Campaigners will try to convince local authorities testing out new government policies on special educational needs (SEN) to take an inclusive approach, despite the coalition’s “hostile” stance on including disabled children in mainstream schools.
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat children’s minister, this week announced 20 “pathfinder” schemes across England that will test out proposals in the special educational needs and disability green paper, which was published in March.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has warned that measures in the green paper would set the fight for inclusive education back 20 years.
ALLFIE believes the green paper proposals would “dismantle” the framework of support for disabled learners, and cut the number of children identified as needing that support.
It also believes the proposals would create “many more hurdles” for parents to overcome in finding a school and securing an assessment of their children’s needs and funding for support, and would provide fewer opportunities for challenging the system.
The new pathfinder areas cover 31 local authority areas and the councils’ primary care trust partners.
Among the proposals to be tested are plans for disabled children to have their own education, health and care plan, lasting from birth to the age of 25.
Another is for disabled children and those with SEN to have their support delivered through personal budgets.
Tara Flood, ALLFIE’s director, said she and other campaigners felt they were confronting a “hostile situation”, with the coalition having pledged to “end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools”.
Flood said: “The worry for us is the lack of aspiration in the green paper. It is starting from a negative position.
“There are 20 [pathfinders] and we are going to do all that we can to try and push them to include inclusive practice and inclusive thinking as their pilots roll out, but I think it is going to be very difficult because they are working within parameters set by the Department for Education.”