“Breathing New Life Into Personalisation”
Inclusion in Education
Date: Wednesday, 20th March 2013
By Michelle Daley
(Presented at the Personalisation Expert Panel Conference 2013 in Hampshire)
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your Personalisation Expert Panel Conference. I have been asked to present on Personalisation and Inclusion in Education and to share examples of support provided for disabled Students in further and higher education. As someone that attended both segregated special school and was lucky enough to find an accessible mainstream college and university to further my academic studies this subject is close to my heart at a personal and professional level.
Education is one of the most important part of human development besides academic learning it provides social and survival skills and I certainly received a huge awakening on my first day at college. I did not share the experiences of mainstream young people I was alien to it. As the song by Sting, from his 1987 album said "I'm an alien I'm a legal alien, Englishperson [Englishman] in New York" this was me. It might be a crude analogy the truth be it I was lost but the irony I was lost in a society in which I was raised. This example clearly shows the cause and effect of segregated special schooling.
During my presentation I will draw on points like this to help inform the discussion I intend to look at: the impact of segregated education, the role and impact of legislation and question what personalisation and inclusion in education symbolises. I also aim to show that personalisation can be important components to achieving inclusion in education and it should not be separated from our basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.
Although there has been a huge improvement with education provisions over the years the reality is that many of the mainstream schools, colleges and universities continue to remain inaccessible and unprepared to accommodate the needs of disabled students within their settings. Therefore far too many disabled students are left with little choice but to attend segregated education provisions. Vic Finkelstein and Dr. Ossie Stuart co-wrote a chapter in Beyond Disability looking at some of the causes of our [disabled peoples] dependency they argued that one of the most “devastating consequence has been segregation in special schools where the curriculum and preparation for adulthood are guided by a perspective of long-term dependency on carers, permanent unemployability compensated for by a holy quest for meaningful leisure activities, and an end goal of isolation from public view” (1996, p.178). They continue to give other examples of American Laws and showed the consequences for disabled people in terms of being described as unemployable as “an inability to engage in substantial gainful activity” (1996, p.178). While we [in Britain] might have laws to prevent these practices statistics would suggest the contrary; this type of behaviour continues to remain a sad reality for far too many disabled people.
It is clear that the problem of producing educational institutions in this way perpetuates wrong messages to employers and others that we disabled people are inadequate and as Mike Oliver says it “legitimates discriminate” (1996, p.64) and as a result “disabled people are more likely to be out of work” or on low pay or poor working conditions than non-disabled people.
In order for us [disabled people] to achieve independent living and to access services we are often dependent on legislation and the exact interpretation included in the legislation. And as we know from our experiences legislation can have a range of effects in terms of the basic services offered and the definition of the people entitled to benefit.
For example while it was the intention of the Education Act 1944 for disabled students to be educated alongside their peers however it was the 1946 Education Act (22 May 1946) that made amendments to the 1944 Education Act for the establishment of segregated special education based on 11 medical categories which included impairments such as: Blind, deaf, epilepsy, physically impairment, Learning difficulties these impairments were considered as severely disabled and were to be segregated in special schools. Children with other impairments might attend mainstream schools if adequate provision for them was available (Warnock, 1978). The arrangements of these provisions were set up to incarcerate disabled people from the everyday life of society and did not give disabled people any right to a proper education. As we know new legislation is being introduced all the time and with each new legislation we can only hope it will have a positive impact on our lives.
When thinking about our “inclusion in education” some of the other problems we have is often services are provided for us rather than with us and thus placing the service at the centre. For many disabled students it is very difficult, if not impossible where assessment budgets are fixed and the disabled student has to try and fit their needs into the provision and resources available as with Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). In a conversation I was having with Tara Flood the Director for Alliance for Inclusive Education highlighted some of her concerns regarding the way in which disabled students that require support are supported by colleges and Universities. She said “the problem we have at the moment is colleges hold the funds and are more likely to fund discrete courses rather than invest in supporting individual disabled students they consider this to be too costly for them” and thus “are more likely to run segregated course.” As I speak a young woman in the London Borough of Newham with Learning Difficulties is in dispute with her local six form college because they have refused to enrol her onto a mainstream course. The college argue that she would be better suited on one of their discrete courses but as Tara Flood explained her exclusion relates to finance and remains a huge barrier for far too many disabled students. Tara Flood continued to explain another problem with the Disabled Student Allowance she said “there is an age restriction from 16 to 55 years old which I am sure this could be challenged under the Equality Act”.
In an attempt to address the educational barriers the Government sets out to reform the Special educational Needs support to legally make Education, Health and Social Care work together. The reform will give Children and Families Personal Budgets, it will replace Special Educational Needs statements to Education, Health and Care Plan and will be from birth to 25 year olds it has its restrictions for example it cannot be used to fund university studies.
As we can see assessments that are mutably connected to our basic human rights that are:
- bound to resources
- where budgets are fixed
- where budgets have rigid conditions
- and where budgets are managed internally.
These practices are inconsistent and contradict the core principles of personalisation and cannot and will never achieve inclusion in education. I am of the view that inclusion in education can only be achieved when the most excluded student becomes included within the mainstream learning. Until this happens many disabled students will continue to be denied a right to a proper education.
Therefore it leads me to question whether we can truly achieve real and meaningful “inclusion in education” with such a rigid and bureaucratic system?
When we think about “inclusion in education” what does it symbolise to you? Let us explore it:
- Taking action to remove barriers
- Eliminating discrimination
- Promoting equality
I wanted to find out what others had to say so in an attempt to answer this question I carried out a small experiment by asking friends of my Facebook what are their views. Here is what some of them had to say:
- “Mainstream for those with a purely physical disability for sure. With severe learning disability it's less clear cut.”
- “Each case is individual and should always be considered with the child's best interest not just the wants of the parents…”
- “Giving every child opportunities and letting them to be informed that everyone could be so different.”
What continues to remain clear to me is if disabled people are to really be included and be part of society then education should not and must not be separated from the other basic human needs. I am of the view that the discourse of personalisation is about a paradigm shift of service delivery that eliminates provision-led to needs-led of meeting the needs of the disabled student. This approach should also be applied to service structures for service provisions. I also recognise that existing structures need to be moved away from the term ‘special’ as our needs should not and must not be defined as ‘special’. Personalisation is a new approach and should be recognised as a positive move forward that challenges old ways, bad practices and creates relationships between service provider and users of services to enable and help attain a normal life-style that is not based on hammering disabled people to fit into wrong shaped holes!
I hope personalisation will have a real impact for everyone that will enable individuals to achieve their right of entitlement to a proper education and in turn increase opportunities. ‘Personalisation’ and ‘inclusion in education’ is a human rights issue and disabled people should have an equal chance to all aspects of education provisions.
I hope that personalisation is the new fresh take on thinking about meeting the access needs of disabled people. I hope Personalisation can be the vehicle for new development in service provisions and service delivery for everyone that is under the interest of disabled people. I am with real change and certainly do not want patch work change.
- Finkelstein, V and Stuart, O. (1996) Developing new services. Beyond Disability – Towards and Enabling Society. In: Hales, G. eds. 1996. Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments. Sage Publication, London
- Oliver, M. (1996) Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. Macmillan Press Ltd , London
- Warnock (1978) Special Educational Needs Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the education of handicapped children and young people. London, HMSO