EHRC takes “shocking” position on inclusive education


newslatestThe Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been accused of taking an “absolutely disgraceful” and “shocking” position on the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools.

In a letter to the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), the commission suggested it was in favour of disabled children being included in mainstream schools, but only if it was in the “best interest” of the child.

The letter, from Mark Hammond, EHRC’s chief executive, says the commission is “committed to inclusive education as a starting point, taking into account what is in the best interest of the child”.

ALLFIE said the letter showed that the commission had “swallowed whole” the government position on inclusive education, which was to “reverse the bias towards inclusion” in the education system.

Tara Flood, ALLFIE’s director, said: “That is not a human rights perspective.

“I absolutely believe the EHRC has swallowed whole the government position on education 100 per cent.”

Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that disabled people should be able to access an “inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live”.

The letter from Hammond also says that the commission “is clear that schools, and education policy, should be working towards full inclusion”.

But Flood said the letter proved the commission – the independent monitoring body for the convention in Britain – had decided that there was a “condition” to be placed on article 24, a position which was “beyond belief”.

She said: “I sent them a reply saying they are a disgrace. It is shocking.”

The letter came as the commission revealed that – as part of its 2014-15 business plan – it will carry out work to support schools to “increase participation and attainment” among disabled pupils, as evidence showed they continue to have “disproportionately low levels of qualifications”.

It plans to develop training and practical guidance for schools to “support them to improve their performance in meeting the needs of pupils with [special educational needs]and making the reasonable adjustments which can make all the difference for disabled pupils”.

Flood said it was good to address the gap between disabled and non-disabled children, but there was clearly no attempt to look at those pupils who “are not in the running for GCSEs at all”.

She said: “What we want them to say is that they are going to remove the hierarchy of value that there is in the qualifications system. But the EHRC doesn’t say that and it won’t say that.

“[This new project will be] great for those who aren’t getting the right support and cannot access GCSEs but what about the group who won’t be able to access the GCSE process no matter what support you provide, because it is too narrow in how it tests learning?”

3 April 2014