Inclusion Now 59

Returning to School After Lockdown

An interview with Kadijah Adam by ALLFIE’s Michelle Daley

Kadijah Adam at school in Milton Keynes

In a follow-up to Kadijah Adam’s insightful article in our Spring magazine, Michelle Daley spoke to Kadijah, a Disabled teenager studying in her local mainstream school, about her experiences returning to school after the most recent lockdown. When we heard from Kadijah during lockdown, she was excited and enjoyed remote education, so we wanted to catch-up with her and see what she thinks of being back in school.

Returning to school

On 8th March 2021, the UK government reopened schools, as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom. For Kadijah, a year-10 Disabled student, this was a nightmare and she found going back to school stressful. Kadijah told ALLFIE:

“It [the school] is a bit regimented [because of the physical distancing] and they haven’t made the right adjustments and it is not accessible for people with learning difficulties.”

In Bubbles

COVID-19 guidance on physical and social distancing has also had an impact on Kadijah’s school experience. In class, for instance:

“When I don’t understand the question, I have to struggle on my own. I cannot see from one eye and have a learning difficulty and I need help with understanding questions and to access the subject material.”

The Teaching Assistant (TA), who supports Kadijah and teachers in many of her classes, has to remain socially distanced and wear a mask. Kadijah said that she found this distance hard, as her TA and teachers are now often unable:

“to sit next to me, help explain questions and diagrams to me because of the social distance.”

Additionally, the formation of bubbles in schools has meant that Kadijah is isolated from certain peers:

“I have a friend in year 11 I would talk to during breaktimes, but I’m not able to now because each year group is in a bubble.”

She added:

“I don’t like being back at school, it makes me stressed. I don’t like being in bubbles, I liked doing my schoolwork at home.”

When we spoke with Kadijah previously, she did not raise as many concerns around assistance received at school prior to the lockdown. For Kadijah, social distance has created further issues with how she receives support in accessing and engaging with her subjects. It has also created more separation and division, particularly as she already struggled socially in the school environment. Her return to school has exacerbated the negative schooling experiences and made her support even more inaccessible.

Ignoring Youth Voice

Kadijah feels strongly that the voices of Young Disabled people have not been considered in government legislation around sending children back to school, stating categorically:

“[the] government shouldn’t force us back to school.”

Additionally, she spoke about how, as a Young Disabled person, she has to take exams that are inaccessible for pupils with learning difficulties:

“I find the exam preparation too difficult and I get stressed.”

She feels as though she has been forced into a process that has not been fully supportive for pupils with learning difficulties. Kadijah told ALLFIE:

“If I had the choice, I’d prefer to study from home, rather than going to school because I finds it less stressful.”

Kadijah wants the government to listen to Disabled students and understand that some Disabled students should not only have access to support within school, but also have the choice of whether to attend school or continue to study remotely from home.

Final thoughts

Kadijah left ALLFIE with three key messages:

1. Exams should be made accessible to ensure that they don’t segregate Disabled students with learning difficulties

2. Students should have a choice as to whether to learn from home, at school, or a mixture of the two

3. The government should speak and listen to Disabled student’s voices, and include them in decision-making processes