A major demonstration is set to take place in Westminster later this month to protest at the government’s anti-inclusion policies that campaigners say will reverse 30 years of progress on the education of disabled children.
The day of action on 29 June – which aims to “make a noise for inclusion” – is the first stage of a new campaign, coordinated by two of the leading disabled figures in the inclusive education movement, Micheline Mason and Richard Rieser.
They and many other disabled activists and allies are furious at the coalition government’s pledge to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education.
And they say that the government’s green paper on special educational needs (SEN) will reverse three decades of progress towards an inclusive education system.
Mason – who has come out of “semi-retirement” to help organise the new campaign – said she was “outraged” and “deeply frustrated that people with so little knowledge of the reality can make such sweeping changes to something they have such little understanding of”.
She said there was something “quite frightening” about the government’s “change of tone” around disability, which she said was becoming “very harsh and mercenary”.
The new campaign received a huge boost this week, with the publication of a major report on disability by the World Health Organization and The World Bank, which strongly backs the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools.
The World Report on Disability says inclusion “is cost-effective and contributes to the elimination of discrimination”, while creating an inclusive learning environment “will assist all children in learning and achieving their potential”.
One of the key concerns of the new campaign is over the government’s plan to re-introduce anti-inclusion laws that were repealed in 2001 – following years of campaigning by organisations like the Alliance for Inclusive Education, which Mason used to lead – and which had made it harder for parents to secure a mainstream place for their disabled child.
Mason said that other plans in the green paper to replace statements of SEN with a single education, health and care plan would expose disabled children to the same restrictions on eligibility that are faced by disabled people trying to secure council-funded care and support.
The demonstration will take place on Wednesday 29 June, the last day of the consultation on the green paper.
Mason said it would be “a very noisy demonstration”, which will include a lobby of MPs, the letting off of balloons by young disabled people, and an impromptu concert by musicians such as the jazz saxophonist Tim Whitehead, who has a son with learning difficulties.
Disabled campaigners and allies who want to take part in the protest should meet at the south end of Westminster Bridge at 11am, near St Thomas’ Hospital.
For more details, visit the Campaign to Reverse the Bias Towards Segregation, on Facebook.
8 June 2011