Andy Bundy, secretary of Havant Area Disability Access Group, talks about pupils limited knowledge of disabilities
My visit was to meet the ‘evil minions’ of the Community Editor who ‘improve’ my writing each week.
Actually they’re not evil or even minions.
Additionally, I was asked to speak to the class of students, from Highbury College, who are learning about the newspaper trade.
As a group of students, I was taken aback by not only their dress and professional appearance, but also by the intensity of both their listening, note-taking and very pertinent questions, as well as some excellent participation in discussion over the Equality Act.
A credit to their lecturers, and to The News’ team training them on the job.
What struck me, and this is no reflection on the students whatsoever, was the clearly limited knowledge of disability they had.
In this case, I refer to knowledge through education that should have been taught, not experienced – the latter comes with time.
To my knowledge, the National Curriculum, despite the strict requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) does not contain specific content or requirements to teach about people who have disabilities or equally disabling health conditions.
Thus unless a child or class is exposed to a volunteer, governor, member of staff or even other disabled pupil, children have little chance of gaining a positive experience.
The outcome is to perpetuate the earlier generations who have grown up with no direct experience of disability, and thus succumb to the ‘propaganda’ used to justify £12bn in benefits cuts, and go on to increase the level of disability hate crime.
The bias of certain national tabloids against disabled people has been scientifically proven.
If you are a school head or governor, you are legally obliged to promote equality, which is more than publishing targets and reporting on them each year on your websites.
There are plenty of disability groups around the county who are more than willing to visit schools, talk at assemblies and work with classes, you have but to ask.
In Havant and Waterlooville e-mailing our access group via firstname.lastname@example.org is all you need to do.
In addition, we can even help schools in the area with their much-hated disability access audit which governors have to complete every three years.