1. Every Learner Matters

    September 24, 2020 by admin

    New paper published by the World Bank: Every Learner Matters: Unpacking learning crisis for children with disabilities

    Richard Rieser’s Case study assessment in UK– p. 74

    The paper “Every Learner Matters” explores how the global learning crisis relates to children with disabilities, examining education systems and the importance of measuring learning achievement for children with disabilities to respond appropriately to the needs of students. The paper picks up on the central message of the “World Development Report” (2018), which calls for urgent action to focus on measuring learning to understand gaps and barriers to align education stakeholders and create an enabling environment to deliver quality learning for all.

    Download here

    Also recently published by the World Bank

    Pivoting to inclusion

    The world is faced with a global education emergency of unprecedented scale. According to estimates by the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic, at its peak, caused more than 180 countries to mandate temporary school closures, leaving 85 percent of the world’s learners out of school. Children with disabilities and their families, especially those living in poverty, face significant multiple vulnerabilities during this pandemic, including education, health, and social protection.

    The World Bank’s Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI) presents its latest Issues Paper, Pivoting to Inclusion: Leveraging Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis for Learners with Disabilities.’

    The challenges facing learners with disabilities are numerous.

    • Children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable – facing multiple forms of exclusion linked to education, health, gender equity, and social inclusion. Those living in poverty are at risk of further marginalization.
    • The schooling and learning deficit experienced by learners with disabilities impedes the ability to earn income as adults, which impacts individuals, households, and communities, contributing significantly to a country’s human capital gap.
    • At the peak of lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic caused 180 countries to close schools temporarily, forcing 85% of the world’s learners out of school, furthering the risk of marginalization for children with disabilities 
    • The digital divide exacerbates the learning divide among learners related to accessing equipment, electricity, and the internet for learners with disabilities who have an additional barrier of inaccessible learning content. Also, many remote learning options are not accessible to blind and deaf learners.

    COVID-19 obliges us to rethink remote learning with an inclusive lens, where every child, whether they have a disability or not, can access and participate in learning that takes place away from the classroom.

    • Adopt a twin-track approach to disability inclusion in all phases of response: relief (immediate actions needed), recovery (medium-term actions to ensure safe reopening), and resilience (long-term actions). 
    • Use the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to ensure multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression are utilized for learners to think, develop skills, and grow while at home. 
    • Information should be wide-reaching and available in multiple languages and multiple accessible formats to reach learners and families of children who are at risk of being excluded.
    • It is crucial to support teachers in three core areas: resilience, instruction, and technology- training must focus on responding to learning loss as well as supporting parents to engage while learners with disabilities are compelled to stay at home. 
    • Ensuring safety, protection, and inclusion should be a priority when reopening schools. Children who are hardest to reach with remote learning, including those with disabilities, should be prioritized, where appropriate, among the first to have opportunities to return to school. 

  2. Global Monitoring Report on Inclusive Education

    June 23, 2020 by admin

    Download the report here: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/report/2020/inclusion

    In line with its mandate, the 2020 GEM Report assesses progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education and its ten targets, as well as other related education targets in the SDG agenda. The Report also addresses inclusion in education, drawing attention to all those excluded from education, because of background or ability. The Report is motivated by the explicit reference to inclusion in the 2015 Incheon Declaration, and the call to ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education in the formulation of SDG 4, the global goal for education. It reminds us that, no matter what argument may be built to the contrary, we have a moral imperative to ensure every child has a right to an appropriate education of high quality.

    The Report also explores the challenges holding us back from achieving this vision and demonstrates concrete policy examples from countries managing to tackle them with success. These include differing understandings of the word inclusion, lack of teacher support, absence of data on those excluded from education, inappropriate infrastructure, persistence of parallel systems and special schools, lack of political will and community support, untargeted finance, uncoordinated governance, multiple but inconsistent laws, and policies that are not being followed through.  

    To complement its online database on education Inequalities, the Worldwide Inequalities Database on Education(WIDE),in January, 2020, the GEM Report launched a new online monitoring tool, Scoping Progress in Education, (SCOPE)telling the story behind SDG 4 data using the latest in online publishing and data-visualization technologies.  

    A complementary new online platform, Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews, (PEER) prepared by the GEM Report has been launched describing countries’ laws and policies on inclusion and education. 

    In 2020, the GEM Report will also launch two special regional reports produced in collaboration with regional partners. The reports will offer a deep dive into inclusion and education in Latin America and the Caribbean (October 2020) and Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (December 2020).

  3. COVID 19, Education and Inclusion

    June 2, 2020 by admin

    Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion

    The Coronavirus pandemic and the spread of COVID-19 in the UK, especially England, its high level of fatalities (37,048 on 26th May) and ongoing impact on us all is not accidental but the product of bad political decision making. The UK Government preoccupied with Brexit on 31st January appears to have largely ignored the advice of the World Health Organisation and wasted precious weeks when effective planning and preparation would have eased the spread and devastating fatal effects of the virus. Key issues were that the UK emergency planning was geared to a major Flu outbreak, hence lack of PPE and late banning of public events, the ending of general track and trace on 12th March, the late introduction and low capability of testing and the very late recognition that care homes and other institutions were very much more likely to be prone to the virus spread.

    Disabled people, especially those in care homes and other institutions, have been particularly badly hit. At the peak of the crisis eugenicist ideas, such as the survival of the fittest, raised their head through triage systems and rationing of scarce resources such as respirators. Those dependant on personal assistance in their homes, through direct payments or council services were often left with little or no support.

    The impact on disabled children has been dramatic. The general closure of schools allowed for key workers children, those with EHC Plans and those called ‘vulnerable’ with a social worker to continue to attend school with social distance and a skeleton rotating staff. The Risk Assessment guidance and parental fears led to less than 10% of this group actually attending school. With the Governments premature decision to reopen schools in England from 1st June the guidance has changed. Now every effort is to be made to get students who are vulnerable back into school even though many of the risks remain the same.

    The Secretary of State for Education issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 – duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan. The modification to Section 42 means that the duty on local authorities or health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the provision is temporarily modified to a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so. Guidance also varied timescales, such as the 20 week deadline to complete assessment and produce an EHC Plan or the holding of annual reviews. These measures came into force on 1st May and run in the first instance to 25th September. They should be revoked then or as soon as possible. There is a tendency in UK recent history for emergency legislation to become long term, despite being subject to Parliamentary Review. For example the licensing laws that were introduced by Lloyd George in 1915 during 1st World War and not revoked for over 100 years or the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 1974 introduced as a temporary suspension of civil rights, in the wake of the IRA Birmingham bombings, but continued being annually reviewed until 1989.

    Evidence of the impact of the lockdown on disabled children’s learning is anecdotal but clearly all children from more deprived backgrounds are less likely to have access to IT, space and parental support. Those with SEND are also not going to have access to specialist therapies and teaching. Valuable attempts supported by the Government to provide lessons such as online Oak Academy were not inclusive from the start and only later had access added e.g. BSL and differentiation. The assumption is still that there are children with learning difficulties who need a simplified separate curriculum, rather than developing curriculum that are universally accessible with different extension pathways.

    In a recent letter to the Government from the Special Education Consortium they raise the following issues which are not being addressed in discussions about reopening schools:

    • How children with SEND can be expected to return to school/settings without the support outlined in their EHC plans which enables them to access learning?
    • What children and young people with SEND will need to supplement provision in an EHC plan, or on SEN support, during and after lockdown?
    • How preparations for transition into new educational settings and phases of education will be undertaken, with a focus on accessibility/reasonable adjustments, to restore a sense of belonging and welcome?
    • How to restore wellbeing during reintegration, to support a positive return to current schools/settings, and avoid the issues that can lead to disruptive behaviour and exclusions?

    These questions beg the question whether it is safe for staff and children to return to school from 1st of June 2020, when many countries including Scotland and Northern Ireland with lower levels of infection have decided to keep schools closed until later. Faced with the decision to open schools from 1st June to Reception, Yr.1 and Yr.6 and Secondary Yr. 10 from 15th June the teachers unions particularly the NEU have opposed opening until it is safe. They put forward 5 tests they think the Government must meet before moving to the further opening of schools.

    “We want to begin to re-open schools and colleges as soon as we can. But this needs to be safe for society, for children and their families and the staff who work in them. We have these five tests which the Government should show will be met by reliable evidence, peer-reviewed science and transparent decision making.

    Test 1: Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases. The new case count must be much lower than it is now, with a sustained downward trend, with confidence that new cases are known and counted promptly. And the Government must have extensive arrangements for testing and contact tracing to keep it that way.

    Test 2: A national plan for social distancing. The Government must have a national plan including parameters for both appropriate physical distancing and levels of social mixing in schools, as well as for appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level.

    Test 3: Testing, testing, testing! Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff to ensure our schools and colleges don’t become hot spots for Covid-19.

    Test 4: Whole school strategy. Protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.

    Test 5: Protection for the vulnerable. Vulnerable (disabled) staff and staff who live with vulnerable people, must work from home, fulfilling their professional duties to the extent that is possible. Plans must specifically address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers”.

    As this article is being written there has been support from many parents, over half Local Authorities, the British Medical Association and the independent Sage group for this approach. Given the events outlined at the beginning of this article it is right that the Government have been called out on their strategy. What looks most likely is a staggered return with social distancing and risk assessments leading to many schools not restarting until September.

    Assessment The unfairness and negative impact of our current assessment system, especially for disabled students, has been thrown into contention by the lockdown. Teachers were asked to rank their students based on course work and internal tests. The Exam Boards will then adjust these marks by the historic scores of the school and fix pass rates and grades. Under Gove’s reforms we moved away from course work and understanding to a more fact-based curriculum disadvantaging many disabled learners. Surely now is the time to move back to a fairer system of assessment, which gives all learners a chance to show what they can achieve!

  4. Sector letter to the Children’s Minister

    by admin

    Dear Minister,

    29th May 2020

    In more usual circumstances we would have hoped to have met directly with you, introduced ourselves and welcomed you to your role. We are aware that you have met some of the organisations below, but we are writing to you as the representatives of a range of charities and organisations that work with and support children with special needs and/or disabilities (SEND), and their families.

    The COVID-19 pandemic affects us all, personally and professionally, but as you yourself have acknowledged, this period is particularly hard for children and young people with SEND, their families and those who support them. We are writing to you because of our particular concerns about the following issues:

    Whilst the Coronavirus Act and accompanying DfE guidance relating to SEND were introduced with the aim of supporting local authorities to respond to the current crisis, we have significant concerns about the disproportionate impact on this group of children, who already experience poorer outcomes than their peers. In particular, we are concerned about the modification of Section 42 of the Children and Families Act and the variability in the interpretation of ‘reasonable endeavours’. Whilst we acknowledge and recognise the incredible efforts that many services and professionals have gone to in order to keep support going in many areas over the last few months, parents are reporting that some local authorities are making little or no attempt to engage with them to agree what provision in their child’s Education, Health and Care Plan will continue to be made and how and when this will happen. We are also concerned about reports regarding the number of therapeutic interventions not being provided, and the potential impact of this on children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing both now and in the longer term. Given that we expect an imminent announcement regarding the extension of the current

    notice (which ends on May 31st), we would like to ask how your Department is monitoring these processes, what provision is being made; how the measures have affected children with SEND and what evidence will inform any subsequent decisions should there be any further extensions of the current notice.

    In addition, we ask you to ensure that there is no further extension of the amended arrangements to vary timescales in The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, beyond the current end date of 25th September, as we are particularly concerned that those children and young people who are waiting for a plan to be issued or amended are not disadvantaged any further.

    The issue of when/how children and young people will return to school/settings also remains problematic. We are concerned that although discussions are currently focusing on the search for a specific date, significant issues affecting children and young people with SEND are being overlooked:

    •   How children with SEND can be expected to return to school/settings without the support outlined in their EHC plans, or through SEN Support, which enables them to access learning
    •   What children and young people with SEND will need to supplement provision in an EHC plan, or on SEN support, during and after lockdown
    •   How preparations for transition into new educational settings and phases of education will be undertaken, with a focus on accessibility/reasonable adjustments, to restore a sense of belonging and welcome
    •   How to restore wellbeing during reintegration, to support a positive return to current schools/settings, and avoid the issues that can lead to disruptive behaviour and exclusions The plan for a return to school/settings needs to focus on promoting wellbeing, securing missing therapies and individual planning for all pupils with SEND. This approach needs to be applied consistently across the country. In many ways the restrictions faced within the current pandemic has simply magnified the pre-existing inequalities experienced by children and young people with SEND over many years. Over the past 6 months many of our organisations have met and fed into the government’s SEND Review, which set out to both examine the effectiveness of the current system, and provide changes and solutions to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of this system. It is not clear where the SEND Review currently lies, but we feel strongly that it needs to come out of cold storage urgently and be adapted to fit the current extraordinary circumstances, and the ongoing legacy of these days – like so many other areas in our lives, it can no longer be ‘business as usual’. We would very much welcome the opportunity to

    support the ongoing work of this Review, as we feel that nothing short of an overarching re-design of many aspects of the system is enough to address the gross inequalities in educational entitlement faced by many children and young people with SEND. The SEND Review and the Care Review urgently need to focus on the design of health and social care provision to support children, young people and their families in their local community.

    We understand the above issues are not straightforward, and we would welcome any opportunities for ongoing dialogue with you and the department to help clarify and find solutions to the issues we have raised.

    In addition, we are sure you will be interested in hearing about the findings of a recent survey run by the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) – reaching out to families of children with SEND and asking for their views on how they have been affected, and what their ongoing concerns are. The findings will be shared with your officials this week and published next month. DCP would be interested in speaking to you in more detail about the findings.


    Amanda Batten, CEO, Contact
    Professor Sonia Blandford, CEO, Achievement for All
    Linda Lascelles, CEO, Afasic
    Leo Sowerby, CEO, Affinity Trust
    Rachel Travers, CEO, Amaze
    Jolanta Lasota, CEO, Ambitious about Autism
    Dr Deborah Kitson, CEO, Ann Craft Trust
    Ben Higgins, CEO, Bild
    Catherine McLeod MBE, CEO, Bingley’s Promise
    Gareth Howells, CEO, Carers Trust
    Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education
    Helen Hewitt, CEO, Chailey Heritage Foundation
    Dame Christine Lenehan, Director, Council for Disabled Children
    Brett Parker, CEO, CPotential
    Louise King, Director, CRAE
    Patsy Hallmey, Director, Dorset Children’s Foundation
    Carol Boys, CEO, Down’s Syndrome Association
    Catherine Slater, Engagement Advisor, East Midlands and Yorkshire Activity Alliance Bob Reitemeier, CEO, I CAN
    Enver Solomon, CEO, Just for Kids Law
    Katie Ghose, CEO, KIDS
    Edel Harris, CEO, Mencap
    Graham Duncan, CEO, my AFK – working with disability Claire Dorer, CEO, NASS
    Caroline Stephens, CEO, National Autistic Society
    Clare Howard, CEO, Natspec
    Steve Haines, Executive Director of Policy and Campaigns, NDCS
    Paul Marshall, CEO, NDTi
    Becky Jenner, CEO, Rett UK
    Matt Stringer, CEO, RNIB
    James Taylor, Executive Director of Strategy, Impact and Social Change, Scope
    Jane Gates OBE, CEO, Sebastian’s Action Trust
    Gillian Docherty, Co-Founder, SEND Community Alliance
    Nasreen Hussain, Head of Service, SENDIASS Birmingham – representing Information Advice & Support Services
    Richard Kramer, CEO, Sense
    Dr Shirley Landrock-White, Chair, SMiRA
    Tania Tirraoro, CEO, Special Needs Jungle Ltd
    Liz Ryburn, Support Services Manager, Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK
    Laura Lewis, Charity Director, Swings & Smiles
    Dalton Leong, CEO, The Children’s Trust
    Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery, Co-Chairs, The National Network of Parent Carer Forums
    Mark Lee, CEO, The Together Trust
    Charles Colquhoun, CEO, Thomas Pocklington Trust
    Richard Rieser, CEO, World of Inclusion Ltd
    Mark Devlin, CEO, Young Epilepsy

  5. Preparing Professionals for the Education of Disabled People

    April 1, 2020 by admin

    Given as 2 Skype talks with Powerpoint presentations to the Caribbean Inclusive Education Conference at the University of West Indies, Kingston Jamaica on 10th and 11th March 2020 by Richard Rieser

    Preparing Professionals for the Education of Disabled People.

    Slide 2 What do International Agreements Say UNESCO Salamanca Statement 1994 agreed by 94 Governments and 20 INGOs. Committed to education for all in regular education system. Combats discrimination achieves an inclusive society also effective for the majority. No studies in the world show in properly organised inclusion non-disabled children do worse and quite a lot of evidence do better because of peer support.

    Slide 3 Article 24 UN CRPD. I was lucky enough to represent UK Disabled People’s Movement at Ad Hoc Committee 6,7 & 8, which finalised the negotiation of the UNCRPD. Education was hotly contested, with some of countries promoting choice of special segregated schools. These moves were defeated three times as being contrary to the human rights principle. The wording of Article 24 was largely devised and put forward by the International Disability Caucus which was divided on this issue, but eventually reached the compromise that is Article 24. The need for the UNCRPD had been disputed since 1981-Internatinal Yea of the Disabled. Only with Disability Awareness in Action working on behalf of Disabled People International collected and put forward 2.5 million examples of Disability Discrimination was the ned for the Convention accepted and Mexico and Ecuador put forward a motion at the General Assembly to start the process of developing a Convention that was finally agreed in December 2006 by the United Nations and came into force in 2008 when more than 20 countries had ratified it.

    Slide 4 the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015 these replaced the Millennium Development Goals which had not mentioned disability. The sustainable Development Goals followed a huge global consultation and apply to all countries. Disability is in 7 of the Goals with 11 mentions and by implication is in all of them. The Secretary General has shown the World is falling well behind in implementation by 2030. Goal 4 is to “ensure inclusive quality education and promote life long learning opportunities for all’. Around 30 million disabled children do not attend basic education. A much larger number of disabled young people 270 million have not completed basic and secondary education and many more disabled adults are illiterate. Target 4A requires state parties to make all school infrastructure inclusive. 4.4 eliminate all discrimination; Target 4.2 create Equal Access to Quality Pre-Primary Schools and Target 4.1 free Primary and Secondary education for all.

    Slide 5 UNCRPD Committee, who are elected by the State Parties who have ratified the UNCRPD, currently 181.THE UNCRPD Committee has found, through its reporting system on country reports, that no country was fully implementing Article 24 on Inclusive Education. It resolved to hold a general day of discussion and produce a General Comment (No 4) on Article 24. This is the most important clarification of what is Inclusive Education in International Treaty Law.

    Slide 6 The UNCRPD is based on the paradigm shift from oppressive traditional, medical and charity views of disabled people which view us as objects to be fixed, normalised and cared for to subjects with human rights faced by barriers of attitude, environment and organisation that must be removed and replaced by solutions that include us and give us equal value and rights as disabled people. This cartoon by my fried Micheline Mason ‘You are the Problem’ identifies that everyone should become allies in our struggle for rights rather than fighting each other.

    Slide 7 The transformative way of thinking originated in the Disabled People’s Movement in the 1970s and early 1980s and was adopted in 1981 by the World Congress of Disabled People International in 1981. The Year before 400 disabled people had walked and wheeled out of the World Congress of Rehabilitation International as this was dominated by non-disabled professionals. They became the core of DPI. The focus shifted from trying to fix and normalise through special education to including. The system need to change not the individual and their impairment. To get this enshrined into International Law in 25 years is amazing. The big issue now is implementation which is predicated on bringing about a global shift in mind set.

    Slide 8 Translating this thinking into different types of education it can be seen that exclusion, segregation and various forms of integration do not fulfil this promise. Only inclusive provision where all children receive the support they need, the reasonable accommodations as we move to universal design and barrier free schools not just in the environment but in the curriculum and assessment. We need to move away from Grade systems to a child centred approach, where each child gets what they need to thrive. This means much training for educational professionals, attitudinal change for peers, community and education professional and government moving away from reliance on normative testing. It is not “one size fits all’ but ‘every size accommodated together’.

    Slide 9 School barriers to inclusion. The most important tool to bring about the transformation to inclusion, is that school communities learn to identify barriers to participation and achievement of all students in the locality and work collaboratively in finding and implementing solutions. Crucial to this is to recognise the building of positive relationships, friendship and acceptance in the school and community. I have carried out this activity in 100s of schools around the world and despite the different economic levels and cultures the barriers are very similar. Once the barriers are identified collectively it is easier to develop solution focused thinking to solve them.

    Slide 10 The Canadian Province of New Brunswick has for more than 20 years had a school system where all children go to regular mainstream schools. They have put extra resource into the mainstream saved by not having any segregated schools. They have found that Education Support Teachers who have received additional training should spend 60% of their time working with class teachers to change and review their practice to become more inclusive and effective. Only a quarter of their time is supporting individual disabled students. Each class has increasingly available universal accommodations and the Education Support teachers work with regular teachers on how to use these and other support accommodations to maximise each student’s learning.

    Slide 11 The parents’ dilemma. Should they listen to medical professionals with, often, outdated views about what their disabled child will be able to achieve or should they trust in their love of their child and become good allies in their struggle for human rights and inclusion.

    Slide 12 Maresa MacKeith was quadriplegic, non-verbal and used a wheelchair. The Local Authority had placed he in a special school for severe learning difficulties. Her mother was not sure this was right and searched for a means of communicating with her daughter. When Maresa was aged 12 her Mum found facilitated Communication and once she had learned to support Maresa in using a letter board she said ‘Get me out of here. I’m so bored’. Maresa a communication difficulty, not cognition. She could already read from watching the TV. Eventually after much campaigning Maresa when to a regular mainstream school with a facilitator . She had to point out every letter of her sentences. This took a long time., but with 6x the extra time a 3 hour exam was 18 hours she achieved the best grades the school had ever had. Maresa is now, having got a 2.1 degree in English, a poet and activist founding Quiet Revolution for young non -verbal people. Here is part of one of her poems.

  6. Inclusive Education in Malta

    by admin

    Malta has had a traditional single sex education system, based on streaming and selection. In the late 1990s moves began to a more inclusive, community-based system. On a recent visit to Malta connected with a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum (of which I am General Secretary), I took some time to research and visit the University of Malta , a secondary school and meet with officers of the Education Department. On these later two I was accompanied by representatives of the Malta Federation of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (MFOPD).

    Malta is a small county of 3 islands in the Mediterranean, some 80 miles south of Sicily. Its population -493,500 with 55,000 children of school age. It was a British Colony for 250 years with some cultural and structural similarities, but also differences, being more religious speaking Maltese, having strong national pride, focus on family and conservatism.

    Education is largely delivered through the compulsory system comprising state (150), church (34) and independent (18) schools. There are 3 resource centres which act as special schools since they receive students on a full time or part time basis. At a point in time the numbers of students attending these centres were reduced and the schools were dying a natural death however, the number of students attending full time or part time at these centres have greatly increased. It is said that children attend these resource centres full time due to parental choice, although this may be true for some (after being disappointed with the type of support their children received) other parents have no choice. Unfortunately the resource centres have retained the role of the special school and one cannot say that the “Investment in existing special schools should be geared to their new and expanded role of providing professional support to regular schools in meeting special educational needs” (Salamanca Statement, 1994, p.12-13) has taken place.

    Education is well resourced with 5.1% of GDP spent on education. The Average secondary class is 20. Since 2010 state schools organised through 10 geographic pyramidal Colleges and 1 on Gozo. Each College comprises a single Secondary school (Yr. 9,10, 11); 1 or 2 Middle schools (Yr. 7 & 8) and 6 to 10 Primary schools. In the church schools the state pays for the teachers’ salaries and recently also for support services. Parents are asked to make a voluntary financial contribution. In recent years state schools have become co-ed. The independent schools are fee paying schools. In 2014 a new Framework for Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024 was launched to increase participation, support educational achievement, retention, community involvement and inclusion. A system of “banding” children into different classes was reintroduced at the end of year 4 (age 9yrs). The equivalent to the 11+ exam at the end of primary school was replaced by bench-mark exams in English, Maths and Maltese. The students move into middle schools and are ‘set’ according to the marks they obtained in these benchmark exams.

    Recent figures from the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education EDSNIE show over 96% of those statemented attend mainstream inclusive classes. The Equivalent figure for England is 47.8%. The level of Statements is at around 5.5% in Malta compared to 3.5% in England. This figure is rather high. Rather than implementing inclusive pedagogies in class teachers tend to expect help from outside class usually in the figure of an LSE.

    Nearly all children go to their local school and attend age appropriate classes so out of a school population of 55,000 only 160 attend special school. There are, however, also resource bases developed around nurture group principles in primary schools and learning support zones in secondary, with specially trained teachers for social and emotional issues currently one for primary and 4 for secondary schools (Secondary school).
    In addition 32 children with significant autism will be attending a group 2 days a week with their Learning Support Educators (LSE) to undergo a TTEACH type programme. A foundation has been commissioned to offer this service. The effect of this provision is very low exclusions.

    The provision of LSEs is provided by a Statementing Board that schools and parents apply to for either full time, shared, or shared in the same class support. The Board is appointed by the Minister of Education made up of SEND professionals most of which are working within the education directorate. The LSEs are encouraged to attend University of Malta, Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning for training to gain a diploma, which has been recently upgraded to a degree. Other institutions are also offering training courses. One particular course is of dubious quality. Many of the older teachers have not undertaken effective training in inclusion. In recent years there has been a big increase in LSEs to 2800 for 3800 children using the bulk of growth of SEN budget despite rolls falling. The LSEs protest that there is not always the necessary teamwork between them and the teachers to facilitate the inclusion of all the students. The student with a statement of needs is considered to be the responsibility of the LSE.

    One issue with this system is that school students are said to ‘become dependent’ on their LSE and they are only allowed 1 year with the same LSE, usually not transferring phase to phase with them. A second problem is the disconnect between teachers and LSEs with any communication or planning being informal. There is no built-in timetable for reflection and planning. This undermines whole school approaches of collaboration. There seemed a willingness from teachers to learn what was necessary, not in a coherent pedagogy of inclusion but piecemeal around particular students needs. There is an Inclusion Manager from the Directorate of School Support who coordinates LSEs in several schools, is part of Leadership in schools, monitored practice, ensures Individual Education Plans are constructed, monitored and annually reviewed. The IEPs are in practice designed by the LSEs using a software package. The IEPs are designed according to the diagnosis, which is based on the medical, deficit model of disability.

    Dingli Secondary School in the North of Malta has 486 students on role with some 30 students with some form of LSE support (13 had 1:1). It was a spacious new build campus with lifts, wide corridors. The Principle explained that in the last two years they have introduced (as all secondaries have) a vocational/practical based curriculum for those more suited to it, alongside the academic. Training was arranged and a meeting with middle school teachers to sort out a lap top, raised diagrams and class teachers giving notes on a pen drive. He is now doing very well. We met Sheranice, a girl who use a rollator to get about. She used the lifts. She liked the school, had 2 best friends and seemed to have an ambivalent attitude to her LSE as she wanted to be more independent.

    We saw very well resourced, specialised areas for Hospitality- with a suite with a restaurant, kitchen and accommodation; Video and Communication/Photography, Food Lab, Textile, Craft, Electronics and Engineering areas. Other than the streamed Literacy, Maths and Science all other subjects in Year 9-11 we were told were mixed ability, though we think the banding still applied. Different weight is given to assessment through course work, projects and exams marks varying from 60% /40% to 40% /60%.

    In the Learning Support Zone (LSZ) children attend with parental permission for on going 2×2 hour sessions per week. Progress is measured on entry and end of year on Boxall profile. Focussed groups are run on appropriate behaviour, friendship and anti-bullying. The LSZ teacher and LSE can also work in whole mainstream classes, individual and group interventions with strong evidence of improved behaviour and children better dealing with social and emotional issues. A favourite was a ‘punch bag’ that was well used for getting rid of aggression.

    My conclusion largely coincides with the European Agency Audit carried out in 2014 and although various initiatives to improve things to a more inclusive approach have been launched in the period since the following issues remain largely the same:
    • The UN CRPD Article 24 has not been incorporated into Maltese Law;
    • The resourcing approach is largely deficit/medical model and not a human right approach particularly on the resourcing model of individual Statementing and need replacing by resourcing schools;
    • A narrow, results-based curriculum and assessment system, though recently modified still seems to dominate rather than teachers and schools collaboratively taking responsibility for the learning of all;
    • The need for schools to develop and take responsibility for involving all in Inclusive Education Policies;
    • All staff need twin-track accredited training on inclusion in general and impairment specifics accommodations for running an inclusive classroom.
    • Not allowing LSEs for more than 1 year destroys continuity and changing teachers and LSE’ each year is very disruptive
    • The Education Directorate needs to have regular meetings with MFODO to discuss issues before decisions are taken.
    • The need for whole school approach for academic progress through UDL and behaviour through evidence-based whole school positive behaviour support.
    • There should be more push in services into mainstream schools and classes rather than pull out
    • A primary focus of the inclusion process should be building relationships between non-disabled and disabled peers and more involvement of disabled individuals and their parents in decision making
    That said Malta has many examples of good inclusive practice, accessible schools and a willingness to improve practice, which should embarrass the former colonial power -the United Kingdom, whose Government seems determined to reverse Inclusion in England.

  7. Inclusive Education: IDA produces a consensus paper on how to achieve SDG 4 in compliance with CRPD Article 24

    by admin

    Despite some progress in international frameworks and progress in the development of more adequate education laws and policies, there is no certainty that any country for that matter is on track to ensure access to quality inclusive education for all children with disabilities by 2030. In a context of competing priorities and limited funding, it was essential that DPOs come up with clear messages and recommendations, building on the evidence of what works and looking at mechanisms for taking good practices to scale for broader impact.

    As part if its Inclusive Education Flagship initiative (funded by the Disability Catalyst Programme of DFID), IDA and its members created a dedicated technical task team who worked to provide an evidence-based DPO perspective to frame the implementation of SDG 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all) in compliance with CRPD Article 24.

    The consensus document is based on extensive exchanges between IDA members (IFHOH, II, WBU, WFD), dialogue with members of the International Disability Development Consortium (IDDC) and review of literature and in-depth analysis of the Nepal context, including an exchange with Nepalese representatives of disability organizations (DPOs). This document is the result of a collaborative process that lasted 16 months and included:

    • A stock taking workshop with the IDDC IE task group in March 2018 and preparation of a preliminary report on the global state of play of education in general and for learners with disabilities in particular.
    • A comprehensive data collection on Nepal and an in-depth exchange with Nepalese DPOs in March 2019, and interaction with DFID and UNICEF.
    • A workshop in Brighton in July 2019, to formalise this consensus

    This Document is divided into 2 parts:

    • The common IDA Vision for Sustained Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) implemented by 2030 in line with the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
    • The elements of dialogue that contributed to building the common vision (parameters set to frame the exchange and country analysis, key points of general consensus, the “special schools” debate)

    You can access to the documents here:

    • The full text of the consensus paper, validated by the Board of IDA in November 2019
    • A summary version, which was shared with UNESCO’s team in charge of producing the 2020 Global Education Monitor (GEM) report
    • A video by the members of the IDA Inclusive Education task team presenting key points of the paper

  8. My Right is Our Future: The Transformative Power of Disability

    May 13, 2019 by admin

    My Right is Our Future

    2016-2018 CMB consultancy working with Ingrid Lewis of EENET to help develop the resource My Rights Our Future: The Transformative Power of Disability-Inclusive Education.

    Available in English and German 176 pages. Colour printed. PDFs Below:

    English version
    German version

  9. The Crisis in Special Education and Disability (SEND) Funding in the English Education System

    May 6, 2019 by admin

    Just before Christmas the Government added £125m to the Higher Needs SEN Budget for this year and next. This was their response to an unprecedented campaign by parents challenging local authority cuts to statutory funding for their children’s SEN with successful judicial reviews; Headteachers complaining about their inability to support pupils with SEN and a big campaign from the NEU and other teachers’ organisations and charities. But this will not address the structural problems that have been set up by Government cuts of school budgets in general and Government policies which increasingly reduced the possibility of schools successfully including disabled pupils and those with special educational needs (SEND). This has led to a big increase in the proportion of students in special schools, increased exclusions, off rolling and more parents being forced to home educate. What is needed is a completely different approach and only Labour have this.
    “Almost every report that comes out of charities, researchers, Ofsted and the DfE’s own commissioned research – many of which we have covered on SNJ – reports the same picture: Not enough money, not enough SEND in teachers’ training, too many children being excluded, too many poor outcomes for disabled children, rising numbers heading to Tribunal, not enough mental health support in schools, too high criteria for access to CAMHS, insufficient support in mainstream, too, too many children in crisis”. Special Needs Jungle 5th December 2018.

    A cut of 8% in real terms between 2015 and 2020 was predicted. Now we have verification from Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) that total school spending in England has risen by around 1% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18, but pupil numbers have risen by around 10% translating into cuts in spending per pupil in England (8%). The IFS go on to say “if you just look at money that goes directly to schools for pupils up to age 16 then school spending per pupil was protected in real terms under the coalition government and then cut by about 4% in real terms between 2015 and 2017. Our bigger estimated cut of 8% between 2009–10 and 2017–18 includes the additional effects of much larger cuts to school sixth form spending per pupil (25%) and local authority spending (55%). Local authority services include spending on home-to-school transport, additional support for pupils with special educational needs, central administration”.This cut has been increased by the Government’s refusal to pay for the full 3.5% pay award, recommended by the Pay Review Board. Schools will have to find at least 1%. As pay is a very substantial part of school budgets, this effectively takes the reduction up to 9%.

    A National Association of Head Teachers NAHT survey of 600 primary head teachers showed 94% found it harder to resource SEND than 2 years ago and only 2% said top up funding was sufficient to meet Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

    Showing their anger at cuts in real spend of schools, over 2000 headteachers demonstrated in Whitehall on 28th September. High among their concerns was their increasing inability to put in place the provision required by children with SEND.

    One head teacher from Suffolk told how she had been bitten by a pupil this week.”It wasn’t his fault. It was because of a situation outside of school, and his emotional support had been cut two weeks earlier because of the cuts.”She could not give her name in case the pupil was identified, but she added: “We have children who are distressed and angry and we can’t help them.”Another Suffolk head teacher, Kelly Head from Springfield Infants School, said: “It’s head teachers here protesting because there’s no one left. We are using people left, right and centre to cover all sorts of jobs in schools.”

    Stockport head teacher, Jim Nicholson, said he was fed up with hearing this government line.”We have seen how our colleagues are having to lay off staff and our vulnerable pupils are not getting support. We’d all rather be back in school teaching. But we’ve had enough”.

    Some statistics indicate the scale of the problem. The number of children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans or Statements has increased by 35% in five years. The number of children and young people being educated in specialist schools and colleges went up by 24% during the same period. The number of parents taking Local Authority decisions on EHCP to SEND Tribunal has increased from 3,147 to 5,697 registered appeals from 2014/15 to 2017/18 and of those that go to a full appeal 89% are found in favour of parents. In January 2018, 4,152 children deemed to have special needs had not been found a school place (up from 776 in 2010). Latest exclusion data for 2016/17 show 46.7% of all permanent exclusions (6x the rate for non-disabled pupils) and 44.9% of fixed term exclusions (5x the rate for non disabled pupils) are pupils with identified SEN (14.3% of school population).

    To understand how this position has been reached it is essential to understand the mechanisms of how schools are funded and how pupils with SEN are funded. Funding for schools is made up of a number of elements. The DFE give a grant to Local Authorities the Direct Schools’ Grant (DSG).This is calculated on school census data from the previous year and adjusted . The DSG consists of an early years block (£3,542m.), a central services block (£ 460 m) a schools block broken into primary and secondary (£33,683m) and a higher needs block (£6,114m) for SEND. The figures in brackets are the amount distributed to Local Authorities in 2018/19 (total £43,809m). From these amounts relevant money is then recouped for money paid directly to academies and free schools. The money is then allocated to schools.

    However, the Local Authority directly allocate funding to all providers on a per pupil basis. The schools’ budget is made up of amount of money per pupil and some basic money, to this is added a notional £6,000 for additional needs based on various indicators such as mobility, free school meals. This is not ring-fenced and does not have to be spent on pupils with additional needs. However, to get money from Higher Needs Budget the school is expected to have spent £10,000 (£4000 AWPU and £6000 additional funding) on a pupil with SEND and show this is not meeting their needs, before the school can draw down additional funding. Local Authorities vary on how they allocate Higher Needs Funding, but for most there has to be a statutory SEN assessment of the pupil before they can access this extra funding for their provision under their Education, Health and Care Plan (until the 2014 Children and Families Act this was a Statement).

    There are also extra grants such as Pupil Premium, which is based on numbers eligible for Free School Meals on the roll of the school. Special schools get place funded for a minimum of £10,000 per pupil, usually with additional bands of funding. For schools outside the Local Authority or non maintained or independent schools the LA has to pay the full fee. So though only 6% of students are on Higher Needs provision in this sector it takes 14% of the Higher Needs Budget. Overall over the last four years the switch away from mainstream inclusion has cost an additional estimated £277 million.

    The ISOS study for the LGA had returns from 93 English Local Authorities out of 150. They have gone from a net surplus on Higher Needs in 2015/16 to an accumulated deficit of £314 million in 2018/19. If scaled up this is £470 m. Many LAs have been able to vire from other parts of DSG, but this has been largely stopped by Government, or use reserves and there are no more reserves to draw upon. The ISOS Study identifies a number of factors that will exacerbate the funding gap and project a national deficit on higher needs funding of between £1.2 billion and £1.6 billion by 20121. The £125m this year and £125 million for 2019/20 cash injection from Damien Hinds will only slow this deficit accumulation down. The underlying factors need seriously addressing.

    Local Authority Higher Needs Budgets are massively overspent and leading to unlawful reductions in funding for those with statutory Education Health and Care Plans. Parents are challenging this and have already halted reductions in Bristol with a Judicial Review. Surrey and Hackney parents are awaiting the outcome of their Judicial Review. The reduction in school budgets is leading to big reductions in support staff and schools’ capacity to include for example, despite secondary pupil numbers rising by 77,090 from 2014 to 2018, the number of teaching assistants (TAs) has been cut by 6,100. Reductions in support staff mean mainstream schools are less likely to effectively include SEND students.

    Since the 2014 Act, there has been an increase in students with an EHC Plan and where they are educated is changing. For school age students (4-16) this has gone up from 229,390 in 2013 to 253,680 in 2018, a growth of 10%. The 2014 Act extended the age range for a statement or EHC Plan from 3-19 to 0 to-25 years old. This has led to a much larger growth in numbers on EHCPs from 237,111 in 2014 to 319,819 in 2018 . The growth in numbers with EHC Plans has been in primary education 24 %, only 3% in 11 to 15 years, but has gone up 55% in 16 to 19 years and 16% in post 19. No additional funding was added to the Higher Needs budget for the growth in post 16 funding. There has been an increase in the numbers of children with complex needs due to advances in medical science keeping disabled children alive, austerity and poverty leading to greater trauma in early childhood. The pressure on base budgets is making it more difficult for mainstream schools to support children with SEND.

    Although many school staff are still committed to inclusion, national education policies have combined to create an environment where mainstream schools are not rewarded or incentivised to be inclusive. The accountability regime and the new national curriculum with more fact based learning and assessments, inspections, floor targets and Progress 8 do not reward schools that maintain a high level of inclusion. There has been a dramatic drop in secondary schools in particular where academies make up the majority. Between 2014 and 2018 the number of students on SEN Support dropped from 17% (566,120) to 12.3% (399,800). At the same time numbers with a statement or ECHP dropped from 1.9% (59,700) to 1.6% (53,025).

    The Special Educational Needs Coordinator in mainstream schools is a statutory requirement and they have to be a qualified teacher and undergo additional training within three years of appointment. In many ways they are the ‘litmus test’ of how well inclusion is going. Therefore the recent NEU/NASEN survey carried out by Bath Spa University is of interest. Of the over 2000 SENCOs taking part (summer 2018) 74% said they did not have enough time to ensure those on SEN Support (1,022,535) could access provision. Only 34% thought they would still be in the role in 5 years and the main reason was lack of resources and lack of time to do the job.
    Labour are committed when elected to develop an inclusive education system with special educational needs fully funded. But the pressure forcing more and more children out of mainstream must be stopped. To make this happen the high stakes testing, role of OFSTED and narrow curriculum will need to be replaced. Staff will need sufficient training, local authorities must be allowed to build and develop much more resourced provision and central support teams. All schools will need to be brought back under local democratic control. Disability bullying will need to be effectively tackled. The plethora of independent schools siphoning money out of the Local Authority system must be replaced by local provision. Most of all, schools will need to be incentivised and supported to become properly inclusive and this will be much encouraged by creating a collaborative National Education System which is fully funded and equitable.

    Labour Members of Councils need to be coming up with shadow plans about how they will go about developing a fully inclusive education system in their area and what changes will be necessary and what it will cost. We will not be able to do everything at once when Labour form a Government so these plans should outline priorities.

    Richard Rieser
    Islington North CLP Disability Officer and World of Inclusion

  10. Inclusion Working 2017 – Eastlea Community Secondary, Newham

    December 14, 2017 by admin

    A film by World of Inclusion and Eastlea School, Newham.