UN debate will be reminder of true inclusive education


newslatestA high-profile day of debate will be a chance to remind the United Nations – and the UK government – what disabled people mean by “inclusive education”, say campaigners.

The UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) has issued a call for submissions to feed into a day of discussion on the right of disabled people to access education, on 15 April.

CRPD was set up six years ago to monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Article 24 of the convention highlights disabled people’s right to education, and states that countries that sign up should ensure an “inclusive education system”, in which disabled people should be able to “access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others”.

After reviewing how countries have implemented article 24, CRPD decided last September to devote one day of its 13th session, in April, to the issue.

The committee has warned that “the exclusion in education on the basis of disability experienced by children and adults with disabilities not only constitutes discrimination, but also hinders their meaningful participation on an equal basis with others in all spheres of life”.

Inclusive education campaigners say that article 24 demands that countries signed up to the convention should put an end to segregated education, such as special schools, although many believe the wording is not as clear as it should be.

Tara Flood, director of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, which will be making a submission to CRPD, said the decision to hold a day of discussion was an “opportunity to reiterate what disabled people mean by inclusive education”.

She said she believed the UK government had breached its obligations under article 24, and had not been willing to discuss the issue of inclusive education even once in nearly five years.

Although the last Labour government ratified the UN convention, it placed an “interpretive declaration” against article 24, which explained that the UK believed the convention allowed it to continue to operate both mainstream and special schools.

It also placed a “reservation” against article 24, reserving the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community.

The coalition has shown no signs of wanting to amend either the interpretive declaration or the reservation, and has been criticised for its own pledge to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission – which monitors the UN convention’s implementation in the UK – has backed away from calling for an end to segregation, claiming that it supports the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education settings “where possible but recognises that there are cases where this is neither possible nor appropriate”.

4 February 2015

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