Inclusion Now 46

The GLA and Disabled Londoners

Joanne McCartney, Deputy Mayor for Education, answers Allfie’s questions

Q: Can you explain what powers the Mayor has over education in London?

A: Whilst the Mayor has no statutory powers in education, we are working closely with London Boroughs, schools, the London Economic Action Partnership, employers, London’s wealth of voluntary and community organisations (such as ALLFIE) and young people themselves to act as a catalyst for change.

Q: What do you think are the challenges and opportunities ahead for education in London and in particular disabled children and young people with SEN?

A: Whilst London schools remain the best performing in the country with the gaps between disadvantaged children and their peers narrowing faster than anywhere else, there are still groups of children that academically perform worse than their peers. This starts from when children begin school and widens as they move through the school system. We recognise that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, or those with an education, health and care plan are one of the groups that perform significantly worse than their peers and have higher rates of exclusions. We need to ensure that schools have access to specialist provision and support for these groups. The proposed government national funding formula will mean that London schools will lose out and this will impact on those with additional support needs the most. City Hall is submitting a response to the government consultation on the national funding formula in which we will refer to its impact on disadvantaged groups, including children with disabilities.

Q: We know that it is your aim to ensure that there is a ‘good school place for every child in London’, please tell us what plans you have to encourage those good school places to be inclusive of disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEN)? (Sadiq stated his commitment to inclusive education as part of his mayoral campaign)

A: Local Authorities have worked extremely successfully over the last few years to increase school provision, particularly primary schools. The school population is now moving through to secondary and the Mayor’s immediate priority is to ensure there is sufficient secondary provision. The Mayor will work with a range of partners to ensure we have enough schools in London. We will work with Teaching Schools and other networks and forums to disseminate good practice; this will be inclusive of disabled children and young people with special educational needs.

Q: What is the Mayor’s plan to ensure that apprenticeships under his remit or responsibility are inclusive of young disabled Londoners? (Sadiq stated his commitment to inclusive apprenticeships as part of his mayoral campaign)

A: Ensuring that learners with disabilities get the support they need to access training opportunities is key to the Mayor’s aspiration to be a Mayor for all Londoners. The Mayor made a specific commitment in his manifesto to protect and support the development of schemes which expand opportunities for people with disabilities to work and gain skills. City Hall is realising this commitment through a programme of activity funded by European Structural and Investment Funds targeting people with health conditions and disabilities.

The London Assembly Economy Committee (which I am a member of) recently published a report ‘Apprenticeships: An un-level playing field’ which highlighted that, despite a small increase in Londoners with a learning difficulty or physical disability accessing apprenticeship opportunities over recent years, progress in making apprenticeships a genuine route in to work for people with disabilities has also been too slow. We have made a number of recommendations on how the Mayor can support accessibility and diversity of apprenticeships during his mayoral term.

We encourage applications from disabled candidates and operate a guaranteed interview scheme for those disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria. We also monitor our recruitment process at each stage of our annual apprenticeship campaign. There has been an increase in the percentage of candidates with a disability applying for an apprenticeship and successfully starting an apprenticeship in the last few years.

Q: The Goverment’s Autumn Statement announced the devolution of some FE education and Adult skills funding to the GLA – please tell how you think this could be used to encourage FE and Adults Skills providers to be more inclusive of disabled learners?

A: The GLA is presently working through the readiness conditions for the devolution of adult skills funding which is expected to take place in 2019/20. Skills devolution forms just a part of the Government’s wider Growth Deal agenda. London has just completed the Skills Area Review process in advance of devolution, and the GLA will now be working with partners to conduct a pan London review of SEND education provision.

Q: Do you share the Mayor’s commitment to working with voluntary sector organisations and if you do how might you work with the Alliance for Inclusive Education?

A: The Mayor has made it clear that supporting Deaf and Disabled Londoners to access services and opportunities in the capital is a priority. He has committed to being an advocate for Disabled people living in London and I’m pleased to say his team recently met with a group of the capital’s Disabled People’s organisations. We’re setting up a new disability stakeholder group and look forward to working together with voluntary sector organisations including the Alliance for Inclusive Education to positively progress inclusive services and opportunities for Disabled Londoners and visitors to the capital.