Is this the end of inclusive education?
Late last year, I was horrified to read that a conference of sports medicine specialists was calling for PE to become a compulsory subject in schools. Worse, they wanted it to be a tested subject along with English and Maths, at every key stage of education.
Last Saturday afternoon, I was even more horrified to read that now, Boris Johnson and David Cameron have joined in what they see as the ‘fun.’
On Saturday morning, David Cameron said that competitive team sports will be made compulsory for all primary school children in England. A new curriculum, to be drafted this autumn, would require participation in sports such as football, hockey and netball. Last Thursday, London Mayor Boris Johnson called for two hours a day of compulsory sport for schoolchildren. I can’t think of anything more useless to my future life, or more painful to me as a disabled child who felt different and out of place in PE lessons at two mainstream schools.
As a young disabled child, I was lucky – my mainstream primary school teacher very kindly made sure my class had their PE lessons after I left school for the day to go to physiotherapy. I dread to think what would have happened to me if she had not been allowed to do this.
I’ve always dreamed of being able to kick a football. But for me, this is physically impossible. So what use would I have been to any mainstream school football team? I have very poor balance, so there’s no way I could stand unaided in one place long enough to be any good as a goalkeeper. I can’t think of one able bodied child who would want me on their team for any sport in a PE lesson.
Forced into such a situation by rules as a primary school child, I would have sat on the sidelines, feeling different, while everyone else was being chosen for teams by their friends. I would have been chosen last by someone feeling sorry for me, or worse, placed in a group by my teacher to complaints from said group. Today, this is the fear I have for intelligent disabled children in mainstream PE lessons of the future if David Cameron and Boris Johnson get their wish.
Mr Cameron calls this move the ‘Olympic legacy.’ He wants to use the ‘inspiration of the Games to get children playing sport more regularly.’
I, for one, was thrilled to see South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius competing in the London 2012 Olympics. This was Pistorius’ dream, and he made it come true. But I would just like to remind David Cameron and Boris Johnson that every disabled child does not have Oscar Pistorius’ dreams, or his ability to keep up with non disabled athletes.
Yet I have seen many intelligent physically disabled children over the years who are more than capable of benefitting from a mainstream education. I have seen many physically disabled children who have a lot to offer any mainstream school, be that far away from the sports field. During my own mainstream education, I was one such disabled child.
My fear last year, when the sports medicine specialists suggested compulsory PE lessons, was that the requirement to test PE might discourage mainstream schools from accepting disabled children.
I have known for quite a while that David Cameron and his party think that there is a ‘bias towards inclusion’ of disabled children in mainstream education. They are wrong- as any parent of a disabled child could easily tell them, inclusion involves many difficult and painful battles.
In their draft policies on schools before the 2010 election, they even pledged to try to end this ‘bias.’ Now they want an ‘Olympic legacy,’ and I fear they will use this to try to end inclusive education. Campaigners for inclusion did not fight our many battles so that we would ever see a day like this.
Just as the Government want the Olympics to leave a legacy, disabled people would like to see the Paralympics leave a legacy. A legacy of more opportunities for equality and inclusion in all areas of life – not less.Tagged in: boris johnson, david cameron, disability, inclusion’, Olympic legacy, Oscar Pistorius, paralympics, pe lessons, Sport
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