative provision?
There have been a number of more inclusive schools in the UK that welcome children from different backgrounds, including those with impairments and health conditions. However, since 2010, our education system has become a reflection of our society; becoming more stratified on the grounds of race, disability, faith, and class. This is particularly evident since the Government’s academisation programme, including new autonomous schools, a number of faith-based schools42,43 and special schools.44
“The school is at once the mirror and the mould of society; it reflects the community in which it is set, and at the same time it helps to shape that community.”45
The rise in disability46, religious, and race47 related hate crime is no coincidence, particularly with the introduction of faith-based schools and special schools. Our schools are not a reflection of diverse Britain and the communities. School exclusions continue to negatively affect Disabled children and young people, especially for children living in under-resourced and deprived communities. Research has revealed intersectional educational social injustice where:
- Disabled children on free school meals are four times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools
- Disabled children from black, minoritized and marginalised communities are three times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools
- Disabled children in care are 20 times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools.48
The Government’s zero tolerance behaviour and standards policies has led to a substantial increase of disabled children being educated outside mainstream education, under the various guises of home education, off-rolling, dual registration, managed moves, and internal isolation booths, alongside other forms of segregated education provision covering alternative provision.
“At home and against his will. He was expelled at the end of last year from a mainstream school. His behaviour is not recognised as stemming from ADHD. Home schooling is not working and his mental health has been very impacted.” (Parent of Disabled child)
ALLFIE does not accept the notion that alternative provision should have any part to play in the revised SEND framework. The Department for Education’s own evidence overwhelmingly concludes that disabled children and young people lack the same academic opportunities afforded to their non-disabled peers.
“A few months later someone suggested I try teaching at the local pupil referral unit. “Smaller class sizes, a greater focus on pastoral care and the needs of the child”, I was told. Soon after I started at the PRU, it became clear the curriculum, facilities, and resources were seriously substandard compared to the average mainstream school, but I felt hopeful again and relieved from the pressure-cooker conditions that had almost driven me out of the profession in less than 10 years.” (Zahra Bei, a disabled teacher)49
Alternative provision is both ableist and racist where children and young people are being excluded from mainstream education because they do not conform to a white-dominant education system. Zahra also highlights the racial profiles of the children and young people:
“At the PRU, I soon noticed each year around four out of five students happened to be boys and virtually all were on free school meals. Two thirds were also racialised as Black, Mixed, or Asian… The focus was on fire-fighting, the PRU functioning as a “holding pen” in many cases: excluded Black and mixed-race boys with SEND have a higher chance of going to prison than of successfully returning to mainstream education.”
No More Exclusions, whose organisation represents stakeholders adversely affected by exclusion and segregation, support ALLFIE’s concerns that alternative provision aiming to fix disabled children’s behaviour will do nothing of the sort but would instead entrench trauma experienced from an education system that is both ableist and racist.
“The ‘vision’ of a ‘world class’ alternative provision system remains underpinned by a medical model of disability where the barriers to learning and participation remain within the child. Phrases such as ‘in the best interest of the child; or ‘strong behaviour cultures’ are situated in discourses that are needs led rather than rights led, and intersectional understandings of the experiences of disabled children and young people are clearly ignored. Despite clear research evidence both in England and internationally that the systemic intersect of racism and ableism children young people experience when they are marginalised in school spaces is a threat to an inclusive education system (for example, Timpson50 and Migliarini et al.51) the model outlined in the Green Paper perpetrates the idea of the educational ‘other’ and intentionally excludes discussions about the educational impacts of racism, ableism and the re-centring of whiteness and non-disabled learners as the educational norm.” (No More Exclusions, 2022)
Alternative provision, just like the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), special schools, and specialist colleges, are all forms of segregated education associated with worse outcomes.
“I later learnt all [black and racially minoritized] students referred to the PRU are coded as SEND (even if what led to the exclusion or referral may have been a one-off incident). I was alarmed to learn this is not routinely communicated to the students themselves or their families. There was little talk (and I suspect understanding) of pupils’ individual needs.” (Zahra Bei, a disabled teacher)
Disabled children from Black, minoritized and marginalised communities being over-represented within alternative provision52 is a form of segregated education and has seen a substantial increase as a result of racism and race discrimination, in addition to ableism and disability discrimination within mainstream education. There is no need for alternative and segregated education provision if the focus is on investing the right support for disabled students within mainstream education settings.
“Where children’s behaviour is a response to frustrations that their needs are unmet, the source of triggers and barriers to learning must be identified. Children with emotional, behaviour difficulties often have unidentified conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, some kind of speech and language, learning difficulty alike.53 The focus therefore should be identifying any condition and putting in place the support that disabled learners need to thrive instead of excluding them from mainstream education.”54
Given that there is pressure on school placements, alternative provision schools should be repurposed as mainstream schools with an inclusive ethos. If such provision has specific facilities for children with social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs then that provision must be available for all disabled students. There is a need for local authorities to provide prompt assessments and specialist services that can support disabled children to remain within mainstream education and for interventions to be part and parcel of the school’s provision. Alternative provision offering non-academic courses could be provided within mainstream schools. Whatever support is provided for excluded children should be made available for all children within any mainstream educational setting.
School exclusions and alternative provision outside the mainstream education system is a social justice issue. Research has concluded that children in alternative provision consistently have poorer outcomes and fewer opportunities than their non-disabled peers. Such pupils are at the highest risk of criminal exploitation, entering the criminal justice system, imprisonment, and long-term institutionalisation, as a result of poor mental health and wellbeing.
What are the key metrics we should capture and use to measure local and national performance? Please explain why you have selected these.
Before setting out the key metrics of measuring education performance, it is important to consider the purpose and desired outcomes of the UK education system. Currently, all key metrics focus on individual academic attainment, based on the purpose of education relating to paid employment readiness. A single focus on academic achievement is not only damaging for children but also mainstream schools with an inclusive ethos.55
Creating Inclusive Cultures metrics emphasise shared values of inclusion and equality for the whole community. They promote community cohesion and creating a welcoming intersectional environment, which respects and upholds the rights of everyone with protected characteristics. The Index for Inclusion toolkit56, which schools have used, includes broad metrics including specific criteria to evaluate practice under the following headings:
Producing Inclusive Practices metrics emphasise creating inclusive learning environments for all, covering learning environments themselves, learning methods for both one-to-one and collective learning, the organisation of support, curriculum delivery, and curriculum content, which promotes an understanding of difference. The metrics also include the role of school attendance and school discipline.
Evolving Inclusive Policies metrics emphasise mobilising resources, which promotes inclusion and equity. These metrics do not just cover the equitable use of internal resources developed or held by the school but also the role of community-based resources to bring in diversity of learning opportunities and engagement with people outside their immediate communities.
The Index for Inclusion57, originally published in 2002, should be updated and encompass the education environment within the 21st century. This provides an opportunity for us to think more broadly about blended learning and educational opportunities arising from Covid-19. The Index for Inclusion must be led by disabled people (including children and young people) who have shared experiences of inclusion, integration, exclusion, and segregated education.
How can we best develop a national framework for funding bands and tariffs to achieve our objectives and mitigate unintended consequences and risks?
What is universal amongst parents and young disabled people is the insufficient/inadequate SEND provision available in any sort of education institution, mainstream schools, special schools, or alternative provision. There is a finite budget, spread across increasingly different types of education provision. As a result, there needs to be an acknowledgement that the multi-tracked education system is unaffordable and fails to provide the appropriate level, type, and quality of support disabled children and young people require to fulfil their full potential.
“I wanted to do A-level art – they didn’t have the funding to get me the equipment that I needed but they had the funding to put a mural on the side of the media hall, so that was upsetting. So, when I went to my college, that was a special needs college… they did everything they could even though they were underfunded, and yes there were issues, but I still talk to some of the teachers and they say that it is getting worse, and from what I have I can’t believe it is getting worse. My last college was mainstream, and they went all the way out and they even went so far as to get me my own toilet and my teacher learnt to drive a minibus and clamped my chair in, so I could go on school trips. So, it’s varying through the years but education-wise [the] last college [was] perfect… They broke everything down for me but my secondary school, that was awful they just didn’t care enough or do enough and… obviously everyone is Disabled, or near enough but the amount of care needed for the amount of students, there wasn’t enough funding for [name of school] to get enough staff so they were always understaffed so someone suffered somewhere, so it was a very weird experience.” (Disabled student)
ALLFIE believes a national funding banding and tariff system for a parallel education system would be a disaster, particularly for disabled students accessing mainstream education.
“Given the need to ensure [the] best value for money from higher-needs expenditure, the Government should consider the potential benefits of more inclusive systems. If it continues to remain neutral with regard to [the] increasing use of specialist provision, then it should at least ensure that all local authorities have an equitable share of higher-needs funding, so that local areas with more inclusive local arrangements are not penalised for their success. On the other hand, if more inclusive systems are generally more cost-efficient (and current research reviews show that there is no evidence of worse outcomes), then the Government should consider what can be done to support the development of more inclusive practice countrywide, building on existing positive examples.”58
Since the enactment of the Children and Families Act 2014, approximately half of the number of disabled children with EHC plans are being educated within segregated education settings.59 However, statistics do not tell the whole story. For instance, they don’t tell us anything directly about the disabled children and young people’s experiences of inclusive education practice, nor do they tell us to what extent disabled children are being educated within the SEN unit/resource base or are being supported to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in lessons. Rising numbers of disabled children in special schools relate to the number of approved special schools built and ready for admissions. One of the drivers for special schools for children with complex needs is that integrated EHC provision provided on site for pupils with similar needs is cheaper than making such provision available for individual pupils in a range of mainstream schools across the borough. Similarly, we are concerned that mainstream schools will no longer be sufficiently resourced to educate disabled children and young people with different abilities.
ALLFIE is extremely concerned that there will be a severe shortfall of mainstream school placements for disabled pupils across the country. The Local Government Association reported that, as a result of continued funding cuts, increasing numbers of mainstream schools are rejecting disabled pupils60, which means local authorities no longer comply with their obligations to promote the presumption of mainstream education under the Children and Families Act’s 2014 clause 35. Parents have told us that they are struggling to find any mainstream schools willing to admit disabled pupils with severe learning difficulties. One parent describes his experience of finding a mainstream school placement for his disabled son:
“Around forty mainstream schools were contacted about a place for Finn and all except one refused. The local authority did not support our preference for Finn to attend a mainstream school, claiming it wasn’t suitable and that children like Finn do better in a special school. Even if the legislation does not dictate, education funding policy will no doubt lead to a mass exodus of disabled children and young people placed in special schools.”
“Put money from special schools into mainstream and use expertise from special school[s] to support students in mainstream and make mainstream more inclusive.” (Disabled person)
Corresponding reductions in mainstream school placements will result in thousands of disabled pupils being denied their right to inclusive education.
“[My son] is an increasingly rare breed – as a young man with an EHCP requiring a flexible and bespoke approach to his education, you would expect now to find him in the special school enclosure as most mainstream schools/academies are shutting their gates either at admission stage or are excluding students with significant needs once they are in school, often using unlawful and underhand routes.” (ALLFIE case study)
The Government’s funding commitments are for expanding special schools and investment within alternative education provision. There are no dedicated funding commitments to expand mainstream education provision and upskilling the workforce to implement inclusive education practice.61
The Government’s intention behind the introduction of the banding and tariff system is to place the SEND framework on a more financially sustainable footing. What we understand is that the new funding proposals will be more about making local educational authorities’ work within increasingly shrinking budgets, rather than improving the quality of SEND provision within mainstream education settings.
Segregated Education and Value for Money
Whilst austerity has played a role in school funding and the crisis in SEND support services, it is not the only issue at hand. Currently, the Department for Education is funding a massive expansion of the segregated education sector, including the establishment of new free special schools, alternative provision, and PRUs, with the aim of increasing the number of disabled pupils moving out of mainstream provision.62
“[The] majority of the parents felt that because of the level of their children’s needs the option for mainstream was not an option available for them and felt they had been persuaded towards placing their children in a special school.” (Parent of a disabled child)
The evidence shows that disabled pupils educated in the segregated education system, such as in PRUs, are more likely than their mainstream school peers to experience poorer outcomes.63 The Institute for Public Policy Research64 suggests that nearly 100 per cent of disabled pupils excluded from mainstream schools and/or attending special schools for excluded children will be diagnosed with emotional and mental health conditions.
What is never factored into the funding of segregated education is the high costs involved in the harmful and traumatic experiences of disabled students, which leads to various forms of institutionalisation.
Prison and Incarceration
Ministry of Justice data reveals 30 per cent of children who entered custody during 2018-19 were assessed as having special educational needs or disabilities, compared with 15 per cent of the general child population.65 Put simply, children in prison are twice as likely to have special educational needs than those in the general population, prompting concern that vulnerable teenagers are being let down by mainstream services. This discrepancy highlighted the “failure” of educational and other services to properly provide for such children in the community, and that sending them to “increasingly chaotic and violent” jails only compounded the damage caused. Special Educational Needs refers to children with learning problems or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most youngsters the same age. This can lead to difficulties with schoolwork, communication, or behaviour. The majority of permanently excluded pupils being educated in the segregated education sector, such as those in alternative provision, will go on to cost the state an extra £2.1 billion in education, health, benefits, and criminal justice costs, an estimate of £370,000 per young person.66
Psychiatric In-Patient Care
In 2018, the Lenehan report67 revealed the systematic failings of residential provision, including residential special schools and colleges, to provide meaningful education and safe care. Disabled children and young people in these settings are inevitably and harmfully disconnected from their families, communities, peer group, and positive identity around disability. The report revealed evidence of inpatient costs for individual children averaging at £1 million per child every three years. Six years later, we expect the figure to be substantially higher. Once detained, many disabled people with learning difficulties and autistic people can be inpatients for many years. Indeed, the number of disabled children admitted to psychiatric hospitals has risen from 110 in 2015 to 250 in 2019.68
“We have created a one-way street for children which will mean a lifetime at substantial cost to the taxpayer for some very poor outcomes.”69
Is there anything else you would like to say about the proposals in the green paper?
Inclusive education is about a fundamental shift in the existing education system, from seeing difference as a problem to be fixed, to celebrating the diversity of students while providing all necessary support to enable their equal participation. The full definition of inclusive education can be read here.
ALLFIE’s Manifesto Demands
ALLFIE’s manifesto focuses on realising the rights of ALL disabled people to mainstream education, with all necessary supports and adjustments within an inclusive education system. It sets out ALLFIE’s six demands, which would move us from the present situation to a fully inclusive education system. We believe disabled people have the right to:
- An inclusive education supported by human rights laws
- A coordinated education, health, and social care system
- An inclusive learning environment
- An inclusive curriculum
- An inclusive assessment system
- An education workforce committed to inclusive education practices.
This Government has systematically ignored disabled people’s human rights. The UNCRPD Monitoring Committee expressed concern at:
- The persistence of a dual education system that segregates children with disabilities in special schools, including based on parental choice
- The increasing number of children with disabilities in segregated educational environments
- The fact that the education system is not equipped to respond to the requirements of high-quality inclusive education, particularly reports of school authorities refusing to enrol a student with disabilities who is deemed to be “disruptive to other classmates”
- The fact that the education and training of teachers in inclusion competences does not reflect the requirements of inclusive education.
Alongside being highly critical of the Government’s SEND reforms, the UNCRPD’s Monitoring Committee has published recommendations to shore up full compliance with securing disabled people’s human right to inclusive education, as outlined in Article 24, Comment 4 requirements. Indeed, the UNCRPD’s Monitoring Committee strongly recommended the SEND review work with Disabled People’s Organisations to:
- Develop plans to withdraw its reservation to Article 24
- Develop a comprehensive, coordinated legislative and policy framework for inclusive education, with a timeframe to ensure that mainstream schools foster real inclusion of disabled children in the school environment. Additionally, that teachers and all other persons in contact with children understand the concept of inclusion to enhance inclusive education
- Strengthen measures to monitor school practices concerning the enrolment of disabled children and offer appropriate remedies in cases of disability-related discrimination and/or harassment, including deciding upon schemes for compensation
- Adopt a coherent, adequately financed strategy, with concrete timelines and measurable goals, to improve inclusive education.
The strategy must:
- Ensure the implementation of laws, decrees, and regulations on improving the extent and quality of inclusive education in classrooms
- Support provisions and teacher training, including pedagogical capabilities across all levels, thus providing for high-quality inclusive environments. This includes within breaks and through socialisation outside traditional lessons
- Set up awareness-raising and support initiatives about inclusive education among the parents of disabled children
- Provide sufficient, relevant data on the number of students in both inclusive and segregated education, disaggregated by impairment, age, sex, and ethnic background, and on the outcome of the education in question, reflecting the capabilities of the students.70
The Government should be in close consultation with Disabled People’s Organisations to develop a fully inclusive education system, which includes:
- Developing a comprehensive and coordinated legislative and policy framework for inclusive education alongside timelines
- Strengthening measures to monitor school practices concerning the enrolment of disabled children and offer appropriate remedies in cases of disability-related discrimination and/or harassment, including deciding upon schemes for compensation
- Adopt and implement a coherent and adequately financed strategy, with concrete timelines and measurable goals, on increasing and improving inclusive education.
For further information please contact Michelle Daley (Director of ALLFIE).
Date: 20th July 2022