The disabled people’s organisation leading the fight for inclusive education in the UK is building a new coalition of allies and supporters to end segregation and push for mainstream education for all disabled people.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is working to build a coalition of disabled activists and allies who see the fight for inclusive education as a social justice and human rights issue.
ALLFIE hopes the coalition will draft new legislation on inclusive education and push for it to be introduced in parliament.
It is recruiting a new member of staff to help build the coalition, and set up a young disabled people’s parliamentary group.
Among the areas the coalition will need to address, says ALLFIE, are the lack of funding and support for disabled children in mainstream settings, which forces parents to seek places in segregated special schools and colleges, and the disproportionate number of disabled children excluded from mainstream schools and colleges for “behavioural” reasons.
Michelle Daley (pictured), ALLFIE’s director, said: “We know inclusion works, there are good examples of it working.
“But at the moment there is no meaningful investment or interest from government in making inclusion thrive and be sustainable.”
Mainstream schools are choosing the children they want to accept, she said, and often that means they refuse to accept disabled children, particularly those with high support needs.
She added: “The systems in place disproportionately affect children who are disabled and disabled children who are from the furthest marginalised communities.”
ALLFIE is also looking at links between segregated education and poverty, and the experiences of black and other global majority children.
Daley said: “We will make sure that the coalition looks at the causes and effects of segregation and links to social injustices.
“While the coalition will focus on segregated education as a social justice issue, it will also be rooted in intersectionality to challenge how discrimination around our identities and backgrounds is used to drive disabled people out of the mainstream education system.
“For example, children and young people who have significant impairments are more likely to be excluded from mainstream education, and children with significant impairments from a marginalised community are pushed furthest to the margins across all areas of society.
“The focus will be on education, but you can’t talk about education without talking about access to other areas of life that are needed in order for somebody to access education, such as independent living and health, because all of those things are interconnected.”
ALLFIE and other organisations supportive of inclusive education are awaiting the government’s response to a consultation on its special educational needs (SEN) review, which was published 10 months ago.
Daley said last year that the green paper was “steeped in social injustice and inequality”, omitted any reference to inclusive education as a human right, and was “riddled with biases towards segregated education for disabled children and young people”.
She warned then that key parts of the review were incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and would likely force some disabled children, particularly those with higher support needs, into segregated education.
She also said the green paper had erased intersectional injustices, by all but ignoring issues such as race, class and gender bias.
Daley said this week: “We are not excited about what the response will be, but it will give direction about where the government will be going.”
But she added: “None of the parties have done well on this.
“It is something that Labour must – not should – must take seriously.
“They have to be serious about this because too many disabled children and young people are being failed and let down by the system. Way too many.”
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