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The Right to be Labelled: From Risk to Rights for Pupils with Dyslexia in 'Special Needs' Education

Macdonald, Stephen J and Kearney, Jeremy (2013) The Right to be Labelled: From Risk to Rights for Pupils with Dyslexia in 'Special Needs' Education. In: Constructing Risky Identities in Policy and Practice. Palgrave, pp. 55-72. ISBN 978-1-137-27607-0

Item Type: Book Section


In Ulrich Beck's (1992, 2001) analysis of the cultural construction of risk, he asserts that the discourse of 'rights' and 'risk' emerged from the 1970s because of the transition from 'industrial modernity' to the era of 'reflexive modernity'. According to Beck, the idea of civil rights occurred because of society's increased access to welfare and education, which resulted in 'lay' members of society questioning professional knowledge and power. Therefore, people's ability to conceptualise their own social position led to an increase in social activism and constructed a new reflexive language of 'rights' and 'risk' (Beck, 2001; Denney, 2005; Heaphy, 2007). This corresponds with the foundation of the social model of disability, which also developed out of the disability rights movement of the 1970s. The social model of disability has challenged social attitudes since that time by suggesting that people with impairments are disabled by society rather than by their bodies (Oliver, 1997; Barnes and Mercer 2010).
The social model of disability developed the new discourse of `disablement' which discussed disabled people's experiences through the notion of disabling barriers (for example, environmental barriers, label¬ling, segregation and stigmatisation and so on), rather than being caused by physical limitations. This model has had a significant impact in the domains of physical impairment, yet very few studies have applied it to people with specific learning difficulties (Riddick, 2001; Mortimore and Dupree, 2008; Macdonald, 2009). Furthermore, there has been very little critique of the application of 'risk' in educational practice embedded in recent special education needs policy articulated in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA 2001). For this

reason, the purpose of this chapter is to illustrate connections between the concept of 'risk' (Beck, 1992, 2012; Giddens, 1991, 1999) with that of 'disability rights' applied from a social model perspective (Riddick, 2001; Danermark, 2001; Mortimore and Dupree, 2008; Oliver, 2009; Macdonald, 2009). Using both Beck and Giddens's negative and positive conceptualisations of risk (Mythen and Walklate, 2006; Tulloch, 2008; Zinn, 2008), the chapter employs a critical realist framework to discuss the concepts of 'dyslexia', 'labelling', 'identity' and 'risk' within special needs education (Danermark, 2001; Shakespeare, 2006; Riddick, 2010; Macdonald, 2009).
In this chapter the argument is made that while New Labour's (1997¬2010) risk-management agenda failed many children, this was due to the implementation of the framework rather than the framework itself. Consequently, the new Conservative-led Coalition Government's plan to abandon New Labour's risk-management framework, which was underpinned by the practice of 'assessment, statement and placement', is rejected. Instead this chapter suggests that New Labour's risk-management agenda should be replaced with a rights agenda that constructs disabled children's needs as entitling them to organisational changes ensuring their equal inclusion in the education system. The chapter concludes by implying that a social model-led rights-based approach is required in order to remove disabling barriers from within the UK education system (Riddick, 2001; Mortimore and Dupree, 2008; Oliver, 2009; Macdonald, 2009).

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Depositing User: Stephen Macdonald


Item ID: 6754
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ISBN: 978-1-137-27607-0
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ORCID for Stephen J Macdonald: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2016 09:38
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:40


Author: Stephen J Macdonald ORCID iD
Author: Jeremy Kearney

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Faculty of Education and Society
Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences


Social Sciences

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