Equalities in action!

Coming back to my home base on Friday – after a week in the Home Office – my first ‘visit’ of the new term was to my old school – Highgate Primary. It couldn’t really have been more appropriate if we had tried – because Highgate Primary has within its boundaries –  the Blanche Nevile School.

Blanche Nevile is a school for deaf children which provides a child-centred, sign-bilingual, bicultural education for deaf children  from a wide range of London Boroughs. The deaf and hard of hearing children have some classes on their own and some integrated – and it is the most wondrous thing to see this in action.

A group of children had prepared questions to ask me about politics, the election, coalition and so on – to be followed by a show in Assembly and a cake sale. I walked into a room full of children literally bursting with energy and enthusiasm for politics – not always that common in ten year olds  – but something new is in the air. I don’t know if it was the leader debates or what (clearly they have fantastic teachers who had worked with them to prepare questions and enthuse them) but I have never seen a class like it.

Almost every hand went up every time a new question was needed. Why did I choose the LibDems? Why did I choose the Tories not Labour? What would I change if I was Prime Minister? Did I always want to be an MP? And much much more.

Straight on to  a production of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ in Assembly. It was absolutely gorgeous – as you can imagine. I loved particularly (probably cos it’s my era) their rendition of ‘Wild Thing!’. And yes – both the questions class and the show and the assembly were mixed hearing and non-hearing children.

And that is really the key point – all those children will grow up without questionning the equality of the hearing and the non-hearing. Just as it should be. As Minister for Equalities – this was equalities in action!

0 thoughts on “Equalities in action!

  1. Lynne – these ‘isn’t everything wonderful’ updates are starting to wear a bit thin. Could you respond to some of the points being made in response to your posts – e.g. on rape anonymity? These are serious issues and I think we are entitled to a bit more of an explanation.

    On special needs education – the ‘wondrous’ integrated classrooms you saw came about in all likelihood because their has been a bias towards inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools. You are now part of a Government that will end this bias towards inclusion.

    Perhaps you could explain how this will do anything other than increase segregation? If you believe children with special needs should be educated within a mainstream school so “all those children will grow up without questionning (sic) the equality of the hearing and the non-hearing” – why are you supporting Conservative policy on this? Is it something you agree with? Please explain – these are important issues that deserve more than just a superficial post about how everything is amazing since you became Minister for Equalities.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/28/jonathan-bartley-david-cameron-special-needs-schooling

  2. Hi Lynne

    I have seen school project work undertaken with young children addressing that some kids have either two mummies or two daddies – introducing the concept of diversity at a young age. The teacher involved happened to introduce that he was once a lady and the kids took that on board without issue.

    The point is that many of the problems that trans and gay folk experience could be reduced if the correct type of ‘education’ could be undertaken before kids are exposed to trans and homophobia in their early teens.

    Many problems go away if one can except that variation is part of the normal and ordinary spectrum and that has to be the long term aim rather than fire-fighting the consequence of public ignorance as is the current situation. Spend money on education!

    Government should have the courage to review the unfortunate consequences of the GRA. How can it justify making the hitherto heterosexual spouses of trans folk having to break up their marriages and then enter a CP (and hence publicly identify as gay/lesbian) before their partner can be legally recognised?

    The spouses of trans folk have been totally ignored!

    I wish you well in your new post.

    Paula

  3. Lynne – this doesn’t really explain much. If only it were based on whether it was beneficial and appropriate, but this is not your Government’s policy.

    Beneficial and appropriate to whom? The child? The school? The local authority? Each would look at a case from different perspectives.

    Who would make the judgement – the parent, the school, the local authority?

    If we make the assumption that what you mean is ‘it depends whether integration is beneficial and appropriate to the child’ – without some kind of lever (bias) to enable parents to push mainstream schools to include their child, how will this happen?

    Your Government is committed to ending the bias towards inclusion – bizarrely as some kind of pretence to increase parental choice. What choice will there be if parents don’t have some kind of mechanism to push their local school to make reasonable adjustments to include their child? The only choice would be a special school or – as Michael Gove wants – to set up your own! Imagine a country with lots of Gove free schools – how would a parent of a disabled child get into them?

    Come on Lynne – please reply properly, deal with the issues, defend your Government’s policy, and please explain how this policy will do anything other than lead to inequality and segregation.

  4. While we’re on schools policy, interested in your views – from an equalities perspective – on your Government’s plan to develop more faith school.

  5. @BenC – I have already emailed Lynne about this and await a reply. Particularly concerning LibDem’s promise to end the faith schools’ opt out of equality legislation re employing teachers. Also, Lib Dem’s promise to ensure schools stop discriminating against taxpayers of the “wrong” or no faith when it comes to allocating their children places at these schools.

    It looks like these manifesto pledges will be sacrificed on the altar of coalition government. Where’s the equality now?

  6. Wow, this must have been a very exciting experience. YOu are right this is equalities in action. I have been involved with equaltiy and diversity for many years and had many challenges in this work. Some of those challenges have been overcome easier than others. One of the biggest challenges for me is the assumptions people make and the lack of questions they ask because they think they know the answers. Being able to ask the questions and engaging with politics is what these children did, bringing politics to life, asking the questions helps understand so much. Well done.

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