In the third article on Inclusion, Berni Vincent, a Senior Direct Payments Support Worker at SCIL outlines her views on the ‘Special’ Education System.
Inclusive Education is about Equality! It should be about a level starting point and about children and young adults, regardless of their impairment, and the amount of support they need, social class or intellectual ability feeling valued enough to contribute and take their place in society as they grow into responsible adults. Equality in education invests in the belief that all children are precious and have a right to learn, and develop as free spirits.
So does the Special Education System provide equality? My segregated education was from age 4 – 22. I frequently questioned why I could not be educated in the same school as my brother and sister, why I travelled to school in a ambulance, (after all I wasn’t ill?) when I could have gone to school with my brother and sister who only had to walk ten minutes down the road to school.
I was bullied in my local community for going to a ‘Spastic School’ and as a consequence made a point of lying down on the seat of the school bus to avoid anyone from home seeing me. My sister and her mates came to the rescue by supporting me on a visit to the bullies house to inform them that if they didn’t leave me alone we would be sending my brother and his mates around to deal with them!
So I left school wondering how I was ever going to manage life in the big bad world, I had no qualifications – but I could write a book about therapies of various kinds, I had learned that if I went to the school nurse complaining of a headache or backache, I could get out off ‘classroom work’ and have a lie down for as long as I wanted. I became a Brownie but was confused about why the club was only for kids at my school and was held on the school premises in the middle of the afternoon.
‘Normality’ came with a friend who like me was a bit of a rebel; together we smoked fags in the girl’s toilets, got drunk at her Mum’s birthday party and discussed our feelings about dealing with the outside world. My segregated education experience was soon to come full circle with an offer of segregated special college when leaving school, followed by the promise of a place at a rehabilitation centre where I could be trained for work in a sheltered workshop. I was sorted!Thankfully years later, through meeting other Disabled People who had also experienced the adversity of segregation and its lasting effects, I rebelled and began to fight back. It’s for the thousands of Disabled People like me and future generations of Disabled People that we must continue to campaign for Inclusion in Education. We need to focus on learning from schools where Inclusion is working. It’s a very big challenge, and something that needs to be a long term strategy, but while society is pouring money into a Segregated Education System it will never happen.The education system needs to invest in a new approach that is non bureaucratic for children who need support in the class room and learn to celebrate achievement and learning at all levels.
We need to remember that education should have everything to do with equality of opportunity and nothing to do with being Special!