Inspiring feedback from a mum about the work and encouragement from the Inclusive Solutions team…
You helped me when my son was struggling at school and fighting for his statement to be appropriate to his needs without excluding him from mainstream school. I wrote a couple of articles for you in the past that were published for many years on your website. I thought that I would write to thank you for the huge difference you made to us, knowing that people believed in inclusive solutions in the same way that we did.
I was told that my son would not talk, he talked. I was told that my son may not walk well, he walks well. I was told that my son had a profound disability and that he needed specialist schooling. He went to mainstream school. I was told at every stage of college life that he would not cope and achieve his qualifications. He has coped and achieved his qualifications. I was told that I was being overly optimistic when I said that my son would live independently, have a partner and a family. My son is now 20 years old and is learning to be independent, he can cook with limited supervision, put dishes in the dishwasher, clean, use the washing machine and the lawn mower. He is learning independent travel programmes and he can now go to visit his girlfriend without support. He is learning more responsibilities as a result of the constant promotion of his independence and refusal to remove him from his community and society. Always believe that things can improve as long as there is family, community and society to support development and achievement.
In addition to the human rights and principled imperative for inclusive education, there is a powerful educational, social, and economic case to be made. Indeed, the OHCHR Thematic Study of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2013) has affirmed that only inclusive education can provide both quality education and social development for persons with disabilities, arguing that it is the most appropriate modality for States to guarantee universality and non-discrimination in the right to education.[i]
- The educational case: The focus on inclusive education in individual educational planning and cooperative learning strengthens teachers’ competences. Research also highlights that supporting children with disabilities, regardless of their age, in inclusive environments leads to an improvement in the quality of education as it becomes more person-centred and focused on achieving good learning outcomes for all children, including those with a diverse range of abilities. Children with disabilities, for example, have greater overall gains in academic outcomes and behaviours in inclusive environments than their peers with similar disabilities in segregated classrooms.[ii] Furthermore, when teachers are educated to include children with disabilities, the level and standard of learning for children with both with and without disabilities increases.[iii]
- The social case: Inclusive education contributes to the creation of a culture of diversity, participation and involvement into community life for persons with and without disabilities, teachers and others in the school environment as well as the wider society. Through experience of learning and playing together, all learners, together with their parents, families and caregivers, are encouraged to learn tolerance, acceptance of difference and respect for diversity, leading to eliminating stigmatization and exclusion. Inclusive education also provides learners with disabilities with greater independence, social skills, and opportunities to become productive members of their communities and exercise their rights to participate and become involved in their societies.
- The economic case: educating persons with disabilities is a positive investment, reducing poverty and exclusion from active participation in the economy. Opportunities for quality inclusive education will lead to reduced current and future dependence, and reduced caring responsibilities
[i] A/HRC/25/29 para 3
[ii]MacArthur, J. (2009). Learning Better Together: Working Towards Inclusive Education in New Zealand Schools. http:// www.ihc.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/learning-better-together.pdf; Wang, MC and Baker, ET (1985-1986). Mainstreaming programs: Design features and effects. Journal of Special Education, 19, 503-521.
[iii] Mitchell, D. (2010). Education that Fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs. Christchurch: University of Canterbury. http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/86011/ Mitchell-Review-Final.pdf
Had you noticed this paragraph (25) in the UN General Comment on the Right to Inclusive Education?
It’s the section where they are noting what they perceive to be some of the barriers that are impeding access for persons with a disability to inclusive education(they mean mainstream or what they call ‘regular learning environments’).
IT”S OFFICIAL- standardised testing is the wrong thing to do if you want inclusion – time for a bonfire of all the tests – the UN says they ‘must be replaced’ – how ‘official’ do you need it to be?
“Curricula must be conceived, designed and applied to meet and adjust to the requirements of every student, and providing appropriate educational responses. Standardised assessments must be replaced by flexible and multiple forms of assessments and recognition of individual progress towards broad goals that provide alternative routes for learning.”
In paras 16 they amplify this when they caution against what they call a ‘deficit’ approach:
The education of persons with disabilities too often focuses on a deficit approach, on their actual or perceived impairment and limiting opportunities to pre-defined and negative assumptions of their potential. States parties must support the creation of opportunities to build on the unique strengths and talents of each individual with a disability.
And in para 18 they caution against excluding anyone because of the degree of their impairment:
Paragraph 2 (a) prohibits the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the general education system, including any legislative or regulatory provisions that limit their inclusion on the basis of their impairment or its “degree”, such as by conditioning their inclusion “to the extent of the potential of the individual”, or by alleging a disproportionate and undue burden to evade the obligation to provide reasonable accommodation. General education means all regular learning environments and the education department. Direct exclusion would be to classify certain students as ‘non-educable’, and thereby ineligible for access to education. Non-direct exclusion would be the requirement to pass a common test as a condition for school entry without reasonable accommodations and support.
Finally this part (Para 10c)of their definition of what they mean by inclusive education is brilliant
(inclusive education is to be understood as) …”the primary means by which persons with disabilities can lift themselves out of poverty, obtain the means to participate fully in their communities, and be safeguarded from exploitation. It is also the primary means through which to achieve inclusive societies.’
Inclusive education can be understood as:
- a fundamental human right of all persons with disabilities.
- a means to achieve the full realisation of the right to education and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights.[i]
- a principle that values the well-being of all students, respects their inherent dignity and acknowledges their needs and their ability to make a contribution to society.
- a process that necessitates a continuing and pro-active commitment to the elimination of barriers impeding the right to education, together with changes to culture, policy and practice of regular schools to accommodate all students.
General Comment no. 4
The right to inclusive education
UN General Comment on the Right to Inclusive Education
Convention on the Rights
2 September 2016
Advance unedited version
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – General comment No. 4 (2016)
Article 24: Right to inclusive education
1 Historically viewed as welfare recipients, persons with disabilities are now recognised under international law as right-holders, with a claim to the right to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunities. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), the World Declaration on Education for All (1990), the United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993), and the Salamanca Declaration and Framework for Action (1994) all embody measures testifying to the growing awareness and understanding of the right of persons with disabilities to education.
UN Convention 2016 urges States to achieve a transfer of resources from segregated to inclusive environments
Convention on the Rights
2 September 2016
Advance unedited version
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.
States must consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organisations (OPDs), in all aspects of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of inclusive education policies. Persons with disabilities and, when appropriate, their families, must be recognised as partners and not merely recipients of education.
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.
The Committee urges States parties to achieve a transfer of resources from segregated to inclusive environments. States parties should develop a funding model that allocates resources and incentives for inclusive educational environments to provide the necessary support to persons with disabilities.