Monday, 27 September 2010

Willy-nilly into the future

What practical choice is there in England?

At the end of last week I wrote less than warmly about the Government's consultation on special educational needs and inclusion in England, as a 'charade' – offering a somewhat negative summary of what I think it actually says:


Over the weekend Norman Perrin has delivered a deserved rebuke in the form of a Comment appended to that posting:

Nevertheless, willy-nilly, we must work only with what is there.
Two links (both from the Times Educational Supplement) which readers might like to follow up:
1. Sir Robert Balchin says in June that the review is set to be the most significant since Warnock 30 years ago
2.The Minister (Sarah Teather) says legislation may be necessary and urges parents to respond to the consultation.


I do not agree

Norman wrote –

'... willy-nilly, we must work only with what is there.'

I am sure that Norman does not apply this position to human development. I suspect that he does not favour it as a general position on social matters. I think that I know what he means in the present context but I find it hard to find the exact words and, anyway, I can hardly put words into his mouth, not least when I find it hard enough myself to express my own thoughts on this. I am very glad that I no longer work in the sort of position that Norman holds, and very pleased that I need think of all this now just as words, rather than myeveryday reality.

Granting that, and of course waiting to see what the Government comes up with, my inclination would be to keep my powder dry in anticipation of the possibility that, willy-nilly, one might also be obliged to oppose what is there, on the basis that there are always new forces that can be brought to life in human affairs, personal and social.

Time will tell

Norman may be wrong, and he may be right. Time will tell.

How much time?
  • It took only a few years for the harmful effects of Warnock's repoty to become apparent.
  • It took fifteen years for her to make her own admission (and all credit to her that she did).
  • It has taken some thirty years for Government to get round to doing something about this.
  • How many more years for all the damage to be undone.
Getting it right would of course have lead to a different future dynamic but go back to the previous big watershed (1944) and you find no precedent for getting such a thing right there either. Putting it differently, not in living memory does our country have experience of getting this sector right, nobody living has experience of being served by a wholly well functioning system, nobody has worked in one. Sweeping generalisations, I know, and of course there will be all sorts of individual islands of good that can be reported, but what is at stake here is the system as a whole.

When things go wrong, why does it take so long to unpick them? One reason, surely, is that there are so many who 'willy-nilly, work only with what is there', creating new vested interests as they do, defending what they have created or what employs them in the world as they find it, becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Significance

Robert Balchin (what judge of such matters, he?) considers the forthcoming Government review the most significant since Warnock's. At the level of ideas and understandings, what was the great significance of Mary Warnock's report? That it was 'naïve to the point of idiocy'. Not my words and judgement – her own (I was there in Buxton in 1992 when she first came out publicly with her admission of the damage to which her report had opened us all). Her report brought together and legitimated much of the woolly. unchallenging thinking of the time and left the sector without a backbone (sorry about the metaphors!). That was what it meant, its great significance.

For those too young to remember, idiocy used to be the lowest grade of mental deficiency. Where on such a scale might the 'most sidgnificant since...' stand? One of the deleterious effects of 'Warnock' has been to create open season on ideas and practices even woollier – or in her terms, even more idiotic – than those that her committee allowed to stay upon the table. Looking at Robert Balchin's own report, a document and process that might be later looked back upon as a run-up to what the Government has in mind, then indeed the door is wide open for something at least as 'significant' as Mary Warnock's report, and perhaps even more so

Yes, I too feel that this coming review might be a 'Warnock 2' or, to put it differently, I fear that it might be so.

We shall see, when its effects – quite literally – come home.

An earlier look at the review process


...with links to more.

3 comments:

  1. Tried to post a comment an hour or so ago but got "Service not available" message. Lost what I wrote!

    My comment was not at all intended to be a rebuke, Andrew. Just stating the simple (badly expressed, maybe) dilemma - whether or not any advantage for children with CP, for CE or for Paces might be wrung out of submitting a response.

    Not yet made up my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Norman,

    Rebuke all you like, I appreciate the response. Such a shame that so few people do it. No rebuke, no reprimand, no correction, no questioning, no debate and no intellectual progress: with so few and noble exceptions, the curse of the conductive classes!

    Yes you have an unenviable dilemma there, danmned if you do and damned if you don't. I look back myself in amazement at the huge tracts of time that I sent over 'consultation' and associated activities, written and face to face. With ziltch to show for it, for myself, for my organisation, for Conductive Education or for the punters. For the then or for the future.

    I can add to all the time spent in such a way over Conductive Education a probably commensurate amount spent trying Canute-like to turn the tide of 'special educational needs. Ditto result!

    Regret it?No, I would have been remiss, culpable evn had I not seizes every reasonable opportunity to use mu then positions to struggle for something better.

    Live in hope...

    Andrew.

    PS I have just posted a comment on a posting on your own blog, not wholly unrelated to this:

    http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2010/09/the-future-of-sen-in-6-parts-if-you-care-read-it.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Norman,

    Rebuke all you like, I appreciate the response. Such a shame that so few people do it. No rebuke, no reprimand, no correction, no questioning, no debate and no intellectual progress: with so few and noble exceptions, the curse of the conductive classes!

    Yes, you have an unenviable dilemma there, damned if you do and damned if you don't. I look back myself in amazement at the huge tracts of time that I sent over 'consultation' and associated activities, written and face to face.

    With ziltch to show for it, for myself, for my organisation, for Conductive Education or for the punters. For the then or for the future.

    I can add to all the time spent in such a way over Conductive Education a probably commensurate amount spent trying Canute-like to turn the tide of 'special educational needs'. Ditto result!

    Regret it? No, I would have been remiss, culpable even had I not seized every reasonable opportunity to use my then positions and opportunities to struggle for something better.

    Live in hope...

    Andrew.

    PS I have just posted a comment on a posting on your own blog, not wholly unrelated to this:

    http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2010/09/the-future-of-sen-in-6-parts-if-you-care-read-it.html

    ReplyDelete