Who is out of step?
It seems that the Government is going to reinforce one of the fundamental assertions of the GSSPL. We have maintained all along that our views and those of our children should be given principal consideration when selecting the type of school for our children.
Fresh from the DfEE 17th March 2000 is "SEN and Disability Rights In Education Bill Consultation" document. This is basically the next stage in the Governments implementation of previous policy as well as tidying loose ends. On Thursday 24th May a debate was held in the House of Commons on Special Educational Needs, which became dominated by what is going on in Gloucestershire. It included contributions from David Drew (MP for Stroud) and Laurence Robertson (MP for Tewkesbury). Click here for the full Hansard report of the debate.
Gloucestershire LEA and the Education Committee have been selling inclusion for special needs children as if it was not a matter of choice, as if we were out of step by not wanting it forced on us. We have claimed all along that we wanted the opportunity of an inclusive placement, but more importantly, we wanted the right to choose and to maintain the ability to choose.
We have felt all along that the LEA and the Education Committee working party have given a very one sided interpretation of existing legislation and guidelines. Let us hope that this new bill will for once and for all remove any ambiguity. let us all pray that the damage done is not irreversible.
The extracts below are taken directly from the text of the SEN and Disability Rights in Education Bill (Consultation Document):
Page 29 of the document entitled INCLUSION is very specific.
18 The Governments approach to inclusion has been practical and not dogmatic. The Key objective must be to safeguard the interests of all children. Where parents seek a mainstream setting for their children, Ministers believe that the service should as far as possible, provide this. Equally, where more specialist provision is sought, it is important and, Ministers believe, right that parents wishes are respected.
19 The SEN program of action gave a commitment to review the statutory framework for inclusion and undertook to make changes if that work or the work of the Disability Rights Task Force (DRTF) showed a need. The DRTF recommended that "in reviewing the statutory framework for inclusion, the Government should strengthen the rights of parents of children with statements to a mainstream placement, unless they want a special school and a mainstream school would not meet the needs of the child or the wishes of either the parent or child".
20 In practice, not all children who would benefit from education in a mainstream school receive it. The first caveat to section 316 of the Education Act 1996 - which seeks confirmation that a school can meet a child's needs - is often used to refuse a mainstream place. Parents are not well placed to argue against such a judgement. Further, with the right strategies and support the vast majority of a child's individual needs can be met in either a mainstream or specialist setting. The Government therefore, intends to legislate to a mainstream place by replacing section 316 - which has come to be seen as a negative statement - with a new positive provision firmly endorsing inclusion. The principals of the new provision would be that a child with SEN shall be educated within a mainstream setting unless
a) This is incompatible with the wishes of his or her parents; or
b) a school or local authority cannot take reasonable steps to adapt its provision to secure a place for them in a mainstream setting without:
i) prejudicing the efficient education of the children with whom he or she will be educated; or
ii) incurring unreasonable public expenditure.
The full text of this is available on www.dfes.gov.uk/sen
Also available along with "From Exclusion to Inclusion" on the disability website at www.disability.gov.uk