Disabled children are denied their rights

24th November 2000 at 00:00
There has been a lot of interest in Education Otherwise, as typified by the article by Elaine Williams (Friday, November 10). She describes two groups of children: those whose parents philosophically object to modern education and feel that their offspring will learn more effectively through a home-based programme; and those who have tried mainstream schools but become distressed by bullying. In both cases, the parents have chosen to educate their children at home.

There is also a third group of home-educated children who are growing in number but whose parents are nothing like so happy about it. These are children with learning difficulties who are refused access to a mainstream school. Their parents, committed to inclusive education as advocated by the DfEE, have no choice but to educate their children at home.

In many cases, these children, many of whom have Down's syndrome, have successfully completed several years in a mainstream school. Yet on transfer to the next phase, they are faced with schools which refuseto accept them because they feel unable to meet their needs. Yet we know that these same children, if they lived in a neighbouring authority, would be welcomed and would do as well as similar children in special schools.

As more power is delegated to schools, authorities feel unable to put pressure on heads and governors. Even the SEN tribunal often feels compelled to accept a school's view as they know that a reluctant school will do everything to undermine the placement of a child it doesn't want.

The Disability Discrimination in Education Act is still awaiting the light of day and the revised code of practice is still being redrafted. Despite the Human Rights Act and lobbying by parents and professionals, there is still no sign that the Government will give parents of disabled children the same rights as everyone else.

Stephanie Lorenz educational consultant, lorenz@apple-uk.net Send your letters to Jill Craven, Friday magazine, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Or email: jill.craven@tes.co.uk

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