Meeting Report by Phil Scott, President Disability Support Group:
Dear colleagues,I took part in the round table this morning and found it both interesting and frustrating. Interesting becaue of the variety of participants and points of view expressed, frustrating because of what seems to me to be the relative complacency not only of the ES authorities (led by the Secretary-General) but also of the Commission.
I summarise only the SEN elements of the discussion, which otherwise focused on upholding the European baccaslaureate, the need to avoid elitism, finance, including the Member States contribution and the governance of the Schools (both the Schools and the Commission said that governance was not a problem...). If I had not been there for the Disability Support Group I very much doubt whether SEN would have been mentioned at all, so it certainly wasn't a waste of time being there.
I based my remarks on our contribution to the draft report by Mr Cavada, emphasising the very slow progress since 2005 (last EP resolution), our alarm at the impact of budget cutbacks on SEN, and the obligations the ES were under now that the EU has ratified the UN Convention, with special reference to Article 24 on inclusive education. People talked of the ES as being a model: in SEN at any rate, this was not the case as the percentage of SEN pupils accepted in the ES, at 2.7%, was less that half the average for all EU Member States (5.8%).
Mr Moricca (Commission) replied that SEN was taken very seriously and quoted the SEN budget increase from 2010 to 2011. I asked him for the figures for 2012: he said he would send them later. Ms Christmann said the number of exclusions was extremely low and each case carefully considered and fully justified. I said that in 2010 there had been 84 SEN agreements which had been terminated: this was not a negligeable figure. Another problems was the fall in the number of SEN hours being provided per pupil. In answer Mr Schlabe (Director Brussels IV and future director of Laeken) said that in many cases SEN agreements were terminated at parents' requests because they thought they had found better alternatives and that then they often came back to the ES because the alternative turned out not to be so good after all!!!
Ana Gorey said that Interparents was receiving many complaints about the reduction or elimination of SEN hours: from one moment to the next a SEN pupil would suddenly stop being a SEN pupil.The draft report by Mr Cavada is being discussed in the CULT committee this afternoon: the vote in committee will be on 14 July and the report should be voted in plenary during the September II part-session. I have resubmitted our proposals for inclusion in the report.Wasili, I did not believe it appropriate to mention details as specific as autism and more particularly ABA. In the first place this was a general discussion about the ES and it was by no means straightforward to get SEN discussed at all! Secondly, I do not think it is the DSG's role to advocate particular methods or therapies for dealing with disabilities. While the use of ABA in the school environment might be appropriate and beneficial in some or many cases (including Lucas' of course) it is not necessarily a univeral solution. .... See for example the discussion of ABA on the UK National Autistic Society website, where it is presented as a home programme rather than a school one (http://www.autism.org.uk/Living-with-autism/Approaches-therapies-and-interventions/Behavioural-interventions/Applied-behavioural-analysis.aspx). In other words, as any specialist in autism will tell you, what works for one person with autism may not work for another.Best wishes,Philip