The Inclusion Think Tank Podcast

April 25, 2022

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:

Richard Rieser Keynote for Quest University, Malaysia

December 7, 2021

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

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

Resources and Recordings from the Inclusive Education Festival

March 31, 2021

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

Why Inclusion Matters films

March 15, 2021

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
Episode 2 Forging Friendships
Episode 3 Learners in Progress
Episode 4 Teaming Up
Episode 5  Power to Parents

How We Do School :Finland  Filmed 2018

Episode 1 What’s So Special
Episode 2 Teaching TwoGether
Episode 3 School for All
Episode 4 Out of School Into the World

Why inclusion?

November 9, 2020

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.

Every Learner Matters

September 24, 2020

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. 

Global Monitoring Report on Inclusive Education

June 23, 2020

Download the report here:

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).

COVID 19, Education and Inclusion

June 2, 2020

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!

Sector letter to the Children’s Minister

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

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

April 1, 2020

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

Direct Action at the United Nations Conference of States Parties UNCRPD makes point of principle on Access

June 23, 2019

Delegates to the Civil Society Forum of the Conference of State Parties of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities held on Monday 10th June were told by Mohammed Lofty of DPI who was chairing the afternoon session that the UN had decidded on ‘safety grounds’that wheelchair users who were observers, would not be alloweed to the opening ceremony in the General Assembly Hall on the morning of Tuesday 11th June and that the afternoon and subsequent sessions in Committee Room C they would need to go to an overflow room in Committee Room E to watch proceedings remotely.

This led to a number of delegate observers from the UK Michelle Daley, Anthony Ford, Richard Rieser and Lucy Mason to start a discussion that led to a leaflet and a call for a puicket the next morning
Leaflet given out at UN Picket 11th June 2019

Efforts were made to run off leaflets at the Hotel were delegates were staying and this was bbosted by Fed EX being open until 10 pm wwhere another 200 were printed.

Pictures of thje Picket
Picket at UN 110619

Richard Rieser representing Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance International Committee, the author of the leaflet, was at the UN in the Foyer to give out leaflets at 8.50 am and soon joined by many other delegates and more than 60 mainly wheelchair users joined the picket. Many country delegates to the COSPs took the leaflet and said they would rais the matter inside. Soon officials from the UN came and said it was a mistake and would be sorted out. We said we would not move until the matter was resolved. Fifeteen Min utes later Vladamir Cuk, Chief Executive of International Disability Alliance thanked us and said 20 wheelchair using observers would be allowed onto the floor of the general assembly and 40 in the balcony. This would not have happened without the Action.

This photo shows wheelchair using observers inside the General Assembly
Picket Tuesday 11th June at UN

Wheelchair users can bee seen on right and left of the main floor as a result of the action.

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

May 6, 2019

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

Marsha de Cordova on International Day of Disabled People

December 3, 2018

Successful Lobby of DFE and Petition Against SEND Cuts Tuesday 23rd October read ‘Where Now For Inclusive Education?’

October 25, 2018

Where Now for Inclusive Education
Where now for Inclusive Education?
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion
Progress towards a more equitable society where all can exercise their human rights, is often not straight forward. Powerful vested interests can subtly draw parents into their web, so confusing them about what is in their or their children’s best interests.

Progress towards inclusive education for disabled children and those with special educational needs is a case in point. The current coalition Government says it is committed ‘to removing the bias to inclusive education in our English Education system’ and supports more parental choice while introducing real term cuts across all schools and seeking to break up a thirty year consensus of moving towards more inclusive approaches. At the same time under the smokescreen of ‘choice’ parents and special schools are being urged/bribed to opt-out of Local Authority support and planning to set up Special Academies and special Free Schools.

Under the last Government, after a wide consultation with parents and educationalists, the Lamb Inquiry identified 60 improvements that could be made to the education system for disabled children and those with SEN. Many of these have been ignored by the present Government, choosing instead to thrust the education of disabled children into the front line in their ideological battle to break up state education and prepare the way for much greater private sector involvement.
In the Green Paper ‘Support and Aspiration’, they hold out a panacea of ‘parental choice’, ‘new special school academies’, ‘special free schools’, removal of bureaucracy and the streamlining of the process of assessing needs and providing support, by providing a single assessment of disabled young people aged 0-25, for Education, Health and Care Plans. It can sound seductive to parents who have been fighting to get their disabled children a decent education.

Even Local Authorities that were exemplary in meeting the needs of disabled children are being forced to weaken their services by centrally imposed cuts.The National Deaf Children’s Society recently reported thayt 40% of Las in England have cut the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf. In attempts not to cut class teachers massive cuts programmes have been announced across Children’s Services in nearly every Local Authority over the next four years. For example Barnet, Lambeth, City of Leicester Educational Psychologists are being cut, in Haringey Speech and Language Therapists and Youth Workers across the country. Educational Welfare is a favourite target, as are Behaviour support teams such as in Tower Hamlets and Camden. All this can only be viewed as a cynical exercise to destabilise the provision for SEN and disabled pupils, to open it up to privatisation.

Yet the vast majority of parents of children with statements of SEN, those on School Action and School Action Plus are happy with the provision made for their children. There are currently 1.7 million children in the SEN system and all but 6% are in mainstream schools. There is not a huge rush to the SENDIST to get children placed in special schools. There are 254,000 children with a statement of SEN and 41% attend special schools. In 2009-2010 there were 1408 appeals to SENDIST, which involved where the child went to school, with 443 of these conceded to the parents. This hardly evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with the SEN system, as claimed by the Government.

It is true that a minority of parents, particularly of children on the autistic continuum, are unhappy with the treatment their disabled children receive at school. According to the Council for Disabled Children many who have opted for special school claim to be refugees from the mainstream system where their child was bullied or their needs were not met.
Since 2002 all schools have been under a legal duty to eradicate disability related harassment against disabled pupils, and yet according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission Triennial Review-How Equal is Britain (2010) , 80% say they have experienced bullying at school. Since 2002, all schools have been under a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils in admission, education and associated services and exclusion. Yet exclusion of disabled pupils are 9 times higher than non-disabled pupils and 20 times higher for those on School Action Plus. This is clear evidence of a lack of training and whole school provision to accommodate disabled pupils. Despite rhetoric and policies from the last Government about inclusion, over the last 13 years there were more children in separate segregated settings because of their SEN or impairment than when they came to power.

There were of course many schools where there was an inclusive ethos , positive attitudes and good inclusive practice-around 20% according to OFSTED (2004). A larger number of mainstream schools around 60% were adequate but with much room for improvement. 20% were not implementing inclusive practice. Much of this poor practice results from the old deficit model, as viewing the problem within the child and their impairment-medical model thinking. The good practice is in schools which are prepared to change and adapt policies, practices and curricula, to accommodate different styles and types of learning and assessment. Such schools also have a leadership whose ethos is informed by equalities and inclusion, where staff are supported in resources, staffing and training disability equality from a social model. Interestingly, neither the Education Bill nor the Green Paper address this success of inclusive education or analyses how to make it more widespread and effective, in line with international treaty requirements, such as Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. In addition, the Green Paper says the Government will make it more difficult for parents to choose a mainstream school for their disabled children, bringing back caveats to Section 316 of the 1996 Education Act, which were dropped in the 2001 Act. Therefore, the cost of mainstream education and the appropriateness will be reintroduced, bringing back the position of ‘compulsory segregation’ against the wishes of parent and child that existed before 2002. This fits in with the new harsh approach to exclusion with no appeal, which will lead to an increase in the exclusion of disabled pupils. Already there is much evidence of a disproportionate number of disabled pupils being excluded from Academies.

Teachers need more training on how to run inclusive classrooms. Nearly every class has disabled children. The Government are suggesting that the expertise of special schools is key to developing training for mainstream colleagues on how to include disabled children. This is to misunderstand the specialist expertise of special school colleagues, which by its very nature does not fit into the mainstream setting.

The gains made in the development of inclusive education are now under threat by Government. However, good inclusive practice was always initiated and led by teachers and head teachers, seeking greater equality for disabled pupils and students. It will be harder in the coming months and years, but we are engaged in a struggle for the heart and soul of not only our education system but our society. We will need to keep inclusion as one of our goals for a good local school for every child in every area, rather than the inequality of choice and privatisation.

People Like Us: Anna Sullivan, a Memoir.

October 15, 2018

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World of Inclusion Leaflet to Labour Party Conference

September 28, 2018

Labour Party, UK Commits to Inclusive Education in National Education Service.

Inclusion Leaflet for Labour Party Conference 2018

The Leaflet supported the Reference back by Islington North of the SEND Section of the Policy Review Early Years, Education and Training because it did not committee the Labour Party to developing an Inclusive Education System. Moved by Richard Rieser, Islington North delegate and Director of World of Inclusion. This was unanimously carried.

The wording in the reference back “To ensure the NES, in line with international human rights treaties, is based on the principle of inclusive education, with sufficient funding and staff training to make this a reality” was also contained in a National Education Union leaflet to the Conference.

In moving this Richard pointed out it was Disability Labour Policy and of the Socialist Education Association and the main unions.

In her speech to Conference on the same afternoon Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education stated:

“Too often those who suffer from staff shortages are children with special educational needs and disabilities. So our National Education Service Charter, the result of thousands of submissions from our members and others guarantees it will be truly inclusive.

That is why our Shadow Children’s Minister Emma Lewell-Buck will lead plans to stop those with special educational needs and disabilities from falling out of the school system. And we would back it up with a record investment in modernising school buildings to make sure they are accessible to all who could learn in them.

Providing an excellent education to the many and not a privileged few.”

24th September 2018.

Developing Inclusive Education and Disability Equality : A World of Inclusion Broadsheet for Global Summit July 2018

July 20, 2018

Developing Inclusive Education and Disability Equality for children and students with disabilities

World of Inclusion Response to UK Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into SEN and Disability in England June 2018

June 11, 2018

World of Inclusion submission to the UK Parliament Education Select Committee Special Needs and disability final1

World of Inclusion submission to the UK Parliament Education Select Committee, special educational needs and disabilities inquiry.
1. World of Inclusion Ltd ( Co. No. 07207792 ) is an organisation providing consultancy, advice, training and resources on achieving disability equality and inclusive education to schools and colleges in the UK and around the world. World of Inclusion has considerable experience in identifying and combating disability discrimination, harassment and bullying and developing school and local authority policies promoting disability equality and inclusive practice. We are a DPO and operate from a social/human rights approach. Richard Rieser our CEO is a disabled teacher, writer, trainer, consultant and film maker and has played a leading role in the development of policy and practice for disabled students. He was a contributor to the 2014 SEND Code of Practice with regard to disability discrimination and was at the United Nations contributing to the development of Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and the UNCRPD Committee General Comment No 4 (2016) .
2. Scope of our response Your Committee Chair, Robert Halfon MP, has said ‘One of the primary objectives of the Education Committee is to address social injustice in education. Understanding and addressing the challenges faced by children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is an important part of this work’. Then it is necessary for the Committee to not just examine the impact of the Children and Families Act 2014, Part 3, but also the context created by other Government Policies and the wider International Human Rights’ obligations in the education of disabled children and young people.
3. The UNCRPD, ratified by the UK Government in July 2009, places strong obligations on the Government and devolved administrations with regard to the education of disabled children and young people. All those identified with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are also likely to ‘have a long term physical or mental impairment that has a substantial negative impact on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities’ which means they are disabled. The Government placed a reservation and interpretive declaration against Article 24 and this continues to limit the Article’s scope.
4. UNCRPD reservations When the UK government ratified the UNCRPD in June 2009 it placed restrictions on its obligations. Two of those relate to Article 24. The first changes the UK’s definition of a ‘general education system’ to include segregated education:
“The United Kingdom Government is committed to continuing to develop an inclusive system where parents of disabled children have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff, which have the capacity to meet the needs of disabled children. The General Education System in the United Kingdom includes mainstream, and special schools, which the UK Government understands is allowed under the Convention.” (Interpretative Declaration on Education – Convention Article 24 Clause 2 (a) and (b)).
As someone who helped write Article 24, special schools are not part of inclusive education. The second reserves the UK’s right to send disabled children to special schools outside their local area:
“The United Kingdom reserves the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community where more appropriate education provision is available elsewhere. Nevertheless, parents of disabled children have the same opportunity as other parents to state a preference for the school at which they wish their child to be educated.” (Reservation: Education – Convention Article 24 Clause 2 (a) and 2 (b))
The UK is one of only two countries in the world to place restrictions on Article 24 (the other being Mauritius). This is completely unacceptable and we are working to get these restrictions overturned.
In September 2016, the UN Disability Committee published a General Comment on Article 24 setting out how governments can move towards greater inclusion. The UK has ignored this and remains out of step with the rest of the world.
5. UNCRPD Criticisms of Education in England In August 2017 the UN Disability Committee scrutinised the UK government’s implementation of the UNCRPD. Their findings published in October 2017 highlight the UK’s failings across all the Convention articles, including Article 24, reproduced in Appendix 1 .
6. World of Inclusion submitted evidence to this UNCRPD Committee Review and we concur that the conclusions are justified and seriously be considered by the Select Committee. However, even the UK Government reservation says ‘parents should have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff which have increasing capacity to meet the needs of disabled children’. This has not happened. An increasing number of mainstream schools say they ‘can’t meet need’ when local authorities seek to place disabled children at their school. The Committee should investigate the factors involved.
7. Statistical Trends from data over the last 10 years. A drop in numbers on school support and a rise in numbers and proportion of students with higher needs in segregated special schools.
a) From 2010 to 2017, numbers on school support have fallen in both primary and secondary schools, more so after the 2014 reforms, particularly steeply in sponsored academies. In primary 2012 24%, compared to 14% in 2017. In sponsored secondary academies and free schools the drop over the same period was 26% to 13% . Such differences are not occurring for those with EHCP/statements, which have remained constant at 2.8% .
b) The numbers and proportion of those with EHCP/statements in mainstream have reduced radically since 2007, more so since 2014 and the numbers in special schools have increased by 20,765 or 22.37%. The increase in population has only risen by 6.23% and shows a definite rise in segregation and away from inclusion for this group of students with higher needs. The numbers with an EHCP/statement has also more than doubled . In 2018, 128,144 children and young people with an EHCP/statement were in all types of mainstream schools and 126,960 in all types of special school. If the 2,330 in alternative provision are added, this leads to 50.02% children with higher level SEN in segregated provision than mainstream schools . The presumption of mainstreaming in legislation since 1981 appears to no longer hold. The doubling of Higher Needs learners in independent special schools which are much more costly (7760 in 2007 to 14,065 in 2017) is also of concern.
8. Mainstreaming Section 33 of the C&F Act has a presumption of mainstreaming which is clearly no longer working.“ In a case within section 39(5) or 40(2), the local authority must secure that the plan provides for the child or young person to be educated in a maintained nursery school, mainstream school or mainstream post-16 institution, unless that is incompatible with—(a)the wishes of the child’s parent or the young person, or(b)the provision of efficient education for others.” Article 33 specifies that the local authority in general (3), in particular (4) and governors, proprietors or principals of schools (5) can only rely on an exception if they can ‘show that there are no reasonable steps that they or the local authority could take to prevent the incompatibility’. The very useful statutory guidance Inclusive Schooling was no longer in force from September 2014. This explained how schools should interpret the law around Section 316 of the Education Act, as amended by 2001 Act, whether the school could meet need and what steps they should take to accommodate students. No new guidance was introduced to replace it. However, there are now many other factors making it more difficult for schools to meet need of children with SEN.

9. The SEND reforms are not a leading part of the Government’s education changes. Its policies all militate against the inclusion of children and young people and those with special educational needs. These include:-
a. Setting up more free schools and sponsored academies which have their own admission policies, parents have no recourse to independent appeal panels or the Ombudsman, are reducing numbers of disabled learners and with special needs faster than other schools. This is leading to a large number of new special free schools , academies and alternative provision which are increasing the pressure for segregation against Government international obligations to develop inclusion.
b. The expansion of grammar school places are selective and drain more able learners from the surrounding schools, reducing scope for peer support and peer tutoring.
c. The introduction of a new knowledge based, narrower curriculum with less emphasis on project work and creative arts makes it more difficult to maintain interest and differentiate. The loss of National Curriculum levels with teacher moderation which were effective at identifying progress. The abolition of the p-scales, introduced as a teacher assessment tool in the face of the inadequacies of the 1988 National Curriculum for learners, with SEN working towards level 1 of the NC. The Rochford Report which the Government proposes to replace them with, will provide no continuity or progression for those working below the National Curriculum, instead replacing this with a statutory duty to assess pupils not engaged in subject-specific learning against the following seven aspects of cognition and learning and report this to parents and carers: responsiveness, curiosity, discovery, anticipation, persistence, initiation, investigation.
d. High stakes testing devalues the achievements of those who work below their expected national curriculum level. Progress 8 and Attainment 8 start at 2 NC levels above the previous curriculum level. There is insufficient recognition of alternative qualifications such as entry level, ASDAN or BTEC which evaluate students fulfilling tasks and course work. The Baccalaureate and new GCSEs reliance only on examinations have an echo of a Eugenic past, where intelligence testing condemned generations of people with learning difficulties to institutions.
e. The narrow rigidity of the OFSTED framework does not seem to recognise good inclusive provision and does not value good below expected level progress for learners with SEN. This can lead to the dire consequences of placing a school in a category and creating a fear of admitting students with SEND.
f. Government rigid policy on behaviour not recognising that many impairing conditions can lead to inappropriate or continuing disruptive behaviours, often at a low level, which account for the largest number of fixed term and permanent exclusions. The largest number are those with Social, Emotional and Mental Health impairments (1.84% permanent and 43.23% fixed term). There is little enforcement of the right to reasonable adjustments where impairment impacts on their behaviour, such as anger management, peer support and behaviour support to keep these students in school and allow them to thrive, as required by the Equality Act 2010. Primary pupils in mainstream with school support are 18.6 times more likely to be excluded on a fixed term than a pupil without SEN and 33x more if they have an EHCP/statement. With teenage behaviour, the level of exclusion goes up for the whole cohort, but secondary mainstream students with SEN support are 4.13x more likely to be excluded than those with no SEN and those with an EHC Plan or statement are 4.13 times as likely to be excluded fixed term in 2015/2016 in English schools. Ambitious about Autism obtained figures from Government that show a 44% rise in exclusions from 2011/12 to 2015/16 .
g. The increasing reliance on placing

10. Against the bias to inclusion Governments since 2010 have a misguided and unsubstantiated policy ‘against the bias to inclusive education’ . This has been highly damaging to disabled children in mainstream schools. There was never such a bias, but this policy has acted as a brake on supporting and developing inclusion in our mainstream schools. Throughout this period, at least 90% of children with identified disabilities or SEN have attended mainstream schools until last year. (DfE statistics in 2016 show the vast majority, 90.6 percent, of school pupils and students with SEN are in mainstream schools -121,525 with statements or EHC Plans and 991,980 school support In 2017, this drops to 86% 116,255 with EHC Plans or statements and 915,355 school support. ) The Children and Families Act and subsequent SEND Code of Practice mainly concentrated on the minority with a statement, converting these to Education Health and Care Plans, little addressing the needs of the majority of disabled children in mainstream schools. Section 33 & 34 ensure placement for the large majority without a plan or statement in mainstream school ‘Those concerned with making special educational provision for the child must secure that the child engages in the activities of the school together with children who do not have special educational needs’. Increasingly teachers and schools are finding the pressures from beyond the school are making this difficult. There is not sufficient wholeschool training with grants available and insufficient input on initial teacher training.
11. An emphasis in the reforms on SEN –Assess, Plan, Do, Review hardly compensates. The SEND Code of Practice limits itself to Chapter 1 to talk about disability. But the vast majority of children with special educational needs also tick the definition of disability under the 2010 Equality Act. This definition is not a high threshold and was drawn up in this way to protect from discrimination.

12. A major failure of the reforms was to not give sufficient weight to the Equality Act Duties schools have towards disabled learners, a lack of enforcement and scrutiny of these duties. To be recognised by the school as disabled, the child does not need a medical diagnosis. The school can be told by the parents or surmise this for themselves. Thus, if the school has placed a child/young person on SEN Support, it is very likely that the definition will apply to them. It is also likely to apply to young people with medical needs and mental health issues who are not on SEN support. As soon as the school is informed, they have a duty to make individual reasonable adjustments including providing auxiliary aids and support for those who count as disabled. The duty to make reasonable adjustments is an anticipatory duty.

13. There is a duty on Governing bodies or proprietors of schools, before knowing about an individual, to adjust their policies, provision, criteria and practices to not put disabled people at a substantial disadvantage and take steps to meet the likely needs of disabled learners with the need to make reasonable adjustments. For example, admissions, exclusions, sports activities, school activities and trips, lunch time/after school activities and access to learning, should have been regularly reviewed and adjusted so as not to place disabled people at substantial detriment. This is not happening! The school is under a duty to not discriminate directly, indirectly or on the basis of issues arising from disability, and to eliminate bullying and harassment. Disabled children and young people experience the highest level of bullying and harassment in our schools. The Anti Bullying Alliance focuses on this. Unless school staff and students take ownership of zero bullying, not much will change. The Government does not provide clear advice, training or guidance on these duties.
14. World of Inclusion find that schools and their leaders no longer prioritise this type of training. This compares to our previous organisation Disability Equality in Education, which between 2000 and 2008, provided highly evaluated training to 150,000 teachers and other educational professionals. Independent evaluations demonstrated that this training changed attitudes and practices. It was based on a Social model approach in line with the UNCRPD, to which the Government says it subscribes. There is little evidence of this in the Department for Education edicts, SEND Code of Practice or legislation. This training is essential for the vast majority of schools to take seriously their responsibilities on disability equality or inclusion.

15. If there are breaches in the current Equality Act or presumption of inclusion, it is left to individual parents or the affected young person to apply to the SEN Disability Tribunal for redress. There is no statutory body that oversees schools on implementation such as school inspectors – OFSTED or the Equality and Human Rights Commission should do this.

16. OFSTED have a responsibility for ensuring ALL schools in England have an up to date Access Plan under the Equality Act, 2010 Section, Schedule 10 covering access to the environment, learning and formats other than written English-e.g. Braille, BSL and Easy Read.

17. There is no separate funding stream to schools from Government to implement this legislation. It is not monitored and there is no end date when all schools have to meet access standards. Only new or refurbished have to meet access standards. Lack of physical access or access to the curriculum is regularly used as an excuse to keep disabled students out of the school. This is a breach of Article 9 UNCRPD -Accessibility and the right to temporary adjustments until the necessary structural changes have been made.

18. Funding The current ‘perfect storm’ around SEN funding has to be tackled urgently otherwise the whole structure will be put in jeopardy.
a) Higher Needs Budgets are not keeping up with big increases in demand, partly caused by expansion to 19-25.
b) 4,152 students with an EHC plan are not placed in school in 2017/18 compared to 776 in 2010 .
c) The unlawful practice of off rolling is being widely practiced with upwards of 100,000 learners, mainly with SEN , not in school .
d) The large increase in home education of SEN children has caused concerns to the School Adjudicator .
e) There are at least 4 Judicial Reviews from parents against Local Authorities for proposed cuts in EHC Plan provision.
f) The cuts in SEND school support are massive, with reductions in teaching assistants and specialist teachers in nearly every school to meet budget reductions.
19. Parental Satisfaction with the Reforms.
I n 2008 in a Warwick University survey for the Lamb Inquiry 25% of parents reported they had no confidence in the SEN system for their child. Research commissioned by DFE into parental satisfaction published in 2016 found overall satisfaction but a minority 20-25% not satisfied. A qualitative survey in 4 Local Authorities only it identifies barriers in structures, procedures, skills and resources. Another larger scale survey of parents with EHC Plans completed in 2015 found 33% of parents not satisfied overall. This should not be happening after Pathfinder surveys before the reforms and suggests a similar level of dissatisfaction as in 2008.
20. The Select Committee should be proposing
i) A ring fence on school notional SEN budgets so the money cannot be used for non SEN support. Schools are using their notional SEN budget to cover cuts.
ii) Reversal of school budget cuts. Despite increases in funding this is not keeping up with extra costs or roll rises.
iii) Increase in Higher Needs Budgets to keep up with the increasing demand for EHC Plans.
iv) Mandatory annual training for all teachers on effectively including learners with SEND in the curriculum and school social life. Many teachers continue to say they are not equipped to cope with SEND pupils.
v) Revision of OFSTED framework to include practice on SEN/Inclusion, Anti-Bullying, implementation of Equality Act Duties and school access plans.
vi) Revision of assessment criteria to reward schools financially for the progress of students with SEND.
vii) Valuing alternative continuous assessments and broadening the curriculum to restore creative subjects.
viii) Strong Government guidance on implementing the Disability Equality duties in school, including differentiated behaviour policies linked to earmarked funding for training.
ix) Reinstating powers to local authorities to increase mainstream resourced provision.
x) Mandatory meeting of school staff with parents of students with SEND three times a year. This is not happening.

Richard Rieser CEO World of Inclusion 07.06.2018

Appendix 1 UNCRPD Committee Conclusions on UK Article 24 Education October 2017

“The Committee takes note of the information provided by the State party about its reservation to article 24 (2) (a) and (b) of the Convention in relation to new evidence or research findings.
51. The Committee recommends that the State party withdraw its reservation to article 24 (2) (a) and (b) of the Convention without further delay. The Committee is concerned at:
(a) The persistence of a dual education system that segregates children with disabilities in special schools, including based on parental choice;
(b)The increasing number of children with disabilities in segregated education environments;
(c)The fact that the education system is not equipped to respond to the requirements for high-quality inclusive education, particularly reports of school authorities refusing to enrol a student with disabilities who is deemed to be “disruptive to other classmates”;
(d)The fact that the education and training of teachers in inclusion competences does not reflect the requirements of inclusive education.
53. The Committee recommends that the State party, in close consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities, especially organizations representing children and young persons with disabilities, and in line with the Committee ’ s general comment No. 4 (2014) on the right to inclusive education and targets 4.5 and 4.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals:
(a) Develop a comprehensive and coordinated legislative and policy framework for inclusive education and a timeframe to ensure that mainstream schools foster real inclusion of children with disabilities in the school environment and that teachers and all other professionals and persons in contact with children understand the concept of inclusion and are able to enhance inclusive education;
(b) Strengthen measures to monitor school practices concerning enrolment of children with disabilities and offer appropriate remedies in cases of disability-related discrimination and/or harassment, including deciding upon schemes for compensation;
(c) Adopt and implement a coherent and adequately financed strategy, with concrete timelines and measurable goals, on increasing and improving inclusive education. The strategy must:
(i) Ensure the implementation of laws, decrees and regulations on improving the extent and quality of inclusive education in classrooms, support provisions and teacher training, including pedagogical capabilities, across all levels providing for high-quality inclusive environments, including within breaks between lessons and through socialization outside “ education time ” ;
(ii) Set up awareness-raising and support initiatives about inclusive education among parents of children with disabilities.”
Dr Alison Black Summary of recent trends research-rising special school placement, an academisation effect? In SEN Policy Research Forum May 2018
Office of National Census 2018Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland [Online] Available from:
Statistical First Release Jul 2017
The Carter Review whose recommendations on intioal teacher training were not made mandatory p75Full Lamb Report is relevant here as much of what recommended were ignored in the CFAct 2014 Reforms
DFE 2O16

UN 70 years towards developing inclusion for disabled people

June 8, 2018


Developing an Inclusive Education Policy in the Labour Party

May 23, 2018

Developing an Inclusive Education Policy in the Labour Party Richard Rieser
The 2017 Manifesto committed to developing a National Education Service based on inclusivity. The Labour Party Consultation Document ‘Early Years, Education and Training’, currently (April-June 2018) out for members and wider views, is silent on the Inclusive Education issue. The 2017 Manifesto further stated “ we will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported”. This is again not mentioned in the Consultation Document. The Manifesto also committed to signing into UK Law the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This means developing an Inclusive Education System and removing the current reservations, interpretations and obstacles to implementation of Article 24 –Education. The Labour Party is also committed to a Social Model approach to disability and in education this means developing inclusion.
There is considerable evidence from research in the UK and around the world that including disabled children and young people with the full range of impairments is successful, particularly where well planned, funded and staff are well trained . I have been observing and filming inclusion working across the UK and beyond for the last 30 years and I have witnessed children with multiple impairments being successfully included . It boils down to attitudes and where there is a ‘can do’ attitude it can happen in all sorts of environments. But even where this does not occur, disabled students do better academically than those segregated into special schools. This is the case for those with cognitive and social emotional and mental health impairments, as well as those with physical and sensory impairments. From 1997 to around 2004-2006 the Labour Government had a policy of Inclusive Education but they did not defend it and allowed it to be undercut. The pressures of the Tories, Standards Agenda, reduction in central support teams, high stakes testing and the wish from special schools to expand, all undercut the policy and the Labour Party did not know how to develop and defend it. This must not happen again. See graph below.

The Coalition and Tory Governments had a commitment to end the ‘bias to inclusive education’ and a moratorium on special school closures. Although the Children and Families Act 2014 (Part 3) reaffirmed the presumption of mainstreaming for those children and young people with a Statement or Education Health and Care Plan (ECHP), in 2015, for the first time in 25 years, there were more students in these categories attending provision outside of mainstream than in. The trend has continued with a further increase in students directed/seeking provision outside mainstream. There remains a huge variation by a factor of 9 in the placement of students with a Statement or EHCP in special school environments across different Local Authorities, as is shown in Table 1. This derives from geography-large rural distances to special schools and conscious efforts by local politicians to be more inclusive. Traditional Labour areas generally have high segregation as setting up special schools was seen as something to be municipally proud of. Now this is seen as a denial of human rights.
Table 1 Percent of School Students from Local Authority in Special Schools DFE SFR 22 2017 Mean 1.1039%*
Most Segregating LAs Least Segregating LAs *includes students in
special schools (maintained, academies, independent & non-maintained) Table 5
Torbay 2.06% Havering 0.64%
Stoke-on-Trent 1.87% Kensington and Chelsea 0.56%
Leicestershire 1.86% York 0.54%
Knowsley 1.82% Cornwall 0.48%
Middlesbrough 1.67% City of London 0.38%
Wirral 1.66% Bradford 0.30%
South Tyneside 1.66% Isles of Scilly 0.29%
Stockton-on-Tees1.64% Newham 0.22%

When the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD, was first adopted by the United Nations and ratified by the UK Government in 2009, the meaning of Article 24 and its interpretation lacked clarity. In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted General Comment No 4 . This now has the status of international law and makes it clear what is expected by state parties with regard to implementing inclusive education.
The General Comment states what inclusive education is:-
1. A process of addressing and responding to the diverse needs of all children.
2. Recognises all children can learn.
3. Identification and removal of barriers.
4. Presence, full participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those excluded or marginalized.
5. Builds positive relationships, friendships and acceptance.

Recognition of inclusion as the key to achieving the right to education has strengthened over the past 30 years, and is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (herein after: the Convention), the first legally binding instrument to contain a reference to the concept of quality inclusive education. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 also affirms inclusive quality and equitable education. Inclusive education is central to achieving high quality education for all learners, including those with disabilities, and for the development of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies. Furthermore, there is a powerful educational, social and economic case to be made. Only inclusive education can provide both quality education and social development for persons with disabilities, and a guarantee of universality and non-discrimination in the right to education.

A recent UNESCO publication defined Inclusive Education as a process that helps to overcome barriers limiting the presence, participation and achievement of learners and strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. However, this generalised approach is in danger of missing the development of a pedagogy which also can meet the specific needs of disabled children and young people with different types of impairments.

A useful way of thinking about developing and training for inclusive education is to think about a twin track approach. The first track cover the general inclusion of all excluded and under achieving groups takes a broad brush approach based on General Inclusion Track. In teacher education this involves developing teaching and learning strategies that support: Valuing difference and diversity; Differentiation of materials and methods; Collaborative learning where pupils and teachers work together; Peer support where pupils help each other academically and socially and challenge negative language and behaviour; Flexible curricula as well as the provision of classroom and assessment materials; An anti-bias curriculum that challenges traditional gender, tribal , class and disability perspectives; Sufficient time for meaningful learning and rewarding of effort compared to Individuals previous achievements; The creation of a stimulating and interesting multi-sensory learning environment; A child-centred approach with teacher reflection.

The second Impairment Specific track is based on fulfilling the Article 24 duty to provide appropriate individual support and reasonable accommodations or reasonable adjustments under the UK Equalities Act (2010). This recognizes that the above approaches on their own will not work equally for all children with disabilities, as they require reasonable accommodations and support arising from their impairments. These adjustments are specific to the type of impairment a child/young person has. Within this track, the teacher would learn to identify the loss of physical or mental function with a basic screening tool, and have a working knowledge of the range of adjustments that can be implemented in the classroom. Below is a list, although not comprehensive, of the tools available for teachers to use with their students with disabilities:
a) Visually Impaired or Blind – Glasses, magnification glasses, Braille, tactile maps and diagrams, audio tapes/CDs and text to talk, mobility training, large print documents and paperwork, audio description, modified orientation and creation of fixed points in class, creation of auditory environments, talking instruments, colour contrasts, and identification of hazards such as steps; b) Deaf and Hearing Impaired- Finger spelling and basic sign language, interpretation, Oral-lip reading, basic Hearing Aid maintenance, strong emphasis on visual environment, additional time and support with abstract concepts and maths; c) Deafblind – Some of the tools listed above in a) and b), Deafblind Language, provision of interpreters, creation of tactile environments; d) Physical Impairments -Adapting doorways and furniture, creation of an accessible infrastructure as well as accessible toilet and washing facilities, maintaining safe storage of equipment, provision of personal assistance, diet and medication resources, and rest time space; e) Specific learning difficulties- Creation of colour overlays and backgrounds, providing easy read texts, story tapes and text to talk, allowing the use of spell-checkers, concrete objects, and breaking activities down into small doable steps; f) Speech and Communication Difficulty/Impairment – Facilitated Communication, Augmented Communication low and high tech, pointing, switching, talkers, information grids; g) General Cognitive Impairment- Pictograms, small steps curriculum, easy read, scaffolding, Makaton, symbols, information grids, concrete objects, individual programme; h) Mental Health Impairment- Counselling and personal support, differentiated behaviour policy, empathy, quiet space, circle of friends; i) Behaviour impairment- Circle of friends, structured environment and day, differentiated behaviour policy, chill out space and mentoring. Such pedagogy needs backing up by specialist inclusion teachers working out of local resource centres as peripatetic experts.

The right to inclusive education encompasses a transformation in culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments, to accommodate the differing requirements and identities of individual students, together with a commitment to remove the barriers that impede that possibility. It involves strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. It focuses on the full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized. Inclusion involves access to and progress in high-quality formal and informal education without discrimination. It seeks to enable communities, systems and structures to combat discrimination, including harmful stereotypes, recognize diversity, promote participation and overcome barriers to learning and participation for all by focusing on well-being and success of students with disabilities. It requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy, and the mechanisms for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring of education. The UNCRPD does not mention ‘special education needs’, as this is rooted in an oppressive history based on eugenics and separation that has scarred generations of disabled people.

The UN CRPD Committee highlights the importance of recognising the differences between exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion. Exclusion occurs when students are directly or indirectly prevented from or denied access to education in any form. Segregation occurs when the education of students with disabilities is provided in separate environments designed or used to respond to a particular or various impairments, in isolation from students without disabilities. Integration is a process of placing persons with disabilities in existing mainstream educational institutions, as long as the former can adjust to the standardized requirements of such institutions. Inclusion involves a process of systemic reform embodying changes and modifications in content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies in education to overcome barriers with a vision serving to provide all students of the relevant age range with an equitable and participatory learning experience and environment that best corresponds to their requirements and preferences. Placing students with disabilities within mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to, organisation, curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion. Furthermore, integration does not automatically guarantee the transition from segregation to inclusion, Figure 1. (para 10 GC No.4)

The core features of inclusive education according to General Comment No 4 are :
1. Whole systems approach: education ministries must ensure that all resources advance inclusive education.
2. Whole educational environment: committed leadership introduces and embeds the culture, policies and practices to achieve inclusive education at all levels.
3. Whole person approach: flexible curricula, teaching and learning methods adapted to different strengths, requirements and learning styles.
4. Supported teachers
5. Respect for and value of diversity: everyone welcomed equally. Effective measures prevent abuse and bullying.
1. Learning-friendly environment: accessible environment where everyone feels safe, supported, stimulated and able to express themselves, with a strong emphasis on involving students themselves in building a positive school community.
2. Effective transitions: learners receive support, reasonable accommodation and equality regarding assessment, examination procedures and certification of their attainments on an equal basis with others.
3. Recognition of partnerships and monitoring (para. 12 GC No.4).

The Government have been using academisation and free schools to set up more segregated provision. Local Authorities in England are prevented from making rational planned decisions for SEN provision, both in special schools and in setting up mainstream resource bases and are now being forced to bid to set up free special schools. As of March 2018, there were 264 special school academies, a further 75 applications in the pipeline, 27 free special schools, a further 55 in the pipeline and Alternative Provision free schools 79 open and a further 31 in the pipeline.
A much larger group of students(1.14 million) are disabled with needs to be met in mainstream schools through SEN School Support. However, exclusion rates are 7 times higher for permanent and 6 times higher for fixed term exclusions than those with no SEN. Many excluded students are now in Alternative Provision permanently, rather than short term, as envisaged. Increasing numbers are being unlawfully off rolled and there is also a rise in those being home educated. The fixed term exclusion figure for sponsored secondary academies is three times higher than for non academies. Inflexible behaviour policies-three strikes and you are out, with a failure to differentiate behaviour policies are leading to many exclusions in breach of the equality duties for disabled students.

The funding crisis in our schools is particularly hitting provision for those on school support as teaching assistants and the facility for 1:1 and small group work disappears from our schools. EHC Plans are being cut as desperate Councils seek unlawfully to cut resources to spread them more thinly.
Failure by schools to take seriously their duties under the Equalities Act towards disabled students are leading to increasing discrimination and unfair treatment. Failure to implement the general Equality Duty and to make reasonable adjustments or protect disabled students from harassment and bullying are also helping to make schools less habitable for disabled students. The narrowing of curriculum, getting rid of course work and raising the bar on high stakes testing is leading to an increasing number of disabled children on SEN support being excluded or refused admission on the spurious grounds that the school cannot meet need.
Despite the gloomy outlook many schools are still struggling to provide good inclusive education in a comprehensive approach. See for example Eastlea, Newham ( ) or Emersons Green Primary South Gloucestershire ( ) or Wroxham Primary, Hertfordshire (
How would an incoming Labour Government committed to developing an inclusive National Education Service begin to tackle this increasingly discriminatory, unfair and increasingly privatised education system? The work starts now by discussing and educating the Party and the public on the alternatives and their beneficial effects. At a recent seminar for the Labour Front bench on Inclusive Education arranged by Jeremy Corbyn, presented by myself and Micheline Mason, we put forward statistical indicators of the current increasingly segregated position in many areas. Micheline started by explaining the impact of exclusion and segregation on her life & development and why she was committed to her daughter, who has the same impairment, going to mainstream school. This was about the right to be human . The International Human Rights position was explained and after identifying current barriers to inclusion in England’s school system (figures 2 and 3), discussed some of the solutions needed if Labour were returned to power.
What is to be done?

The current cuts in school budgets are hitting the inclusive practice towards disabled young people particularly hard with cuts in teaching assistants, reduction in bought in specialists and growing class sizes which are leading to increased exclusions both official ( fixed term and permanent) and big increases in off-rolling( unlawful) are leading to a crisis in our schools.
This state of affairs could be the touchstone to connect with a wide mass of parents to argue that another way is possible. Developing values based on human rights and inclusion is the firm foundation to this transformation, but developing confidence in inclusion among schools staff, parents and young people is the key. In electing a Labour Government and implementing a National Education Service based on a principle of inclusion we will need to convince staff and parents that another way is possible and practicable. Running a special school and mainstream system is expensive. It is also wasteful of young people’s potential. As we transition from the current situation to an inclusive system, capacity building will be crucial. Many more resources and expertise can be released to make inclusion work; provided the high stakes testing is dismantled and children’s happiness is at the heart of learning, with a curriculum for all, we will be able to achieve an inclusive, friendly quality education system for all.

In order to prepare now:-
1. Immediately set up a policy advisory group to work on fleshing out important changes.
2. More vigorously challenge current Government.
3. Develop a national and local debate on future education with inclusion at its heart.
4. Challenge current anti-inclusion thinking inside the Labour Party and beyond.
Possible policy changes when in Government:-
1. Remove caveats to Article 24 UNCRPD.
2. Strengthen Parent Carer Forums and Young Disabled People’s Forums.
3. Develop and implement a National Inclusion Strategy following involving all departments in Ministry of Education and Local Authorities.
4. This strategy will need to be at least for 10 years and identify transitional mechanisms for a dual system whilst special and mainstream schools increasingly collaborate and
continually developing the capacity of all mainstream to include wider diversity of pupils and students.
5. Restore SEND funding as part of increasing school funding including a ring fence on school SEN Support.
6. Introduce broad and balanced curriculum, including Equality and the necessity for peer support and collaboration.
7. Replace league table culture with moderated teacher assessment.
8. Introduce Access grant for school infrastructure and curriculum.
9. All schools and colleges fully accessible within 5 years.
10. Set up teacher led national curriculum and assessment review based on principles of Inclusive Education.
11. Challenge disabilist bullying/exclusions. Introduce disability equality into curriculum for all.
12. Develop behaviour policies based on emotional intelligence with differentiation ( No 3 strikes and out)
13. Restore Independent Appeal Panel for School Exclusions
14. Widen remit of the Ombudsman to cover admission of academies and to be the last resort of all complaints in schools and widen brief of Equality and Human Rights Commission to support
cases of discrimination in schools and colleges.
15. Introduce mandatory competencies on inclusive education on all Initial Teacher Training.
16. Require all serving teachers to undertake twin track training on the inclusion of disabled children/students.
17. Reverse Academies legislation. Take all schools/colleges back into local democratic control.
18. Incentivising equalities and inclusion by linking funding to value added for all students.
19. Develop financial incentives for mainstream schools to have resourced provision.
20. Reintroduce maintenance grants for all 16-19 year olds. Work towards all achieving a vocational or academic qualification.
21. Introduce Education and Equality Inspectorate with the power of fining schools in breach of the intentions of the Equality Act.
22. Develop longer term financial and organisational structure for inclusive education involving all providers.
23. Develop and fund more inclusive approaches to 19-25 education and training and link them to concrete measures for preparing for adulthood.
24. Restore and develop the Disabled Students Grant in Higher Education.

The above list is not exhaustive but has been put forward to initiate discussion in the SEA and the wider Labour Party.May 2018
The 2017 Manifesto committed to developing a National Education Service based on inclusivity lp with motion

Films of Inclusion Working

May 23, 2017

Location of films that show inclusive education working for disabled children and young people.

Click the blue tags to see info about each school, and get the link to a video.

This is a work in progress. Please contact us if you have a video you would like to have added.

United Nations select World of Inclusion film for 2016 Disability Film Festival

December 14, 2016

The film World of Inclusion made in 2015 at Emersons Green Primary school
Inclusion Working -Primary was selected for part of the 2016 Disability Film Festival screened at the United Nations on 2nd December 2016 for World Day of Disabled People.


Where Next for Inclusive Education 20th June Conference 2016

May 1, 2016

wherenext flier

Programme for the Day
9.00-10.00 Arriving and working on tables
As people arrive they will record what from their perspective is currently working and not working in light of the Government’s commitment to inclusive education.
10.00 Welcome and Introductions
Tara Flood, Tricia Nicoll, Linda Jordan and Richard Rieser
10.30 Building Friendships for Inclusion
Ella Richardson, Wilf Clark and their friends will talk about how friendship is a vital ingredient of inclusive education
Facilitated by Micheline Mason
11.45 Planning for Inclusion
Colin Newton and Derek Wilson from Inclusive Solutions will demonstrate how assessment can be person-centred and support inclusion

Facilitated by Samantha Clark

12.45 – – – – – Break for Lunch – – – – –

1.30 The Inclusive School
• Ben Wassall, Head Teacher, Chillingham Road Primary School, Newcastle.
• Jill Young, Inclusion Leader, Emersons Green Primary School, Bristol.
• Ana Grigore, Teacher, Eastlea Secondary School, Newham, London
Facilitated by Navin Kikabhai
3.00 Listening to Young Voices
Introducing a new documentary film by and for young people on their experiences of school and how the system needs to change. Q &A with the film makers.
Facilitated by Lucy Mason
3.30 What Next From Today?
We will all discuss what needs to happen in the community, at school and college level, at local level and at national level to make inclusive education a reality for all children and young people
With contributions from Lynne Elwell, Rob Greig, Tara Flood, Richard Rieser

4.30 Finish

To book a place:
To apply for a free place: Email:
Event website

Video of the Day Conference

ATL equality: disabled education staff

February 22, 2016

World of Inclusion provides draft for ATL equality: disabled education staff

This guidance aims to provide an overview of the rights of disabled workers in schools and colleges and provide practical advice for union reps and members on how to achieve equality for disabled staff.

One in five school and college students have some form of long term impairment or special educational need and they benefit enormously from having staff who are themselves disabled.

Many disabled staff have experience of disabling barriers and how to challenge them effectively and develop strong self-esteem. However, if such staff are made to feel uncomfortable or harassed at work they are far less likely to act as positive role models to the school and college community.

This guidance examines the Equality Act definition of disability, issues of disclosure and confidentiality and suggest areas of good practice.

ATL is also committed to influencing greater awareness of mental health issues in education and to tackling the stigma and ignorance often shown by those who still do not understand about mental ill health.

Published January 2016 equality-disabled-education-staff-atl-guidelines published January 2016

Times Educational Supplement 5th February 2016

End the Myth ADD

November 6, 2015

A vital Campaign was launched by Action on Disability and Development yesterday challenging traditional views of disability that are rife in Africa and Asia and are dangerous to disabled people and threaten their lives.

Inclusion Working in 2015

March 28, 2015

World of Inclusion has made a series of films to demonstrate that inclusive education of disabled children is possible in 2015 in schools with the right policies and attitudes.

The films can be seen below:

25 Years of Disability Equality in the Classroom

March 16, 2015

Micheline Mason and Richard Rieser organised a gathering in London for all parents, disabled activists, teachers and allies who have joined together since 1990 to work for the full inclusion of all young people within mainstream education, and to those who are committed to continuing this work into the future.

Below you can see recorded footage of all the presentations, and performances that took place in the evening concert celebration. Also available are the full accompanying powerpoint presentations.


Powerpoint presentations:
Gus John – Disability Equality in the Classroom

Gareth Morewood – Inclusion Presentation

Dame Alison Peacock – Learning without Limits

Richard Rieser Getting Schools on Board for Inclusion

20–21 March 2015
Celebrate 25 years since the publication of Disability Equality in the Classroom – A Human Rights Issue

January 19, 2015

Dear Friend,

Here are the two things you need to have a wonderful time on the 20th and 21st March this year. Please look at the flier and then fill in the order form for your tickets in the second attachment.

You must be sure to:
• E-mail the order form back to me so I know who is coming and can order your lunch and
• go to the CHAIN website – to pay for the tickets using the paypal button.
We are really looking forward to this event and to seeing you there.
All the best,
Micheline and Richard

25th anni flier final
Event ticket order form

Barking & Dagenham Children and Families Bill Briefing

May 7, 2014

Thumbnail image for Barking and Dagenham

In February 2014, Richard was asked to present on the Children and Families Bill in Barking and Dagenham.

See his presentation below:

Barking and Dagenham February 2014

Brighton January 2014

February 3, 2014

Richard talks on disability equality in Brighton January 2014

Richard Rieser was asked to go to Brighton to train the trainers on disability equality in the classroom. At the Brighthelm Centre, he spoke to a room of 40 teachers and education experts about the legal framework under which schools fall and their duty to promote disability equality.

Richard prepared three presentations for three separate groups of teachers and educationalists that sat in on different sessions of the day long training.

See below:

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

South Sudan Inception Report

January 9, 2014

Project to develop inclusion and SNE plan in South Sudan

World of Inclusion has been commissioned by Light of the World as lead consultants to develop an Inclusion Special Needs Education policy framework for South Sudan. Due to the political situation, the initial consultation took place in Nairobi from the 13 to 17 January 2014.

Final Policy Position Paper for South Sudan

Pathway to Inclusion Report

Report on data gathering and analysis of South Sudan’s schools


The Report on the Technical Committee meeting in Nairobi 

Terms of Reference, Special Needs Education and Inclusive Education Policy

Why Inclusive Education? Pamphlet


UK Disability History Month 2013

January 3, 2014

UK Disability History Month logo

The theme for this year is Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation.

Read more at:

United Nations – September 2012

January 1, 2014


Richard attended the Conference of State Parties(3) to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as the delegate of United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council. This was held from 1st to 3rd September at the UN in New York.

Attached is Richard’s report – download.

Richard was asked to contribute from the floor to the Roundtable on Article 24 and its implementation.

His contribution can be downloaded from this website

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

January 8, 2010

Richard Rieser in Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 26th–30th April.

Richard was invited by the Victor Peneda Foundation to take part in leading training for Principals, teachers and supervisors from 10 primary schools. These will form a pilot scheme for inclusive schools from 2009. The course was well received and there was a high level of interest with participants staying past the end time with lots of questions.

Richard’s presentation is available for download.

St. Petersburg, Russia – May 2009

June 9, 2009

Richard led a four day seminar on developing inclusive Education with participants from 5 Russian Cities:- St Petersburg, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Ukhta, Tomsk. This was the third seminar led by Richard under this collaboration with Perspektiva funded by the European Union. A follow up of visits to each City and one day seminars and meetings with officials will take place in Autumn/Winter 2009/2010.

Richard’s presentation is available for download in both English  and  Russian

Also available for download are –

photo group in front of Winter Palace

photo group in front of Winter Palace

photo group in front of river