1. The Inclusion Think Tank Podcast

    April 25, 2022 by admin

    The Inclusion Think Tank Podcast is presented by New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE). This podcast features conversations with inclusive education experts and advocates to discuss the impact of inclusion in schools. It serves as a resource for educators, school administrators, and families who are seeking additional knowledge about topics related to inclusive education.

    NJCIE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves parents and educators in New Jersey. Established in 1989 by professionals and parents, it is the only nonprofit organization in New Jersey with the sole focus on inclusive education and provides needed expertise to schools and educators on how to include students with disabilities into school communities and classrooms with dignity and equality. NJCIE supports inclusive education for all students as a fundamental civil right and views inclusion as a means to creating an equitable, socially just democratic society.

    Listen to all 13 episodes in the playlist below:

  2. Richard Rieser Keynote for Quest University, Malaysia

    December 7, 2021 by admin

  3. National Education Union lights a beacon to fight to build and protect our inclusive mainstream education system for children and young people with SEND.

    April 12, 2021 by admin

    Last Thursday 8th April the largest Education Union in the UK, the National Education Union voted, with only 1 abstention and none against, to build a broad based campaign to address disability in schools in England and Wales for both students and staff. The motion was moved on behalf of the Disabled Members’ Conference by Richard Rieser, a veteran disabled campaigner, teacher and consultant who runs World of Inclusion and is the Equality Officer in the NEU Hackney District.

    Richard said:
    “This is a great day for the Union, disabled people, parents of disabled students and education in general to achieve unity on such a wide ranging motion. Clearly a range of Government policies on curriculum, assessment, privatisation, real term funding cuts, disproportionate exclusion rates and failure to implement disability equality duties under the Equalities Act have meant that disabled children and young people are being let down by the mainstream school system. These outcomes, when combined with race and poverty, lead to multiple failure.

    Meanwhile the growth in Local Authority’s placing disabled children in expensive independent schools is causing a great financial strain on Local Authority Budgets. 

    The Conference agreed to build a widespread campaign for better treatment of disabled staff and students and to achieve a well-resourced mainstream inclusive education system, sufficiently funded and trained staff, where all can thrive”.

    The motion was strengthened by an amendment from Colleen Johnson, Executive Member representing Disabled Members, to develop a framework of Disability Equality to challenge stereotypes, negative attitudes and feed into the curriculum and for this to have a high profile launch.

    See motion below Addressing the Crisis of Disability Equality in Our Schools
    On Friday 9th April the NEU also adopted a near unanimous vote a strongly worded motion on SEND Funding and Mental Health from Stockton and Durham prioritised by many Districts across the country. The motion reproduced below notes the bleak position on SEND budgets with Local Authorities at breaking point; that schools are struggling to fulfil their commitments to children and students with SEND under the Code of Practice; that schools have no specific funding allocated to them for students with SEND, with more inclusive schools penalised; that for many of these students COVID 19 has disadvantaged them further; that real terms cuts have disproportionately hit support staff and are undermining schools’ abilities to meet SEND and mental health; that Higher needs funding is insufficient, leading to top slicing of schools’ budgets and an Education Health and Care Plan if eventually agreed does not automatically lead to the funding required to meet needs.

    The motion then instructed the national Executive to urge the government for an immediate increase in funding to all schools and colleges; to ensure sufficient trained therapists and professionals are available to support all those needs;

    to carry out an evidence based review for higher needs funding to support all with SEND and Mental Health; to ensure support for members, parents and other campaigns for proper SEND funding, campaign for the further development of good SEND provision in mainstream and alternate provision; that all EHCPs are properly funded and end the transfer of funding from one Block to another by properly funding all SEND and mental health needs. A successful amendment moved by Emma Parker from Durham set up a SEND organising forum and highlighted the underfunding of post 18 students with EHC Plans, so preventing them achieving their legal entitlement to training and education up to their 25th birthday.

    See Policy on SEND and Mental Health below.

    These two progressive policy outcomes together with successful motions for a moratorium on exclusions, especially for black students and those with SEND (interpreted by the General Secretaries of NEU to be for all students apart from those accused of serious violence to staff/students or sexual harassment), means adequate training and support to prevent exclusions; the revision to a broader based child friendly curriculum which is more recognising of diversity, replacing narrow league tables and tests with teacher assessment, replacement of OFSTED and replacement of GCSEs and A Levels with more flexible assessment suited to a wider variety of students. The National Education Union now has a full range of coherent policies to support SEND and Disabled students which can lead to the development of a progressive, egalitarian and inclusive education system capable of meeting the needs of all our students. All the narrow government education policies were challenged at the NEU Conference. If the above alternatives were implemented the barriers would be removed which are increasingly making our mainstream schools uninhabitable to children and young people with SEND.

    Now we have to build a broad based campaign with parents, other unions and the community to get a fully funded and inclusive education system where all children and students can thrive. The publication of the Green Paper on the SEND system in May will be a first opportunity to build this mass unity.

    Addressing the Crisis of Disability Equality in Our Schools

    1. With concern the unfavourable treatment of disabled staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, including failures to make reasonable adjustments for those at high risk of infection. This treatment reflects an ongoing failure to eliminate discrimination and harassment against disabled staff.

    1. Schools are generally failing to observe the General Equality Duty towards disabled staff and pupils required by Section 149 of the Equality Act, where Responsible Bodies need due regard to i.e. eliminating discrimination and harassment of disabled staff and pupils in all decision making.
    2. The failure of many schools to provide effective education to pupils with SEND, often blaming the pupil for the school’s and Government’s systemic failures. In particular, the disproportionate exclusion of pupils with SEND, off-rolling, insufficient differentiation of curriculum and assessment. While we note the Education, Legislation maintains a presumption of inclusion, to which the Union is also committed; the reality is high levels of disablist bullying, increasingly schools saying ‘they cannot meet need’ and the building of new special schools, growth in the proportion of SEND pupils attending special schools/alternative provision, while SEND budgets in real terms are reduced.
    3. The recent report from ALLFIE showing schools are largely failing to have effective statutory Access Plans (Schedule 10 Equality Act). They are inadequate, often not annually reviewed, consulted upon with pupils and parents, containing information on improving access to the curriculum, not removing physical and information barriers for disabled pupils at the school.
      Conference instructs the Executive to: –
      a) Campaign to collectivise the treatment of disabled staff and change school culture to support them.
      b) Build with unions, parents and disabled people’s organisations a campaign for a properly funded inclusive education system, to achieve adequate SEND funding, large scale staff training on inclusive pedagogy, a curtailing of normative testing, revision of curriculum and assessment and accessible schools, so disabled pupils and others can thrive.
      c) Mount a high-profile NEU campaign to achieve disability equality for staff and pupils in all our schools.
      d) Create a Disability Equality Framework that enriches the curriculum by challenging both negative attitudes and stereotypes.
      e) Provide a well -advertised national launch event for the framework, that involves Disabled members, with regional events to follow which promote the framework by illustrating good practice”.
      Carried as amended National Education Union Conference Thursday 8th April 2021
      837 For 0 Against 1 Abstention

    SEND Funding and Mental Health (Composite)
    Conference notes:

    1. The picture facing schools and colleges supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is bleak, with budgets at breaking point and severe cuts to health and social care provision.
    2. Schools are struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils and the lack of sufficient funding and a more coherent approach are rendering the SEND code of practice is nothing more than an empty promise from government to parents and students.
    3. One million of the recognised 1.28 million students with SEND do not have any additional funding afforded to them, and therefore the financial burden of additional support penalises those schools that are the most inclusive.
    4. Students across the UK have also had their lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic and have had to adjust to dramatic changes in their education, routine and home life. Some have experienced bereavement or other traumatic experiences
      during the lockdown, while groups who were already marginalised or disadvantaged are now likely to become more so.
    5. The real terms cuts to mainstream funding have led to cuts in learning and pastoral support staff and access to specialist support, which is undermining the ability of schools to support their students with SEND and mental health and is failing our students.
    6. Conference notes that High Needs Funding is insufficient for the number of, and needs of, children with SEND.
    7. Conference further notes that school budgets continue to be top sliced, through local Schools Forum agreements, in order to make up the shortfall in the High Needs Funding block. This takes much needed funding from one already underfunded block to support
    8. Conference understands that even if a child has an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP), the school or college they attend may not automatically be given the funded needed to support the child. An additional application is sometimes needed to obtain High Needs Funding.
      Conference instructs the Executive to urge the government to:
      (i) Work with the Union to undertake a full, evidence-based review of current and future demand for high needs funding to support students with SEND, and of the real cost of supporting students with SEND and those with mental health concerns
      (ii) Agree an immediate increase in funding to all schools and colleges
      (iii) Ensure that there are sufficient trained therapists and professionals available to support SEND and mental health needs of students.
      Conference further instructs the Executive to:
      a. Undertake a survey of members, to ascertain the situation of SEND students and those experiencing mental health issues.
      b. Support members, parents and others campaigning for proper funding and support for SEND students and those experiencing mental health issues.
      c. Conduct an enquiry as to how much money has been transferred from school budgets to support High Needs funding.
      d. Campaign for the further development of good SEND provision, both in mainstream and in alternative settings.
      e. Call for EHCPs to automatically come with the required level of funding needed to properly support a child with SEND.
      f. Continue to campaign for properly funded school and college budgets, including proper High Needs funding, to ensure budgets are no longer transferred from one block to another, allowing funding to be used for its intended purpose.
      g. Set up a SEND organising forum for members in Specialist, alternative provisions and those who support SEND students where they can meet virtually on a termly basis to discuss issues arising and organise activist and community-based campaigns.
      h. Highlight the inequalities older students and families are facing around benefits and access to educational provisions. EHCPs are for students 0-25 Years old however many families are unable to access support and provisions once they reach 18”.

    Carried 801 For 6 Against , 1 abstention

  4. Resources and Recordings from the Inclusive Education Festival

    March 31, 2021 by admin

    Watch the online sessions which took place during NDTi’s Inclusive Education Festival, 15-19 March 2021. During the week, there were eight sessions to showcase great stories where inclusion really works and what needs to happen to ensure a more inclusive society.

    View them here

  5. Why Inclusion Matters films

    March 15, 2021 by admin

    Some excellent films on Inclusion in British Columbia and Finland made about the visits of two Early Years educators from Singapore seeking alternatives to the rigid, assessment driven high stakes testing of Singapore by the Lien Foundation. I recommend them highly. 

    Richard Rieser CEO World of Inclusion Ltd

    Why Inclusion Matters

    Inclusive education values children as individuals and enables them to belong, participate and achieve their full potential regardless of their learning differences. It is the basic building block of an inclusive society.

    Schools are places where we need to start cultivating skills such as social sensitivity, collaboration and the ability to work with others who are different. There is strong, consistent evidence that an inclusive education – where children with special needs learn alongside typically developing peers with adequate support – benefits all children.

    A review of 280 research studies from 25 countries by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found those with special needs who are educated in mainstream settings make greater gains in all areas of development than their peers in segregated settings. For typical children, being educated alongside a child with a special need does not lead to negative consequences. In fact, they gain academically and socially from inclusion over time.

    Beyond locating these children in the same classrooms, effective inclusion requires educators to develop a better understanding of their strengths and provide multiple pathways to learn. Such efforts can help to break the boundaries between “mainstream” and “special” education and broaden the repertoire of skills, pedagogical practices and capabilities in schools to deal with diversity more effectively.

    What is “How We Do School”

    An initiative of the Lien Foundation, How We Do School is a nine episode series of short films that explores how Finnish and British Columbia schools address the increasingly diverse learning needs of its students and what we can learn from them.

    We took two Singapore educators from the early childhood education and special education sectors – Dr Jacqueline Chung, Senior Principal and Academic Director at St James’ Church Kindergarten and Ms Tan Sze Wee, Executive Director at Rainbow Centre – to Finland and British Columbia to learn their journeys towards greater inclusivity and equity in its education system. By showing what is possible, we hope this can in turn inspire Singapore and inform ways that we can go about making inclusion more of a reality.

    Why British Columbia?

    Canada, similar to Finland and Singapore, is ranked highly on global education indicators and regarded as a leading nation in the area of inclusive education and disability.

    Ideas about inclusive education have developed over the decades. British Columbia, one of the 10 provinces in the country with a similar population as Singapore, began with separate schools run by parents of children with disabilities in the 1960s. It moved quickly to segregated classrooms within public schools, and eventually to schools where students with special needs are included in regular classrooms with other typical children. By the early 2000s, there were no more special education schools in the province’s , as policies shifted to resource classroom teachers appropriately with assistants and access to professionals like therapists and consultants in special education.

    Families were the primary force behind this move as they advocated for their children with special needs to attend school in their neighbourhood and receive the support required for their children to be successful in regular classroom settings, instead of segregated programmes. Since the 1950s, ground-up groups like Inclusion BCFamily Support Institute and PLAN, run by professionals who are parents of children with disabilities, have journeyed with government to empower families after them and progress standards of inclusion in schools. There is much to learn from British Columbia, which has made inclusion a hallmark of its educational system, as its stakeholders navigate shrinking budgets and political changes to get students and teachers the support they need.

    Read More: The Big Read with TODAY Online

    Why Finland?

    Finland, like Singapore, is ranked highly on global education indicators. At the same time, it is based on equity and idea of ‘education for all’, which have been key drivers in developing an inclusive education system. The country stopped building special education schools back in the 1990s and has since moved to close down many of these segregated schools over the years.

    In fact, its three-tiered system of support to meet the diverse learning needs of its students is built into its mainstream education system and is often cited as one of the key factors behind the country’s high equity and high performance in international comparisons.

    While the number of students requiring special education hasn’t decreased, it was a strategic move to provide special education within mainstream school class settings. Finland’s journey offers insights on how we can improve and calibrate our education system to stay relevant as we gear all children to be productive members of society.”

    Read more: Learning for all, the Finnish way with The Straits Times


    How We Do School: British Columbia Filmed 2019 

    Episode 1 Bridging the Divide https://youtu.be/XT0n5uTSjyY
    Episode 2 Forging Friendships https://youtu.be/vTxm5Rx36F8
    Episode 3 Learners in Progress https://youtu.be/xVfUseGt5IY
    Episode 4 Teaming Up https://youtu.be/f-5poIBv44E
    Episode 5  Power to Parents https://youtu.be/1mH0LIOfwhw

    How We Do School :Finland  Filmed 2018

    Episode 1 What’s So Special https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aheDzMrKuEM
    Episode 2 Teaching TwoGether https://youtu.be/6RJ-Y3xmyFo
    Episode 3 School for All https://youtu.be/ceWeIKLfgv8
    Episode 4 Out of School Into the World https://youtu.be/WI-OlkoLDEk

  6. Why inclusion?

    November 9, 2020 by admin

    A comprehensive and inspiring guide for mobilising peer support to include children with complex needs

    In just 40 minutes learn why inclusion in mainstream education is so important for disabled children and those with complex needs. We clarify the academic, social and human rights benefits of not being segregated.


  7. 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. 

  8. 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).

  9. 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!

  10. 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