Guerrillamum's Blog

Excellence for all? – not if you are disabled…

‘Exemplary care, guidance and support pervade all aspects of the Academy’s provision.” Ofsted 2009. This comment is taken from the Ofsted report 2009 for the Harris Academy, Crystal Palace. According to the Croydon Guardian eleven year old Idayah Miller from Norbury, has been told that she can’t have a place there because her wheelchair will get in the way of other children in the school’s crowded 1950’s corridors. It appears that her wheelchair is a health and safety risk because she would not be able to get out of the school if there was a fire. Here is the link to the article: Oh, and the newspaper also states that the school has said that Idayah is not academically capable enough to attend this school because it is a ‘high pressure, high performing’ school and she would be likely to be upset and suffer from low self esteem when she falls behind her friends. The school’s own prospectus, however, says ‘Harris is an inclusive school which admits students with disabilities and special needs on an equal basis with other students. The Academy has installed lifts, disabled access ramps and wheelchair facilities. As a result, disabled students, including those in wheelchairs, have full access to the curriculum.’ It would appear that the decision not to admit Idayah is very much at odds with what is written in the prospectus.

I am somewhat puzzled by the comments in the newspaper regarding Idayah’s ability. Why is this relevant to any decision to not allocate a place to her? Nowhere does it say in the school’s prospectus (unless they are busily producing a new one as we speak), that this is a selective school, indeed the prospectus would appear to be saying the opposite. Furthermore, the school is obviously able to take children in wheelchairs as it says it has wheelchair ramps and wheelchair facilities in its prospectus. Idayah’s father has lodged an appeal against this decision and the case will be heard by an independent panel in December.

Since the coalition government came to power we have seen disabled students (if they actually have special educational needs!) maligned in the Press through the media circus that accompanied the Ofsted report, ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability Review – A statement is not enough’. Parents who stand up for the rights of their disabled children are the ‘sharp elbowed middle classes’, and suddenly it is OK for the very rich to seek to have private school style educations funded by the State under the auspices of the free schools movement. Perhaps schools who believe in selection now feel no need to hide selective practices? Frighteningly, there are only 14 comments on the article. I would have expected there to be more.

Big Society? I think not. It appears that to be born with a disability can disqualify you from access to the high quality education the education secretary champions so vociferously. It is not acceptable in 2010 for this sort of discrimination and prejudice to be present in publicly funded education establishments. Over to you Mr Gove.

12 Comments so far
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Really worrying. Let’s hope Lord Harris intervenes.

Comment by citizenr

It would be very good if he did. Ellen P

Comment by guerrillamum

This is appalling! Unfortunately it is not the only example that I know of! As a retired Advanced Skills Teacher, I visited one school described as having excellent, inclusive practice only to find that they only took children that did not present any particularly difficult challenges. Those children that did were either refused a place or soon got rid of. How can this be excellent inclusive practice?

Comment by David Ware

Hello David

Welcome to the Guerrillamum blog. I am always very interested to hear about the experiences of those in the teaching profession who teach or who have taught children with special educational needs. What you describe is not ‘excellent, inclusive practice’, no matter how much the school might have said it was. This is covert selection. It is not fair and it is not right. Thank you for commenting.

Ellen P

Comment by guerrillamum

Thank you David for your comment. It confirms our own experience as a family. Intelligent kids with specific needs but plenty of skills potential are refused by schools quite blatantly because they “have their quota of SEN pupils already for that year group”. Some schools are so busy trying to keep their exams performance up they are downright rude and unjust to those who don’t fit the mould. We guerrillamums (and dads) have to keep up the fight constantly – relax for a moment and our children are sidelined, even if they have obvious talents in their own unique ways.
Thanks Ellen for the blog.

Comment by Helen Hunter

[…] Guerillamum has blogged on the chilling story of a top London academy that refused a place to a disabled girl of 11 because “her wheelchair takes up too much space”, as reported in the Evening Standard. Guerillamum writes: “It appears that to be born with a disability can disqualify you from access to the high quality education the education secretary champions so vociferously. It is not acceptable in 2010 for this sort of discrimination and prejudice to be present in publicly funded education establishments. Over to you Mr Gove.” […]

Pingback by Cribsheet of the week 23.11.10 – EdConnect

Harris CP admissions (after looked after children, SEN and siblings) involves a placing students into nine ability bands and a additional band based on an aptitude for technology, then into two area zones (90% of the students living within a two miles of the schools and 10% of the students living over two from the schools), then students are then randomly selected within those bands.

The end result is that not only does Harris CP have students that are consistently more able, more affluent, less SEN and less EAL than its nearest set of primary schools but it also has the second most able students in the borough. This is a backdoor way of selection, as the least able students in the area are less likely to attend Harris CP because too many of them fit in the lower bands.

The school’s admissions code does not state the method to be used for random selections or who is regarded as an independent adjudicator to the selection process and Harris CP’s admissions code does not state how the random selection is performed or who is the independent adjudicator. Perhaps Guerillamum could find out how more about this.

Comment by micheal gun-why

Dear Micheal

Thank you for your comment. I have to confess to not being well up with the different varieties of schools admissions policies that might exist. I do, however, know that children with special educational needs must be prioritised very highly in the admissions process and that to refuse to take a child with SEN a school must show it would be detrimental to the education of other children and to not be an effective use of resources. Taking a child with SEN is certainly not a ‘concession’. There are clearly many questions to be asked about this case, and the way the school has dealt with it and the family are appealing. I think this should be a concern for the general public. We can all write letters, blog, and question the authorities if we think that something is not right. I certainly try to raise the profile of things like this, and would love it if more people would do the same. We can do this by blogging, by writing to our newspapers, pressure groups, our elected representatives such as county councillors, MPs, and also by writing to Michael Gove at the DfE. When the story of Idayah Miller was publicised through blogging and the media last week, our collective voices grew, and they had an effect, even though the issue is not yet resolved for this family. Expressing our views is something that we can all do to show our feelings when organisations behave in unacceptable ways, and if enough of us do so, we can change things. Remember what happened about child benefit? The government decided to take it away from some families and then had second thoughts in the face of public outrage.

Ellen P

Comment by guerrillamum

Our own son is well past school age, but I recognize lots of the problems you raise. Afraid it doesn’t get lots better after school years – just different set of problems. (And the cuts aren’t helping.)
Interesting blog, hope you don’t mind, I’ve added it to my own,
Ned Ludd, carer.

Comment by Ned Ludd carer

Dear Ned Ludd, Thank you for your comment and for adding my site to yours. I have stopped by your blog a few times which I read with interest when I am there. It is hard to know what the future will hold, we just have to keep on doing our best for our children and hopefully, we will find we did the right things…

Ellen P

Comment by guerrillamum

I am so interested to read what you have to say. I am a primary school teacher who is disgusted at the level of provision in schools, the propsed cuts on services that are already inadequate and again the emphasis on teachers to provide better support.
I am also a mother of a 11yr old boy in Oxfordshire with a statement for severe communication difficulties who was fortunate enough to be statemented when he was in reception and lucky to be one of the last children to be taught in a specific language base for his primary education.( He attended a language through play play group run by speech therapists which was attached to the Northern language resource base and it was there that they helped support me in my quest to get him statemented ….the playgroup has long since been dispanded for children with speech difficulties along with support for parents!)
He is now in a language unit attached to a secondry school.
I have had to fight for every part of his education. Everything is a battle.
I did not want my son to be intergrated into mainstream in primary as from my teaching experience the services for his needs were simple not available, to the same standard or frequency as in the unit. Unfortunately his primary unit no longer exists because of the drive for inclusion and the amazing experience of the staff who worked there have gone to other jobs(how short sighted.) So if there are parents out there who feel the same about inclusion as i did what choices do they have now?
In mainstream i am sad for those poor children like my son who don’t have a specific label such as Autism to explain their behaviours or learning needs but are recognised as special needs. They are now undoubtedly struggling through school with teachers who do not understand their individual needs and who don’t get the access to specialist staff to support them or teachers in specific and appropriate planning. I am sad for those parents who are not aware of their child’s lack of provision and don’t know that there should be better support in their schools. Things will definately decline with cuts for these children in school. The ed Psychs are being culled in oxfordshire…speech therapists…all like gold dust anyway are to be cut. madness…why aren’t our heads in uproar?
As for my son’s secondary school experience i fear a whole new set of issues and battles ahead despite the fact he is in a secondry language base. My son is getting used to having to be more independent and organised in a secondry setting, with inclusion in all subject areas, puberty and bereavement and displaying a whole new set of behaviours and attitudes .
He has to suffer lessons that are meaningless to him , that he is not achieving in beacuse there is not enough staff to teach him in subjects/ areas that are morerelevant to his needs.He has one to one support. The subject teachers are clearly not differentiating his work and proabably don’t know how to for Tom!! The staff in the base dispair of this.
I have already been to our GP for help to deal with the stress that our lovely son puts on our family unit and marriage and she looked at me and said ‘we all love our children but dislike them at some point…they are all the same!!!’
Thanks for letting me have a rant and I shall continue to read your posts.

Comment by Jo Turner

Dear Jo

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my blog. I too am extremely angry at the cuts being imposed on the system for identifying and meeting SEN when this system is already so inadequate. Whilst the Green Paper for SEN & Disability makes some reasonable suggestions, there has been a ‘slash and burn’ approach to cutting or indeed, eliminating provision for children who either have less severe needs or lack a diagnosis. There is now scope for many, many more children to be failed in school, all in the name of the new government’s ideology and ‘saving money’. This is short termist and will result in much more expense for adults with disabilities who have not fulfilled their postential at school. The new obsession with social mobility apparently does not extend to those with disabilities.

Comment by guerrillamum

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