It wasn’t possible for me to catch all of the debate on presumption of mainstreaming in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd November yet from what I did see I was struck by the consensus among MSPs across parties and their stated commitment to mainstreaming. It seemed that principles of inclusive education were accepted by our MSPs. MSPs welcomed the newly issued guidance on presumption of mainstreaming and spoke highly of the work of ENABLE and their report Included in the Main? So far so good!
The SEAS is supportive of the principles of inclusive education yet unconvinced by Scottish Government’s view on inclusion as described by the presumption of mainstreaming.
The amendments carried focused on the impact of cuts and underfunding. The Labour amendment highlighted “that one-in-seven ASN teaching posts have been cut since 2010” believing “that, if mainstreaming in education is to be fully effective, the Scottish Government must ensure that schools have the funding and staff to deliver it.” Inclusive education is cost neutral compared to special school provision yet Scottish Government continually defund.
Both Tories in England and SNP in Scotland have managed austerity through approaches to our education system over 10 years that defund, discredit and demoralise public sector services like our comprehensive schools.
However, let’s be clear here Scottish Government’s guidance on the Presumption of Mainstreaming is unsatisfactory. It looks back to 2002 when Section 15 was passed as part of School Standards Act.
Since then the world has moved on. In 2006 the UNCRPD was passed and is now over ten years on. In 2016 the UN added its General Comment No 4 which provided a template for the development of inclusive education.
The General Comment clarified the UN’s views on Article 24 and inclusive 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. It involves strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. It focuses on the full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized. Inclusion involves access to and progress in high-quality formal and informal education without discrimination. It seeks to enable communities, systems and structures to combat discrimination, including harmful stereotypes, recognize diversity, promote participation and overcome barriers to learning and participation for all by focusing on well-being and success of students with disabilities. It requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy, and the mechanisms for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring of education.”
Scotland has become stuck and hung up on mainstreaming rather than considering ways to implement inclusive education successfully.
In September 2017, the UN was critical of the UK Government and the devolved governments for their performance in ensuring inclusive education. The UN offered four concerns and three recommendations.
They recommended the Scottish Government should take account of the UN’s general comment no.4 and specifically recommended that they should
- develop a comprehensive and coordinated legislative framework for inclusive education
- adopt regulations and monitor developments to combat disability-related discrimination and /or harassment
- adopt and implement a coherent strategy financed with concrete timelines and measurable goals on increasing and improving inclusive education.
In November 2017, Scottish Government’s definition of their vision for inclusive education is
‘Inclusive education in Scotland starts from the belief that education is a human right and the foundation for a more just society. An inclusive approach, with an appreciation of diversity and an ambition for all to achieve to their full potential, is essential to getting it right for every child and raising attainment for all. Inclusion is the cornerstone to help us achieve equity and excellence in education for all of our children and young people.’
Across the world countries have developed and improved their frameworks for inclusive education whether at the global and European levels. Scotland will continue to fail to implement disabled children’s rights to inclusive education by failing to fund inclusive practices, failing to aspire and put forward a strategy to fulfil disabled children’s rights and failing to legislate for inclusive education rather than mainstreaming and its exceptions. Scottish education under SNP are going backwards!
In the General Election 2017, the Labour Party’s “For the Many” had it right. It offered that the Labour Party
“will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.”
It also stated that
“Labour believes in the social model of disability–that it is society which disables people, and it is our job to remove those barriers. The previous Labour government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The next Labour government will sign the UNCRPD into UK law.”
Let’s hope when the next Labour government comes as come it will for all that, that we in Scotland catch up with developments across the world for inclusive education.
UNCRPD General Comment 4 (2016) http://www.refworld.org/docid/57c977e34.html
]Scottish Government Presumption of Mainstreaming https://news.gov.scot/news/presumption-of-mainstreaming
For the Many Labour Party Manifesto 2017
UNCRPD report on UK and Scottish Government (2017)https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/august/human-catastrophe-–-new-un-condemnation-uk-human-rights-record