The Conservative Party’s new draft policies on special schools and inclusion would “set the clock back by more than 30 years”, say appalled campaigners.
They spoke out after the Conservatives published their draft education policy, three months before the likely date of the general election.
The draft manifesto states: “Because the most vulnerable children deserve the very highest quality of care, we will call a moratorium on the ideologically-driven closure of special schools and end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools.”
Simone Aspis, campaigns and policy co-ordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education, said she was “absolutely shocked” by the “tone and hostility” of the policy, as well as its content.
She said such a policy would “turn the clock back” to the 1970s, when the idea of segregating children was acceptable.
She said: “What surprises us is the attack on the ideology of inclusion.
“It undermines people’s clear human and civil rights to participate not only in education but also in society as a whole.
“What does it say in 2010 if we are moving disabled children out of mainstream society and into segregated provision?
“The more you segregate disabled children, the less people understand disabled people as complete human beings.”
Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, said: “A key plank of any progressive education policy must be to work towards all schools being willing and able to include, value, support, care for and respect all children in their diversity, including kids with complex, high support needs and serious health conditions.
“Human difference is a strength and a great learning resource – it shouldn’t be the basis for segregation and exclusion.”
She said the challenge was to transform mainstream provision so as to realise the right to inclusive education in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
She said there had been a “major step forward” with new rights for pupils to auxiliary aids and services now included in the equality bill, and there were “some fantastic examples of real inclusion happening on the ground”.
And she said RADAR believed the Conservatives would not be able to “turn back the tide”.
2 February 2010