Parents for Inclusion – the big handover
The work of the parents’ group goes on, despite loss of funding. Micheline Mason, Cornelia Broesskamp & the PI team report back.
It is strange that a simple idea – disabled children growing up and learning together with their brothers and sisters – should have sent shock waves through the education system. The world would end, chaos would reign, and no child would get a good education ever again. This was the attitude many experienced when Parents for Inclusion (PI) started. Margaret Gault, Joe Cameron, Diana Simpson and other parents came together to build a campaign for ‘integrated’ education as it was then known. The Warnock Report (1981) had enabled local authorities to put physical support in the form of learning support assistants, teaching and curriculum support into mainstream schools to allow children with SEN to be included.
For 30 years PI brought together parents struggling to keep their children away from segregated services and disabled adults who felt they had been damaged by segregation. Disabled people brought to the parents an analysis of the real problem they were facing, an oppression, not a personal problem.
Parents and disabled people wrote and delivered unique training courses for parents and potential allies, always starting from the viewpoint that the child was not the problem, built a peer support helpline and developed innovative school-based support groups. In encounters with PI many parents were asked to say what they loved about their child for the first time. It was revolutionary.
Children whose parents founded and found PI grew up with parents as allies in their struggle against ‘disablism’ and with role models of disabled adults taking the platform, living good, meaningful lives.
Many schools began to open their doors to children they had previously felt unable to teach. Teachers learnt on the job what inclusion really means, mainly from the children themselves. The most common comment was that the school benefited more than the child because all they had been taught and the changes required made school life better for all.
PI was not able to raise enough financial support and in 2014 we had to close our office and lay off all staff. But we are needed more than ever. The adult children of the first PI parents are proof that inclusion from early on leads to better, richer, more connected lives – not perfect, not even happy all the time, but more meaningful and influential lives.
We who are still connected to PI cannot allow this door of opportunity to close behind young people. It is time to transform ourselves from a small charity to a voluntary network of parents, disabled people of all ages, professionals and the ‘army’ of retired people who have a wealth of experience to share.
At this event ‘our’ grown children will speak about their current lives, parents will report on their current struggles and ways of dealing with them, visitors from Germany will be describing how a PI inspired project operates in another country.
There will be opportunities for people to network and link in with one another on themes and projects of current interest and urgency.
There will be a celebration of people connected to PI in the past and the present, food, music, poetry and fun.
By the time you read this the event will have happened. If you are curious to find out more of what did happen and how you can link into this network of disabled people, parents and allies join the Facebook group Parents for Inclusion. The Facebook group is the most immediate place where we come together virtually to continue the work. You are welcome to join!