Dis Life: 'Solution to missing education isn't to force kids back into schools'

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'There is a real problem with children missing education' (Image: PA)

Terrifying analysis came out recently from the Centre for Social Justice on persistent school absentees.

It thinks that around 9,000 children left behind academically as a result of the pandemic and missing school could end up as criminals. I'm just wondering how this works logically. Because children who tend to be school refusers tend to refuse school because of disabilities, such as mental health distress or neurodiverse conditions, and who find the structures of schools, designed for neurotypical kids without mental or emotional distress, absolutely unbearable.

And rather than seeing Fagin-style pickpocket and county lines drug dealing home schooling set ups, I'm seeing, yet again, frightened and despairing kids staying at home in their bedrooms, playing computer games and doing quite a lot of crying. Surely the real focus should be WHY are these kids not going to school? Not tarring them with an imaginary brush from the future and insisting they're all doomed to the clink.

There are certain aspects of society who still do not see the light when it comes to school refusing. They are so desperate to push children back into a system which is broken and actively breaks those children, that they make up projections like this. Yes, they could end up as criminals. Or perhaps they could end up as entrepreneurs. Pushed out of systems which don't work for them, maybe they're able to set up whole new ones for the next generation. Just like James Dyson and Richard Branson. Dyslexia, a neurodiverse condition, makes great out of the box thinkers. Who make great innovators and entrepreneurs.

There is a real problem with children missing education. But the solution isn't forcing them back into schools. It's to completely remodel the school system, so it works for all children. All the pandemic did was give families the confidence to actually listen to the emotional state of their kids, and do something about it. The difficulty is, the doing something about it in the longer term is lacking, because the government has not been listening for so so long. The education system needs to change. If something isn't serving the people that it is supposed to serve, it is not the people it is supposed to serve that are the problem.

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Airlines should re-think carer ticket cost

Disabled people hoping to go abroad this summer or still having to pay out double the money if they want to take a carer with them. I say want but it's a need. And if they were travelling domestically, carers would be entitled to either free or greatly reduced cost travel.

A third of the airlines make Disabled people pay full price for a carer ticket. Which quite often pushes the affordability of foreign travel out of the realm of possibility. Flights aren't covered by the Equality Act. This also means that cabin crew don't have to make reasonable adjustments for Disabled people such as helping them get to the loo. The Civil Aviation Authority encourages airlines to provide free or reduced tickets for carers, but it has no power to impose such rules.

Ask Disabled people BEFORE you start building

Good news from Preston this week, as the Harris Museum has announced that it has appointed disabled people's organisation Equality North West as a 'critical friend' while it undergoes extensive refurbishment. Far too few businesses and public buildings engage disabled people when they work on such projects from the ground up.

It's really very simple. If you can make facilities like this accessible for Disabled people, then the accessibility will work for everyone else. It's really hard to retrofit adaptations as an afterthought. By making such adaptations from the offset, having spoken to Disabled people, there is a much higher chance of building a legacy of access for everyone for a very long time.

Anna Morell

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