When is inclusion not inclusive?
Kerry Jordan-Daus, from the Faculty of Education, argues for Special Education to be included in the election policy debates.
As one tweeter said this morning, ‘thank you for running the piece this morning Radio 4 Today Programme on Special Education but it only scratched the surface’.
What’s being talked about in the election campaign season? What are the big education headlines? Grammar schools, school funding, teacher recruitment.
But there is a big issue absent from the education policy discussion. How do we meet the need of children and young people with special need? How do we educate, support and work with our most vulnerable children and young people?
Jarlath O’Brien in his recent book, Don’t Send Him in Tomorrow (2016), captured the plight of our children who are the “marginalised, disenfranchise and forgotten children of today’s schools”.
As a mainstream school teacher, as a teacher educator and as a parent of a child with special education needs, I am coming to the debate with a myriad of understandings and experiences. In my class room of 32 children, I struggled to give the level of expert teaching that the child with SEN needed. My classroom was too noisy, the mainstream school routines were too inflexible, but I tried.
As a teacher educator, I work with the student teachers to develop their understandings and teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of all children. It’s difficult, but we must try.
As a parent I know that my daughter has complex needs, I despair at the paucity of provision to meet these. But she’s lucky, her mum has read the books and knows the theory and is quite successful in getting the system to work. Well I try.
Is educating a child with special needs in a mainstream school how we achieve inclusion? Is a Special School education better? For Zoe Woolhouse, Special School has saved her; listening to the happy, articulate little girl on the radio this morning, that was clearly evident. However, there is cost: local councils paying in excess of £480 million, buying places in the Independent sector because there isn’t the provision in our education system to meet the needs of these children and young people.
So, why are we focusing on Grammar Schools? This is the question our politicians need to answer. The system is already working for these young people. But for children and young people with special needs, it’s not working. As Jarleth highlighted in his book: “They are more likely to be bullied at school than the rest of us, they work less than the rest of us. When in work, they earn less that the rest of us do. They are more likely to have mental health problems” and the list goes on! “Every single indicator of well-being for child or adult in this group is dire.”
Kerry Jordan-Daus is Head of UK and International Partnerships for the Faculty of Education.