My sons' headteacher at their independent special(ist) school, once said to me that inclusion was about being included in society as an adult, not squashed in a one-size-fits-all classroom. And, while the government says is dedicated to children being educated in mainstream schools, the fact is our education system just isn't set up to cope with children with a vast range of different needs all being in the same setting and benefiting equally at the same time. The government seems to have high-minded/handed ideals, without looking at the reality of what is available, given the current structure, facilities and staff training. The move to spend money resurrecting grammar schools is a step even further away from what inclusion really means.
ALLFIE, the Alliance for Inclusive Education, is a campaigning organisation led by disabled people aimed at creating true inclusive schooling, by completely changing the current system. Simone Apsis, ALLFIE's Policy and Campaigns Coordinator has written for us explaining what this means for them. As ever, your views are welcome on the blog's comments at the end of this post as Simone may not see them if you just leave them on Facebook.
All about ALLFIE by Simone Apsis
The Alliance for Inclusive Education is an organisation that promotes and campaigns for disabled pupils’ and students’ human and civil rights to inclusive education. Whilst we are led by disabled people, our membership and support also comes from our allies, parents, SEND professionals and schools, colleges and universities.
We believe that, first and foremost parents want their disabled children to feel part of their family and their local community. We believe that disabled children can only enjoy a truly inclusive childhood if they play, learn and build friendships with their peer group, including non-disabled children. It’s not only disabled children who benefit, but also non-disabled children and the community as a whole, as this inclusivity helps everyone to grow up understanding and valuing each other, and to carry this into adult and community life.
When we talk about inclusive education, we are talking about fundamental changes to how our education system operates. Inclusion doesn’t just mean getting disabled pupils and students with SEN through the doors of a mainstream school, college or university, and only providing an accessible building and specialist equipment. It means reviewing the structures and values within the education system which make real and fully inclusion difficult.
All too often, what children, young people and parents experience in mainstream education is limited ‘integration’ where disabled pupils and students with SEN are expected to fit into an education system that does not take into account their abilities, learning styles and ways of being in the world. We want a move away from ‘integration’ to fully-inclusive mainstream education provision and practice, where disabled people of all ages and/or those with SEN can be educated in mainstream settings alongside their non-disabled peers. We want to see a commitment to removing all barriers to the full participation of everyone as equally valued and unique individuals, both within the classroom and the wider social and cultural life of the school or college.
During our 25 year history ALLFIE has worked effectively with parents and allies, as we believe inclusive education can only be achieved with everyone on board and committed to making it happen for ALL pupils and students. Over the past decade our remit has widened to cover all forms of mainstream education - schools, colleges, training, universities and apprenticeships. Despite the many challenges we have faced from successive governments that have been busy undermining education providers’ best efforts to develop truly inclusive education practice, we have managed to secure some major achievements.
Disabled People's Human Rights
ALLFIE campaigned successfully for the human rights of disabled people to be supported in mainstream education, which is now enshrined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The Labour government ratified the UNCRPD in 2009 and since then we have campaigned for full implementation of Article 24 in all legislation, policies and practices. Subsequently ALLFIE managed to secure strong guidance that sets out the UN Disability Committee’s expectation that Governments should develop an inclusive education system that welcomes and properly supports all pupils regardless of ability.
Like many of the parents on your website, ALLFIE wants to ensure that gaining access to mainstream education for a disabled child or young person is no longer such a struggle.
We also campaigned successfully for the retention of the “presumption of mainstream education” in the Special Educational Needs Act of 2001, and also in the Children and Families Act 2014 which replaced it, despite the Government’s initial intention to remove the provision in relation to school–based education. .
ALLFIE’s Manifesto for Inclusive Education consists of six simple and do-able demands covering changes to law that would give disabled pupils and students rights in mainstream education, changes to the curriculum and qualifications which would allow for real flexibility in terms of how learning is tested, all within fully accessible premises with support that is based on what the young person needs rather than what the education provider or LA is willing to provide.
ALLFIE’s Case for Inclusive Education booklet is central to our current campaign work, which includes challenging the Government’s ‘raising standards’ rhetoric which has in reality led to increased selective education, academic targets, reducing resources to encourage education providers to develop great inclusive education practice whilst weakening the legal protections that disabled pupils and students have in accessing mainstream education. The Government appears to be determined to flout its obligations as set out in the UNCRPD and the ‘presumption of mainstream education’ enshrined in UK law.
No to selective schooling
ALLFIE is now actively campaigning against the Government’s proposals to increase state funded selective education outlined in the “Schools That Work For Everyone” Green paper. See our Education Not Segregation campaign for more details.
ALLFIE has been at its best when campaigning alongside other people, groups and organisations who share our vision of real and lasting inclusion. We know that it takes communities to work and campaign together to secure great inclusive education systems, so we are developing new opportunities to work with disabled children, young people and their families, in partnership with their local organisations led by disabled people. ALLFIE’s Inclusion Champions’ work will bring together families and disabled pupils and students with disabled people’s organisations, working together with schools and colleges to develop and share good practice of inclusive education and great local person centred services.
If you would like to know more about us and want to be part of our important campaigning work to ensure that disabled pupils and students can be included in well-resourced inclusive mainstream education, with all necessary support, then please get in touch:
Simone Aspis (Policy and Campaigns Coordinator)
- ALLFIE’s website www.allfie.org.uk
- Tel No 0207 737 6030
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- ALLFIE on Facebook
- Other articles: Inclusive education vital for all, including persons with disabilities – UN experts
- A Prezi presentation: Explaining Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights Of Persons with Disabilities