?Early years providers regardless of type, size or funding must comply with the legal requirements set out within the Early Years Foundation Stage ( EYFS) so as to meet the needs of all children within the setting (DCSF 2008a, p11). The objective of this report is to critically evaluate the Special Educational Needs Policy used in a setting which support anti discriminatory practice and promote inclusion (appendix 2). Within the context of a faith based early years setting in Dewsbury.
The Warnock Report (Special Educational Needs1978) introduced the concept of ‘inclusion’ in the form of ‘integration’ with regard to children with special educational needs, suggesting that mainstream settings would be preferable to ‘Special Schools’.
Gates and Edwards (2007) outline, prior to this report, the terms “Handicapped” or “Educationally subnormal” were acceptable terms, based on an apparent culture of a medical model, where the disabled person is the problem, governed by their disability.
An example might be a child labelled with Down ’s syndrome as their identifying features, instead of their name (Courtman 2010).
As legislation has continued to develop, so have attitudes towards disability. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005, set out duties for employers and many public services. Further changes arose from the Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. It became unlawful to discriminate against disabled children, and by 2004, “… reasonable adjustments…
” were expected to improve access within the physical environment, for disabled people. The introduction of the Children Act 2004 saw the introduction of the Every Child Matters (ECM) (DCFS 2008d). In addition the publication Removing Barriers to Achievement (DCSF 2004) reinforced the ECM commitment relating to early intervention and support. The setting The Pre-School was registered in 2002 and is managed by a voluntary management committee, incorporating an Islamic Ethos. The setting provides sessional care for the local community and surrounding areas.
The children who attend the setting are predominantly Muslim; and there are no children with special educational needs (SEN). Promoting equality of opportunity for all is limited within the setting; this is due to the management and practitioners’ negative attitudes towards children with additional needs. Causey et al (2000 p. 33-45) believes influencing factors that can affect the way practitioners’ view diversity and difference is prior knowledge and beliefs about others.
Shah (1995) identifies stereotypical views practitioners may have is that children with SEN should be cared for by the family and outside support would mean that they are failing in their duty. These beliefs and views can create barriers to inclusion, a recent research conducted by Contact a Family identified: “70% of families with disabled children said that understanding and acceptance of disability from their community or society is poor or unsatisfactory”. (Disability Action 2010, online) The social stigma of having a child with a disability still exists.
It has been argued that some Asian and black communities perceive disability as a “curse” and therefore will not allow the child to be assessed (Ali et al 2006). In addition communication and collaboration may be affected by cultural issues. Salim (2005) explains it is unacceptable for strict Muslim women to be in the presence of a male without her husband. This could present difficulties in setting up home- school communication and a flexible approach would need to be taken (Roffey, 2001).
Furthermore the EYSTEN study (Sammons et al, 2003) identified ethnic minority groups and boys showed a greater ‘risk’ of developing SEN. Moreover (Warnock 2005, p. 11) Identified a clear link between social class, deprivation and SEN, in his study Emerson (2010, online) concluded a lower socioeconomic position was linked to an increased rate of intellectual difficulties. Language, social stigma and the lack of education can create barriers for parents to access the support required, this intern leads to adverse affects for the child and family, leading to a cycle of disadvantage and disparity.
Policy Evaluation In order for settings to comply with legislation and meet specific requirements in accordance with the EYFS, settings are required to produce and implement effectual policies which encompass “equality of opportunity” and for supporting children with “learning difficulties and disabilities” (DCSF 2008a) in addition if settings are in receipt of Nursery Education Funding they must have regard to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice 2001 (DCSF 2008a, p. 25).
The setting in this report does not have a specific inclusion policy however; the setting does encompass a Special Needs Policy. On examination of the policy major discrepancies were identified. It was recognised the policy (appendices 1-3) appeared to be less then successful, owing to the lack of information, compliance with legislation, and being ineffectually written, leading to misunderstanding of statements (Hughes and Ferrret 2009, p. 32). Capmbell (1997) supports this view reiterating poorly written policies are often broad general and ambiguous.
Furthermore the policy was written in 2002, hence established before the EYFS, this has had a negative influence on the content of the policy. The EYFS used as a resource sets out the required legislation, regulation and guidelines which should be incorporated within the settings policies (DCSF 2008b). It is the duty of all practitioners to promote equality and remove discrimination (Daley et al 2009) explains unfair treatment and not allowing equal chances and access to services could amount to unlawful discrimination.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005 (DDA) (online) sets out two main duties: • Not to treat disabled children less favourably • To make reasonable adjustments for disabled children Additionally Section 2 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) (online) prohibits educational settings from discriminating against children with additional needs from their admissions arrangements. The setting’s SEN policy (appendix 1: statement 4.
7) makes a direct contradiction to the DDA and SENDA by only allowing children with a disability admission if the setting can accommodate the child, rather than the setting making reasonable adjustment in order to include the child, furthermore the child who has a disability is being treated unfairly, as the child would only be admitted after extensive consultations (appendix 1: 4. 1). This is a very dated attitude in terms of legislation and shows a direct influence towards the medical model of disability.
The medical model focuses on the disability, expecting the child to make adjustments or adapt to circumstances; it presents the disabled person as a problem (Carson 2009, online). Additionally this stance is a direct negation to the proposals made by the Warnock Report (1978), later embodied in the 1981 Education Act (online), which recognised that educating children with additional needs separate from their peers was denying them their rights to equal access.
Dryden et al (2007, p.186) elucidates, by focussing on the child’s abilities, and the provision of modifications and support will enable inclusion and participation. This view is known as the social model whereby the emphasis is on how society can change to allow equal opportunities for children with disabilities opposed to the person trying to fit in to society. Shakespeare and Watson (2002, p. 3) concur the social model has now become the ideological test of disability to differentiate between organisations, policies, laws and ideas which are progressive, and those which are inadequate.
Drifte (2008, p. 4) emphasises the importance of practitioners to review policies to ensure that they are based on the social model of inclusion. However more recently Hodkinson and Vickerman (2009) explicate the social model has become subject to critique from parents and practitioners. The view that all children with additional needs should be integrated into mainstream settings, by way of adjustments made to the setting, may hinder the children’s development.
Griffin (2008) explains integration for some children with additional needs is unrealistic as they may not be able to cope with the demands of mainstream settings. Additionally Warnock (2005) changed her opinion criticising the governments policy on inclusion warning, the closure of special schools has “forced” children into mainstream school when it is not in their best interest, causing distress for pupils and parents.
The Nursery Education and Grant Maintained Schools Act 1996 (cited in Roffey 2001,p.14) and the EYFS statutory guidance (DCSF 2008a) specifies all early years providers must have “due regard” to the code of practice for SEN.
The SEN Code of Practice (DfES 2001) brings together elements from the Children Act 1989, Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 by providing guidance and placing responsibilities on settings. The SEN Code of Practice provides a consistent approach to meeting children’s special educational needs and gives practical guidance to early education settings on identifying and assessing children with SEN (DCSF 2009).
The SEN policy does not cite the SEN Code of Practice, a direct breach of the aforementioned act; it however identifies the need to comply with the LEA code of practice but overlooks the explanation of what this code is, and how it would be implemented. Furthermore the policy has no explanation on the assessment process, such as the Graduated response, Early Years Action, Early Years Action Plus, Statutory Assessment and the Statementing Process (DfES 2001).
Although reference is made to observing and keeping records for children with additional needs, there is no clarification of their purpose. In addition the policy fails to explain what is meant by SEN this can cause confusion as some parent’s or practitioners may believe children with English as a second language may be classed as a child with SEN, however children should not be regarded as having additional needs solely because their heritage language is different from what they are taught in (DfES 2001, p.
6). what is sen Although the policy states a SEN coordinator will be appointed it does not identify who this is and what the SEN coordinator’s role is. The policy recognises the need for additional funds to accommodate children with SEN through external funding although there is no clarification of procedures if these funds were not acquired. Even though guidelines are not in the policy, it is likely that practitioners are aware of the SEN Code of Practice 2001 and implement this within the setting.
Training is suggested within the policy but does not work effectively in practice, due to staff ratios, time constraints and financial implications. In addition no staff members have attended training specific to SEN. Conclusion Policies are working documents, which develop and move alongside the childcare settings own professional development and are a reflection of that childcare provision.
The policies used within the setting not only disregard legislation but are also contradictory and confusing for practitioners to use as a working document. The policy has been written and produced by the management committee with no input from practitioners or parents. In addition some of the statements conflict with practitioners’ own views on anti discriminatory and inclusive practice; this has developed a divergence between the committee’s attitude and the practitioner’s values and beliefs.
Therefore the practitioners’ have not used the policies set out to define their practice with children but challenged the anti discriminatory practice by applying the guidelines set out within the EYFS. Woods and Thomas (2003) recognise their is a greater ability for practitioners to re-evaluate and challenge anti discriminatory practice at a cultural level however the changing of others attitudes can be difficult but not impossible.
Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UNICEF 2007, online) recognise the disability of a child should not reduce the child’s right to education and children with any kind of disability has the right to special care and support. “Equality of opportunity means that each individual in society experiences opportunities to achieve and flourish which are as good as the opportunities experienced by others” (Griffin 2008, p. 12).
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