After years of policies, acts, debates and disappointment, disabled children may be victims of the new Government’s rush to create more academy schools. This is a warning from director of Alliance for Inclusive Education, Tara Flood.
“The new Academy Bill will certainly reverse inclusive practice” she said, pledging that her organization will be prepared to challenge the forthcoming Academy Bill.
“It doesn’t talk specifically about the disabled children and young people. It talks about more than a thousand state schools becoming academies, and what we know about academies is that they have a very poor track record on the inclusion of the disabled and children with Special Education Needs labels.”
Academies are state schools that move out of the local authority control and can benefit from private investments. About 200 of existing ones were not directly required to comply with the Special Education Needs (SEN) Tribunal Order so far, though the Secretary of State could direct that they are.
The SEN Tribunal system allows parents to seek legal redress if their disabled child is not getting into the school that they want their child to be in, or if the child is not getting the right level of support.
When asked about the issue, the Department of Education would not supply any more information other than unofficial background claiming the academies will from now have to comply with orders issued by the SEN Tribunal and they will have to follow the Admissions Code.
But what they teach within the Curriculum and how they teach will be very much up to the schools, meaning that a lesser number of people will be responsible for these decisions.
DfE’s Business Improvement Manager Cait Mellow claimed they still haven’t set up plans for SEN under the new coalition government and did not have further comment on when it will be on their agenda.
The Alliance’s director’s interpretation of the situation is different.
“What they’re using is what was in the Conservative Party Election Manifesto, so that has become the new coalition government’s Policy. And that Policy is to reverse the bias in favour of the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools. Which is a disaster. Their policy is anti inclusion.”
Figures show that almost 1.7 million children suffer some form of learning difficulty, behavioral problem or physical disability.
“It is a global commitment,” continued Flood, “that this government will be monitored on, on a regular basis, as with other human rights treaties. We have a government that has no real interest in equality or human rights”.