I consider myself fortunate to have been brought up in the broadly Anglican tradition, for one simple reason – doubt. Doubt, it has seemed to me, is inherent in the essence of the Church of England; and a very good thing too. The publication in the mid-1960s of “Honest to God” wherein John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich doubted even the existence of God (“Death of God” - google it or check it out on Wikipedia) captured my questioning late-teenage student mind. If you could doubt the existence of God, what could you not doubt?
On the other hand, apart from such youthful flirtations, I’ve never really had any overwhelming need for Faith, so perhaps I’m just a typical Libran – the astrological sign of the scales, the sign of justice – ever seeking for harmony, fair play and, above all, balance. Or, of course, a chronic case of uncertainty when it comes to decision-making. In short, doubt.
Then comes to mind the wonderful appeal to doubt attributed to Oliver Cromwell (who appears rarely to have suffered doubts), “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
Today, I have three times been made to think again about ‘inclusion’. On Facebook, Charles Henley posted a distinction between what he called ‘reasonable inclusion’ and ‘extreme inclusion’, which offended a Lawraine Hills.
Also on Facebook, Simon John Duffy posted a piece about a talk he recently gave in Darlington to “a lovely group of commissioners and other allies of people with learning disabilities. I tried to offer some insight into why the fire has gone out for change and what we can do about it.” This drew the ire of a Siimone Aspis. It seems that Simone Aspis, if I understand her correctly, argues in the several comments she has added to Simon Duffy’s post that only people with a learning disability should speak for people with learning disabilities or, at least, have a mandate from people with learning disabilities to do so.
I admire her fire and passion. I envy her certainty and lack of doubt. I just wish, as Cromwell urged the Scots, that she would think it possible she may be mistaken.
Over many years, I felt that my own contacts with activists for inclusion were ultimately rebuffed, in the short or long term. There was a strong sense in which such people could have contributed a great deal to our thinking and the development of Paces’ wider project. But there was also a sense that unless we “toed the party line”, we were untouchables. I had, however, thought that this sort of stuff was behind us as a society; that whilst the broad campaign for inclusion must continue, there was nevertheless a recognition that one size does not fit all and that for some children, young people and adults, perhaps a very few, other arrangements were necessary and desired; not least in the area of special pedagogy and the training of teachers.
Surprise then, the third item today on inclusion, that our local authority is planning a new “Inclusion Strategy”.
To which end, a meeting involving parents is to be held. Apparently the key areas for discussion are:
- SEN Support in mainstream schools: How can we ensure that SEN provision is of a consistently high quality across all schools in Sheffield?
- EHC plans: Because we already have lots of evidence relating to the process of getting an EHC plan (such as timescales, quality, and communication with parents), we would like to focus more on what happens once a plan is in place – what difference does it make?
- Specialist provision: Do we have the right mix of specialist provision (special schools and IRs) in Sheffield?
Nothing about special education; about pedagogy, the training of teachers or about curriculum.
Déjà vu all over again? Do they never have any doubt?