Conservatives promise to increase segregation of disabled children

By Jonathan Bartley
April 13, 2010

In the Tory manifesto published today, the Conservatives have repeated their pledge to push for more segregation of disabled children, which was contained in their draft manifesto.

They say we are "all in this together" but the word 'inclusion' is mentioned only once in the huge document which runs to over 100 pages. And that is to state:

"We will end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools"

It shows how entirely out of touch the Conservative party is with the wishes of disabled people, but also how willing it is to endorse the segregation which campaigners have spent decades challenging. This it seems is the kind of 'Big Society' that they want. The 'Great Ignored' will be disabled children, who, rather than receiving greater help to join their friends in mainstream schooling, will be pushed further into institutions.

I wrote about our own battle to get my son, who is a wheelchair user, into a mainstream school in the Telegraph in 2007. It cost us personally thousands of pounds. We ended up at a tribunal, which we won. But even then, the Local Authority and school refused to accept him. It was only when Ed Balls intervened that we finally won. But this was after a battle which took over two years, and a huge emotional toll.

Groups representing disabled people have warned that the Conservative proposals attempt to ‘turn the clock back on inclusion 30 years’ to when the idea of segregating children was acceptable.

Simone Aspis, campaigns and policy co-ordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education, said she was "absolutely shocked" by the "tone and hostility" of the policy, as well as its content.

"What surprises us is the attack on the ideology of inclusion” she said.

"It undermines people's clear human and civil rights to participate not only in education, but also in society as a whole.

"What does it say in 2010 if we are moving disabled children out of mainstream society and into segregated provision?

"The more you segregate disabled children, the less people understand disabled people as complete human beings."

Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, has also noted:

"A key plank of any progressive education policy must be to work towards all schools being willing and able to include, value, support, care for and respect all children in their diversity, including kids with complex, high support needs and serious health conditions.

"Human difference is a strength and a great learning resource - it shouldn't be the basis for segregation and exclusion."

What kind of 'Big Society' is it that the Conservatives want to create which creates further barriers, rather than removing existing ones, to the social inclusion of disabled people?

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