Save Our Futures, All Means All

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In the last week of June, Gordon Brown spoke at the launch of the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report  which has the theme of Inclusion and Education.   In leading the launch with #AllMeansAll Gordon stated  “Never was the theme inclusion for all more important. We need a campaign to save our future built around this report.  We have to hold to the dream that in the next 10 years that every single child in the world has the chance of an education. We have to develop all of the potential of all of our children.”

Include all learners

The importance of inclusive education is shared by the SEAS and we continue to promote inclusive education across Scotland.  The GEM  Report includes its easy read version  as well as a series of short videos and cartoons.   You also have the chance to vote for your own personal choice of key message in a poll on the Report.  Last checked over a third of respondents selected the statement “Widen the understanding of inclusive education: it should include all learners, no matter their identity, background or ability”.

The Report is well worth reading.  It opens in its introduction with the challenging statement, particularly in the UK setting.

“It notes that debating the benefits of inclusive education can be seen as tantamount to debating the benefits of the abolition of slavery, or indeed of apartheid.”

In Scotland we have had three debates in the Scottish Parliament in the last three years. The debates about mainstreaming have tended not to be framed in terms of the abolition of slavery or the separate development aspects of apartheid!

Layers of exclusion

Emboldened and challenging statements do not just stop there.  Inclusive education is placed within the struggle to tackle all inequalities

“All over the world, discrimination is based on gender, remoteness, wealth, disability, ethnicity, language, migration, displacement, incarceration, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and other beliefs and attitudes; the Covid-19 pandemic has added new layers of exclusion.”

The Report considers that funding for inclusion has been inadequate

“Equity and inclusion will not be achieved without adequate funding reaching schools and students according to need.” 

Challenges in bring about inclusive education

As UNESCO says the gem Report  highlights the challenges in bringing about inclusion, many of which still continue to apply to Scotland.

“These include differing understandings of the word inclusion, lack of teacher support, absence of data on those excluded from education, inappropriate infrastructure, persistence of parallel systems and special schools, lack of political will and community support, untargeted finance, uncoordinated governance, multiple but inconsistent laws, and policies that are not being followed through.”

Scottish Labour’s response

In the Scottish Labour Party’s Education draft policy paper some, but not all , of the themes from the GEM Report can be found. The Policy Forum on education proposes

“We see the need for our schools to work in collaboration with their community to achieve better outcomes for our children and contribute towards achieving a more socially just and inclusive society in Scotland.”; and

“We will require every school to publish an annual plan to improve inclusive practices so that no child misses out. The Scottish Government and each education authority should have an inclusion strategy in line with the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.”  and in terms of an inclusive curricula

“We will ensure a zero-tolerance approach to violence, bullying and discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Scottish society. Labour supports the aims of the TIE campaign to develop LGBTI inclusive education in Scotland’s schools”

Scotland’s approach to LGBTI inclusive education within the curriculum is one of the few mentions of Scottish education within the GEM Report (p136). That lack of attention to Scotland and its self-proclaimed inclusiveness  should lead some to question just how inclusive we are as a nation in terms of equity and inclusion.

Embedding equality education in curriculum, textbooks and teaching

At the recent Scottish Labour Party #After The Lockdown event on 29th June the SEAS emphasised the importance of embedding equality education throughout the curriculum.  Barrington Reeves #BlackLivesMatter thought it essential that at the core  the curriculum we should be

“teaching about anti-racism.  I think that is something we need to actually teach to future generations… this country will only be stronger if we are all united and understand each other”

The GEM report devotes a chapter to curriculum, textbooks and assessment and their view of embedding equality education. This involves children and young people having an inclusive learning experience which requires an inclusive curriculum, textbooks and assessment practices. Barrington’s words were matched by the GEM report

“Curricula exclude when they do not cater to learners’ diverse needs and do not respect human and citizenship rights.”  

The GEM report considered three concepts in the curriculum chapter that places inclusion as an exercise in democracy.

First, there are political tensions regarding the kind of society people aspire to achieve through education, for inclusion is an exercise in democracy. Second, there are practical challenges in ensuring flexibility in order to serve diverse contexts and needs without segregating learners. Third, there are technical challenges in ensuring that the curriculum serves equity by being relevant and in creating bridges that do not cut off some learners.  

Call to Action

SEAS encourages you to read the Report and consider are we going to continue debating inclusion in Scotland or are going follow the report’s call to action

“Inclusion is not just a choice for policymakers. Imposed from above it will never work. So, the question you, as readers, are asked in the report is whether you are ready to challenge the current mindset and ready to decide that education is for everyone and must strive to be inclusive of all.” 

 

 

 

 

SEAS contribution to Labour’s Scottish Policy Forum

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SEAS has been taking part in the Education Commission of the Scottish Labour Party’s Policy Forum as a volunteer member.  We recently submitted additional comment about the vision for our education service end comments on early learning and schools.  Our submission is reproduced below.

Socialist Educational Association Scotland is the only educational affiliate of the Scottish Labour Party.   In the past two years SEAS has been particularly active across the Labour Party.  We have proposed motions at Scottish Party conference.  We have met with MSPs, councillors and CLPs to discuss key issues in Scottish education.

We have successfully proposed two motions to Scottish conference.  In 2018 we proposed a contemporary motion on early learning and child care. In 2019 we proposed ending all state subsidies and support for private schooling. In 2019 motion 16 from East Lothian to end standardised national assessments at P1 was agreed by conference.  SEAS would like to see the terms of the Conference policy-making influence and feature prominently in the work of the Education Policy Forum.

Our vision and values

 We endorse the statement of our vision and values as “lifelong learning towards an inclusive society based on values of social justice and common decency”. SEAS believes that only the Scottish Labour Party aspires for social justice through education. 

Early learning and childcare

 We support party policy as set out in the contemporary motion agreed by conference in 2019 on early learning and child care  and the motion 15 in 2019 from East Lothian CLP on ending standardising testing in P1.  We support reviewing all of Curriculum for Excellence including early years to promote and ensure learning that is challenging and enjoyable, relevant and personalised. We do not support a discrete and distinctive Kindergarten stage. The OECD (2018) places a great importance on curriculum alignment to avoid the problem of piecemeal change.

The SEAS sees the need for the Scottish Labour Party to develop a comprehensive wraparound model of education, care and health from early childhood. Such services should be flexible, accessible, affordable and responsive to community needs with all year round provision and ensure that all children and family services support parents and carers where appropriate in identifying children’s needs and providing them with timeous and appropriate support.

Within such care and learning services we need more flexibility across the starting ages for children with the opportunity for the delay and deferring when schooling starts. In addition we need to shift from schooling to better quality learning. The evidence now from research and neuroscience shows that children develop best through challenging, enjoyable learning. An emphasis on play at the early years is crucial.   We can look to invest more in Early Years.  Furthermore we should be targeting resources towards communities facing challenges of poverty and deprivation. All nurseries and early years centres  in disadvantaged areas should be led by qualified headteachers. A child’s foundation years in early learning and care settings are crucial to future successes.

In Scotland we start with advantages in early years learning due to Curriculum for Excellence. Curriculum for Excellence provides curriculum continuity with its shared set of experiences and outcomes 3-7 years. Many children will benefit from a flexible school start.   It would be better than too-early and too-formal approaches of schooling. (Children in rows, rigid groupings, strict timetables). The SEAS proposes greater flexibility in starting ages evaluated as part of a Curriculum for Excellence review. We need to make schools more ready for children not get children ready for schooling.

Policy proposals

  • Review Curriculum for Excellence to secure more play-based learning in early years.
  • Offer flexibility in starting ages
  • Invest in nurseries and early learning centres in disadvantaged areas

Schools

SEAS is supportive of reviewing Curriculum for Excellence to secure continued improvement in a curriculum that is focused on children and young people.

Similar to early years all learning across 3-18 should be challenging and enjoyable, relevant and personalised.  All children are entitled to a broad general education and a personalised Senior Phase.  Schools can be encouraged to offer a broader set of options in partnership with communities, businesses to deliver a broader extended senior phase.

Curriculum for Excellence should seek to embed education for sustainability as well as equality education.  Diversity needs to be valued as part of an inclusive curriculum.

Our schools need to be more inclusive too. Inclusive education has never yet been planned for resourced to ensure children’s rights to inclusive education are delivered. SEAS calls for repeal of Section 15 of 2000 Act and instead legislation brought to ensure those with disabilities and other differences are successfully included.  Such an approach needs to be planned for and resourced nationally, locally, in communities and across schools and classrooms.  Scotland can aspire to be world leading inclusive education.  Staff and resources in special schools can be shared and provide valuable support to inclusive education.  Special schools and centres should be redesigned to support placements in inclusive schools.

SEAS welcomes Scottish Labour Party’s policy on ending all support and subsidy direct and indirect to private schools. All private schools work in a supportive partnership with Education Scotland and every private school gets support from a linked HMI.  Private schools also receive supportive quality improvement visits rather than inspection report.

The SEAS is unconvinced by the mixed results from Scottish Attainment Fund.  SEAS is concerned at the fall in attendance in schools receiving additional money direct from Scottish Government. We oppose this centralised funding and call for distribution of resources to local councils. We would end the bureaucratic Regional Improvement Collaboratives.   Councils need to offer greater autonomy to schools and for them to be accountable for delivering a social justice agenda in education. They can  improve outcomes in disadvantage area, meeting the needs of disabled children and offering inclusive approaches for LGBTI young people too.

Policy proposals

  • Review Curriculum for Excellence
  • Broaden Senior Phase
  • Plan for and resource inclusive education
  • Embed equality education
  • End all state subsidy and indirect and direct support for private schools
  • Councils and local communities more accountable for social justice outcomes.

Deciding on our motion for Conference 2019 in Dundee

SEAS is keen to play its full part in proposing a motion at the Scottish Labour Party’s Annual Conference in Dundee in March.

At our recent meeting we shared and discussed four motions for the Conference. Affiliates like the Socialist Educational Association Scotland are encouraged to submit one motion to conference. The motion has to be one that could not otherwise have been raised through this years policy process.

The SEAS took a close interest in the policy process this year and was part of the Scottish Policy Forum. Given this interest in education though unsuccessful in election we were co-opted onto the Education Commission as a volunteer.

Some of the points below have not featured in the recent policy discussions.

Our four potential motions were as follows:

Age of Criminal Responsibility in Scotland

  1. Conference commits the Scottish Labour Party to raising the age of criminal responsibility for children in Scotland to the age of 16 at the earliest opportunity.

Concerns about cuts to support staff and mainstreaming

  1. Conference notes continued concerns arising from the limited nature of the presumption of mainstreaming and the level of SNP education cuts impacting on support for learning provision. Conference commits the Scottish Labour Party to follow the guidance of the United Nations and implement a human rights approach for inclusive education.  Scottish Labour when in power will develop a funding model that allocates resources and incentives for inclusive educational environments to provide the necessary high quality and specialist support to children and young people with additional support needs. We will have schools and authorities develop their comprehensive Inclusive Education Plan in consultation with young people and other organsiations representing those with disabilities and additional support needs. We will ensure investment in inclusive education.

Embedding equality education

  1. Conference commits to embedding equality education in all schools across Curriculum for Excellence thus eliminating discrimination, advancing equality and fostering good relations among all learners in Scotland and in respect of all of the protected characteristics.

 Ending taxpayers’ support for private schools

  1. Conference notes recent requests from a number of private schools for financial support from the SNP Government.  Conference welcomes the removal of tax relief to private independent schools.  Scottish Labour commits to removing all state subsidies, direct and indirect support to private schools.

As you can imagine we had terrific enjoyment in debating the merits of each of the motions!

In the end we agreed to propose the motion on ending all supports to private school given the recent requests for taxpayers’ money for a number of private schools. We look forward to speaking to our Contemporary Motion should it be accepted for conference.