We have been actively following the SEN reform process.
The passing of the Children and Families Act has felt like little more than a fight to stand still. 'SEN issues' have not been mainstreamed: instead, they continue to be sidelined as if they were a topic of interest for 'experts' affecting only a few 'special' children. There has been scant talk of equality and human rights. Instead, the talk is usually about 'support' and 'signposting' which can feel like a rather patronising pat on the head.
This kind of approach impacts heavily on our children and young people as it affects the perspectives on disability we encounter in society generally.
We, at the ERA, feel it is time to change the conversation.
We would like a genuine and frank discussion about SEN, disability and equality in our schools. This is a massive topic so there are many issues which could be discussed. For example, what is 'inclusive education'? Does inclusion differ from equality? How? Does this matter in practice? How do we ensure people are aware of their equality rights and that they are enforced? What is the role of special schools? Do resource bases work? What is the state of evidence about inclusion? What do our children and young people think? Do we know? How should we plan for, implement, and fund inclusive education? There are many, many more questions to ask on this topic but we think we need to start somewhere!
What do you think?
We are a small, completely unfunded, parent-led organisation. We are not a charity. We are not connected to any charity or organisation. We have no power to decide anything for anyone neither do we have any desire to silence or exclude. We are trying to create a space to give a voice to our young people's experiences. So, we thought it might be a good idea to set up a meeting to try and kick-start a debate about SEN and equality but we certainly don't want this to be a one-off.
We would really like to involve all those involved in the SEN system who can speak of the realities of practice: kids, parents, people with disabilities (especially those who have recent school experiences), teachers, lawyers, academics and organisations working on the frontline.
In raising this, we are very conscious that there are many different and complex views about inclusion in education. Our aim is to try to pull people together with potentially very different experiences and views and to try and find common ground. Our priority remains those who experience the system.
Irwin Mitchell have very kindly agreed to provide funding for an event in London. We have set the date of 3 February 2015 for the meeting. They are as follows:
Date: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 at 10.30 to 5pm
Place: The Arc Centre, 98B St Paul Street, London N1
Nearest tube:Angel (Northern line)
Nearest rail:Essex road
Buses: 38, 73,56, 76, 141, 271,341, 476 (get off at the Packington Street stop on Essex Road near to Islington Green)
Parking: Pay and Display on surrounding streets
You can book FREE tickets event on Eventbrite here.
Online preparation and attendance
We are committed to organising this as openly and inclusively as possible. It is absolutely essential that the voices and experiences of disabled people are heard so please contact us to get involved. We would like to hear from YOU as there is much left to be discussed. We welcome your suggestions, ideas, advice, involvement, offers of help etc.
We intend to set up a blog so people can record their own views and raise issues publicly for discussion. In this way they can still contribute if they are unable to attend (or if they would prefer to contribute in this way).
If there is anything else you think we should be doing to make this project work, please let us know.
Hardship travel fund
Irwin Mitchell has kindly agreed to offer £250 towards travel costs for those who would not otherwise be able to attend.
If you are unwaged, disabled or have would otherwise find it difficult to attend without financial assistance, please contact us now at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see if we can help. The funding is extremely limited so a contribution rather than full costs may be offered. Assistance will be offered on a first come, first served basis.