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(UK) OP ED: Schools 'failing' neurodiverse students

Sept 2, 2022, Mirror: Dis Life: 'Most schools are failing disabled pupils - we don't need no education'

By disability campaigner Anna Morell 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.

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?...

Throughout this week, we aim to change your mind about how you view disabled people. After all, there are 14 million of us, and we aren’t all the same, it’s time the public stopped listening to lazy stereotypes and viewed disabled people in all our wide-ranging splendor.

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.


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