Inclusion Now 54

Don’t cut our children out!

SEND Advocate Lucy Bartley and two parents joined SEND Action and ALLFIE at the Royal Courts of Justice for the case: Disabled children v Secretary of State for Education and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

SEND Action banner saying "Disabled Children V Government

Lucy Bartley with son Samuel and two daughtersSEND Advocate Lucy Bartley and two parents of Disabled children, Iffy and Delphine, that Lucy is supporting joined SEND Action and ALLFIE at the Royal Courts of Justice for the case: Disabled children v Secretary of State for Education and Chancellor of the Exchequer on 26th and 27th June.

This case was about whether underfunding of SEND support is unlawful. Unfortunately as Inclusion Now goes to press we have heard that the court case has been lost. But the surrounding upsurge in public feeling and parent activism has been noticeable. Lucy, who works for Communities Empowerment Network (CEN), had this to say; “I attended this historic court case, both in my capcity as SEND Advocate and as a parent of a disabled child to support disabled pupils’ human rights to mainstream education.

“At the Royal Courts I was joined by two of my clients who have first hand experience of the discriminatory impact of the current education system on their disabled sons and who spoke movingly of their desire to see their children thrive and be included rather than excluded from school and of the need for the government to support the right to inclusive education in both legislation and funding. I spoke of my disabled son Samuel’s experience of being included in mainstream school throughout his education and of his progress now to college and I suggested that even now other children are unlikely to experience inclusion like Samuel because disabled children are routinely being segregated and excluded. I spoke of the impact of this segregation upon society.”

Lucy Bartley with Iffy and Delphine outside the Royal Courts of JusticeOne of Lucy’s clients, Iffy, whose son Samuel attends mainstream secondary school and is constantly being threatened with exclusion said:

“Mainstream schools use the slightest opportunity to exclude children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or learning difficulties from school. Due to lack of adequate resources or funding to cater for their special needs, these children are being pushed out of mainstream classes and abandoned with an inadequate education. This has led to frustration both for the children and parents. When a child is excluded from school, there is a tendency that he/she will begin to hang on the street because of the feeling of rejection by society. It is from this kind of thinking that they begin to form gangs and get involved in knife, drug and other types of antisocial behaviours. At the end of the day, a child’s school is responsible for their education. Mainstream schools use exclusion as routine for a child with complex needs or disability because there is no adequate funding from the government to support the child at school, and this will lead to frustrating the child.

Iffy and Samuel“My son (and also my friend’s son) was diagnosed with ASD and speech and language disorder, and has continuously been excluded from school and this affects him and myself. It is not easy for a child to be out of school and all manner of stupid things go through their minds. I am worried that mainstream schools use the pretext of lack of sufficient funding to exclude children with special educational needs. Rather than funding special schools, it will make sense if more money is allocated to mainstream schools so they can provide adequate support to SEND children. Special schools do not help at all. Children who went to special school end up worse. Both government and mainstream schools should demonstrate moral accountability and duty of care for these children. Excluding them from school is counterproductive because it isolates them from society and they resort to self-help by hanging on the streets and misbehaving.

“It is immoral to exclude a SEND child due to his/her disruptive behaviour. I do not support disruptive behaviour but it is important to understand that a SEND child is most likely going to have challenging behaviour, and this is as a result of that child’s disability. It will make more sense for the children, their parents and society if schools make adjustments to support these children to achieve and behave normally rather than exclude them. Disruptive behaviour from a SEND child should be considered from the angle of the child’s condition rather than a choice.

“Every child should be able to go to school without the fear of being discriminated against for actions beyond their control. I believe that government should make more money available to mainstream schools so they can stay pro-active in their engagement with SEND children’s high level support needs. Exclusion can disrupt a child’s life and so it makes no sense to use a disruptive exclusion policy to disrupt a child’s life.”

Lucy said of the court case:

“In summary, the court case itself was complex and detailed, in the hands of competent barristers and a very humane and often humorous judge. The case highlighted the interplay between legislation and disabled children’s rights and whether the government had given due consideration to its statutory responsibilities under the Equality Act, the PSED (Public Sector Equality Duty) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 24. It was an education for me and for my two clients – well they were simply glad to be there and to be finally able to tell their story which was important.

“Both CEN and ALLFIE hope this case will evidence the impact that the funding cuts are having for disabled pupils in or wanting mainstream education and the importance of investing in a fully inclusive education system and implementation of the UNCRPD Article 24 – and that it will result in a change in government priorities.

“CEN and ALLFIE will continue together to campaign for a fully inclusive education system. If you would like to show your support please sign the petition below and do get in touch with CEN to see how you can work with us.”

ALLFIE’s petition:

Communities Empowerment Network: