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Parent politics in education: is there a bias towards inclusion?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Susannah Lacon.

The Coalition government aims to ‘reverse the bias towards inclusive education’ and promote its agenda of ‘parental preference’. The nature of the relationship between parents and their children’s teachers has been conceptualised as ‘involvement’, participation, co-operation, collaboration, and sometimes coercion. It can also be seen as a power struggle – one in which aspirational, middle-class parents ensure their children’s success in an increasingly unequal education system. The extent to which parents of disabled children are genuinely enabled to participate in their children’s education, and make informed decisions, is questionable. This seminar will focus on a case study of Clare, a parent of twin girls who have difficulties with communication, learning, mobility and health, and who were included in their local rural primary school with some difficulties. Clare used an auto-ethnographic approach as part of her post-graduate studies to help her make the decision about the most suitable educational placement for her daughters at secondary level. Reflecting on the process of making informed decisions as a parent, with the benefit of academic study, the gap between the rhetoric and reality of the parent choice agenda will be explored. Issues of power, inequity, voice and notions of choice will be examined in relation to assumptions in the current discourse around parental participation.

Dr Susie Miles is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education at the University of Manchester. She teaches across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and is currently developing an MA pathway entitled “Educational Leadership and Inclusion” which will be taught in collaboration with the MA in “Educational Leadership and School Improvement”. From 2004-2010 Susie was the Programme Director of the MEd in Inclusive Education. She is also the founding coordinator of the Enabling Education Network (EENET), an information-sharing network which supports and promotes the inclusion of marginalised groups in education worldwide. EENET represents a unique international resource on inclusive education. Previously she worked as a teacher of deaf children, both in the UK and in Swaziland. As Save the Children UK’s Regional Disability Adviser for Southern Africa, she was centrally involved in developing inclusive education and community based programmes with and for disabled people over a period of 12 years. As grant holder and coordinator of a Department for International Development research project (2001-2005), she has worked with colleagues in Tanzania, Zambia and the UK to develop a collaborative action research methodology on inclusion. She has worked as a consultant to a range of international non-governmental organisations, including Save the Children (UK), Leonard Cheshire International, the International Deaf Children’s Society and the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development.

This talk is part of the Perspectives on Inclusive and Special Education series.

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