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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Anna Morell

Dis Life: 'Most schools are failing disabled pupils - we don't need no education'

Spot the double negative in the headline. Of course disabled people need education. But when it comes to schooling, disabled kids are not always getting what they need.

As kids head back to school this week, and non-disabled kids are poring over their post-GCSE and A-level futures, three times as many disabled kids are weighing up a future without qualifications.

Only a quarter of disabled young people end up with a degree. For non-disabled young people, it’s almost half of them. Less than five per cent of non-disabled people have no qualifications. For disabled people, it’s 15% who leave school with nothing to show for it.

When Tony Blair came to power, his mantra was education, education, education. But we know that education budgets have been squeezed for well over a decade.

My local comprehensives are creaking and dilapidated. One, run by a headmaster who has mobility impairment, is so inaccessible that if he needed to deal with something in the maths block, he’d need a fire engine cherry picker to get up there. Hell, he can’t even make it up the stairs into the reception area. There is simply no budget.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair (Adam Gray

When heating systems and windows are held together with gaffer tape and goodwill, lifts and full physical accessibility are way down the wishlist, even if the law makes provision for them to be prioritised. If you’re a wheelchair user, your school choices are screwed.

I’ve written before about the levels of school refusal by disabled children – especially those with mental distress or neurodiversity (such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia). Around 15% of the school population is disabled. But half of all school exclusions are disabled children. And twice as many disabled kids say they are bullied, compared to non-disabled kids.

Are our kids really that difficult and obstructive? Or is it more of a case of schools not adapting the physical environments, attitudes and conditions they are required to make by law to help disabled kids thrive?

In short, the vast majority of schools are failing disabled pupils. The government has been asking people for their views on how the school system can be changed to help children with disabilities. But we’re not convinced it’s ready to implement the changes that disabled children need.

Back to Blair – the Tony Blair Institute came out with a report last week recommending GCSEs and A-levels, with their focus on one shot or bust exams, full of memorised facts and figures, are replaced with continuous, lower pressure assessments and a better focus on the Four Cs - critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaborative problem-solving – all things disabled people learn cum laude from the school of hard knocks.

Imagine – kids leaving school with the skills to get good jobs, rather than a pocketful of algebra and battle dates. Who knows, it might even lead to a workforce representative of society, with innovative, disabled people’s minds being used to get the economy back on track. Because all in all, disabled kids are far from bricks in walls.

Anna Morell works for Disability Rights UK – the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by, and working for Disabled people. It works with Disabled People’s Organisations and Government across the UK to influence regional and national change for better rights, benefits, quality of life and economic opportunities for Disabled people. Find out more about DR UK here. Contact DR UK here.

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