ALLIANCE FOR INCLUSIVE EDUCATION ON EDUCATION AND ADOPTION BILL BRIEFING AT ANTI-ACADEMIAS ALLIANCE MEETING 22nd June 2015 The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is a national campaigning and information-sharing network led by disabled people. ALLFIE campaigns for all disabled people to have the human and civil right of access to, and be supported in, mainstream education. ALLFIE believes that the whole education experience should be inclusive of disabled learners, both inside and outside the classroom. Disabled and non-disabled learners learning together create opportunities to build relationships and leads to the creation of an inclusive society that welcomes everyone.
ALLFIE’s view on the Academies Programme
ALLFIE first raised its concerns that disabled pupils would be adversely affected as a consequence of the Academies programme, during the passage of the Academies Bill in 2010. Good inclusive education practice can only be achieved by schools working cooperatively, rather than in competition with each other. Now that Local Authorities have lost their role in promoting inclusive education practice, coordination of schools admissions and funding for SEN support services, many maintained schools that have become Academies no longer want to admit disabled children.
Why does ALLFIE reject’s Government’s Academies Programme?
The Department for Education’s own statistics shown a declining number of disabled children on the roll of mainstream school since the roll out of Gove’s unpopular academies programme from 2010. The Independent Academies Commission and the Department for Education figures affirm ALLFIE’s concerns that discrimination is happening – real examples include parents being refused an Academy place for their child because the child is disabled or when disabled children are excluded or transferred into segregated education provision after a maintained school becomes an Academy.
Why does ALLFIE’s reject the Government’s proposals to force academisation onto maintained schools?
ALLFIE does not accept the intention behind this Bill that will classify increasing numbers of maintained schools as failures, thus allowing the Secretary of State for Education to force those schools into becoming academies. As already highlighted academies such as Mossbourne, Harris Crystal Palace have resulted in disabled pupils experiencing disability-related discrimination. .
There is no evidence that disadvantaged children, many of whom we expect will have SEN, benefit from maintained mainstream schools becoming Academies. In fact the reverse is true. The Independent Academies Commission found that disabled children with SEN are excluded or are placed into alternative (segregated) provision, with the aim of preserving the “reputation” of the individual Academies.
“..Academies/chains are setting up Free Schools and alternative provision for their SEN and BESD pupils, so removing them from the performance data of the original academy; and a consequent move away from inclusive practices.”1 Currently parents, teachers and young people must be consulted before the Secretary of State grants a maintained school, Academy status. The benefits of consulting with parents cannot be underestimated. If the Government goes ahead with forced Academy conversion without consulting with parents and teachers there is a real danger that the wrong decision will be made.
Parents and Twydall Together (PATT) have been fighting the academisation of Twydall School. Twydall is a manstream school that takes on a high number of children with complex SEN and PATT have raised real concerns about the ability of Academies and their sponsors generally to have the appropriate expertise to serve the needs of a diverse pupil population. The Twydall example of shows how Academy conversion is driven by Government ideology rather than what is in the best interest of a maintained school that wants to be inclusive of disabled children with complex needs, or indeed the pupil pupil population generally. It is clear that the Secretary of State for Education, despite saying her priority is the education of children, in fact is more concerned with the growth of Academies whether they have the appropriate skills and expertise or not to maintain inclusive education practice.
Promoting parental choice has been a flagship Government education policy since 2010. The Government rhetoric of parental choice states that having a diverse range of schools allows parents to choose between Academies and maintained schools. Forcing maintained schools to become Academies is driven by Government’s ideology rather than parental choice or indeed what might be in the best interests of children or promoting good inclusive education practice.
The Education and Adoption Bill assumes that the most appropriate intervention when a school requires intervention is Academy school conversion. There is no conclusive evidence that maintained schools becoming Academies will automatically result in their pupils achieving higher academic standards. If more maintained schools are required to become Academies then there is a real danger that increasing numbers of disabled children with SEN will be denied mainstream school placements because of the potential to have a perceived negative impact on the school’s academic performance. The unacceptable and systematic disability discrimination that already exists in the Academies sector will increase despite the “presumption of mainstream education” in the Children and Families Act 2014, because the Government has failed to recognise that existing arrangements for Academies allow informal selection of pupils and with greater autonomy for Academies to exclude disabled pupils with SEN or shift them to alternative/special provision within the Academy chain.
To conclude, ALLFIE believes that the Education and Adoption Bill fundamentally breaches the Government’s obligations to promote inclusive education practice under Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Contact: Simone Aspis (Policy and Campaigns Coordinator) firstname.lastname@example.org Tel No 0207-737-6030
1 Academies Commission (2013) “UnLAshing Greatness Getting The Best From an Academies System”