Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Nem, nem, soha

Please, a General Election that counts for 'SEN'!

Déjà vue, again?

Quite by chance I stumbled today upon a copy of an item from the magazine Special Children, from the issue of May 2001. A General Election campaign was under way, and this item began by referring back to the previous such election, in May 1997, when Tony Blair's New Labour had swept so convincingly to power. Oh goodness, how things haven't changed. In 2001, the author of this item opined:

...the election campaign is under way, in a remarkably changed atmosphere: for many voters disillusion with the Tories has moved on to disillusion with all politicians, whatever heir party, even with the political process itself.

So what to write now? The author turned for inspiration to what he had written four years before, to welcome the new Government, in May 1997. Here are  four paragraphs from what he came up with in 2001, looking back at the previous General Election and then forward to the one about to happen.

I reflected the promise of freshness and newness that many felt would now sweep through political and into the life of the nation. 'Education, education, education' was a central part of this. The concern was simply to ensure that our sector had its due share of the action. I noted that we had had to wait a whole week for the appointment of a relevant minister, and queried 'Might it be that special needs actually came last because that is exactly how high up it comes on the political agenda?'

Ever the optimist, however, I went on:' Don't ignore us, Mr Blair. Not because the hotchpotch of 'special needs in education' represents causes as humane, deserving and neglected as any in the country you now rule. But because it strikes across so many difficult and demanding areas that success – or failure – here will prove sensitive barometer of whether, having rid us of the Tories, you and your Government really can deliver the goods. So we may be the first to know....

As for 'Education, education, education'... just where are all the teachers, especially those with the additional training to understand and help children with special needs. Where are their trained assistants? For all the unimaginable sums of money thrown into Sure Start, where honestly is early intervention in this country? Where really are we in moving towards a realistic understanding of how schools might contribute practically to long-term, meaningful inclusion for the diverse population under the rubric of 'special educational needs'? What genuine choice, what human rights, do children and their parents have in practice when it comes to determining special needs and – vitally – how they should be met?

Oh dear, it goes on, all too depressing in hindsight to read. So have 'special educational needs' gone on, and on, for another nine years. Children have grown up under its shadow, parents have have been defeated by it, a whole new generation of teachers and assistants, and education bureaucrats, have forged careers under its expectations.

I suppose that I could root around and find the equivalent comment in Special Children on the election that came next, but that might be even more depressing!

Nem, nem, soha...*

Of course radical change would have been hard in 1997, and in 2001. It will be a damn sight harder in 2010. Too depressing to contemplate? No not quite, for a new General Election nearly upon us,the economic chickens are home to rust and there is no wat that the SEN jugganaught can still rumble on unchallenged and intact.

One must doubt whether those directly concerned with children growing up with disabilities or with academic problems, or with those many more just alienated from education and all its works, will be taking substantial steps over the next weeks and months to ensure that the present state of affairs is not substantively perpetuated under the next government.

Be sure, though, that at the first threats of change, a vast army of folk, dependent upon the ways that things currently are, will surely emerge to find reasons for things' remaining substantively as they are..

This must not happen,. No, no, never!

Reference

Sutton, A. (2001) Four more years of the same? Special Children, no 138, May, p.11


* Nem, nem, soha (Hung.) 'No, no, never'.

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