Education secretary Michael Gove has been branded a hypocrite for attacking the segregation of female and male students in universities, while backing moves to increase segregation of disabled children and young people in schools.
Gove spoke out after Universities UK – which represents every UK university – issued guidance endorsing gender segregation on campus, following a series of Islamic events at which students have been separated.
The education secretary was reported as saying that the guidance was a “disgrace”, was “wrong and harmful”, and “should not be indulged by educators”, while he said Universities UK should not “pander to extremism”.
But Tara Flood, chief executive of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said Gove was guilty of “blatant hypocrisy”, because his own policies were designed to increase segregation of disabled children and young people.
She said: “It is clear that there is a hard and fast belief that there has to be a different set of rules for disabled people.”
Flood said there was “disablism” at the heart of Gove’s policies, and a belief that disabled children and young people who do not achieve academically are obstructing efforts to drive towards a world-class education system.
Flood said that Gove promised special school providers before the 2010 general election – in a meeting she attended with a colleague – that he would do all he could to rebuild the sector if the Conservatives won power.
ALLFIE and other inclusive education campaigners have consistently warned that the government is trying to put into effect the pledge in its “programme for government” to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education.
Flood’s comments came after she and ALLFIE colleague Simone Aspis met the Conservative junior education minister Lord Nash this week to discuss their concerns about the government’s children and families bill.
Flood said the minister appeared “shocked” that disabled people were so concerned about the bill.
She said: “It is blatantly clear that they have not spoken to disabled adults about what they think about the bill.”
One of ALLFIE’s key concerns is that the bill will allow disabled children without education, health and care plans (EHCPs) – the replacement for statements of special educational needs – to be sent to special schools that have become academies.
Flood said: “He thinks there are sufficient protections, but there is no protection in the code of practice or on the face of the bill.”
Although the minister assured her that changes to draft regulations attached to the bill would not mean that disabled children without EHCPs could also be forced to attend maintained special schools – those run by local authorities – she said this could prove irrelevant, as the government wants all schools to become academies.
18 December 2013