Alan Share’s ‘Death of A Nightingale’ deserves to be studied with great care
Alan Share is a man on a mission and he deserves to be read by people with a stake in UK education.
He believes Special Needs Children should be educated outside from mainstream classes.
He may be right. He may be wrong. But he deserves to have his thesis considered with the most diligent care.
About 100 special schools have been closed in the UK since 1997. Another, Brighouse School in Westborough, is threatened with closure. An international consensus that children with special educational needs have the right to be educated in mainstream schools drives this policy. But what if it is not such a good idea?
What if it is just a flawed and expensive social experiment that is good for some children but bad for others, fine in the libraries of the mind, but not in the classrooms of the real world? What if lawyers asserting human rights enjoy the fruits of Utopia whereas everyone else has just a partial glimpse of it? What if academia is leading its students down a blind alley? And maybe the system of goverment is wanting, too. What if mistakes and misconceptions here help to explain what is wrong elsewhere and also threaten other things that we treasure? And what if the rising generation is ill-equiped to meet the new challenges of the twenty first century? No-one should ignore these questions
Alan Share is one of the most single-minded committed passionate driven campaigners in the UK as regards helping  children get the very best education which is available in the UK.
He has a crystal clear vision of how this can be achieved.
There are competing visions.
Others with special needs children have campaigned for them to be educated with all the other children in their community. This is a vital debate which must not be another case of ‘the science is settled’ but be constantly and vigorously reviewed.
Alan Share certainly should get a media platform to be heeded because this is a vital matter.
His core idea should be debated thoroughly and his precepts  carefully scrutinised.
This  is a man born to be on Newsnight, Daily Politics, This Week, Question Time, Radio 4 and Radio 5, and to be writing blogs for The Telegraph, Times and Guardian.
He has turned -perhaps in frustration to the arts to generate debate.
He has written  a play to dramatise his thesis.
It is not perfect nor immaculate.
On the other hand, it is certainly far better than many plays which appear in Edinburgh in August and far better than say ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’. It is a shame it has not generated the same controversy, Daily Mail articles, the attention of Christian groups and questions in Parliament.
Alan Share has attempted to describe the real raw pain, injustice and misery inflicted by heartless bureaucrats on special needs children and their usually powerless parents.
Again he may be wrong or he may be right.
He certainly ruffles feathers, touches nerves and forces people to think about how we organise education.
A press release is broadly accurate:
‘As the play re-enacts what happened when a local authority in the UK, at the bidding of the department for education, tries to close down a school for children with special needs, you begin to ask whether it was wrong to buy into a policy of shoehorning children with special needs willy nilly into mainstream schools in the name of Inclusion. You may also wonder whether it is just Totalitarian States that bend people to their will.
It is not a comfortable journey narrated by Tracy a pupil at the school. The head teacher under pressure tries to take her own life; the relationship with her partner, the English teacher, under threat.
But there’s also some hope too. We see that there is such a thing as the gift of love. That is what the staff offers the pupils. That is what brings the head teacher and the English teacher back together again. And where does it come from? In the music lesson Share asks the question whether it comes from God or from those who just find it in their lives. He uses the spirituality in music and a confrontation between a black Pentecostal music teacher and an atheistic pupil Terry with cerebral palsy to explore the age old question of God’s existence.
There is passion in this book and it’s much more than just a play. That is only one part of it. Certainly anyone interested in education and politics generally should find it a fascinating and challenging read’.
There has been hostility to the play from the usual suspects of quango fatcats who fear their fiefdoms and empires on the public purse are at risk in an era of re-thinking tax and spending.
It is this hostility alone which may warrant reading the play or seeing it performed.
Certainly some of the reviewers would have booed John Milton plays off the stage.
Share deserves a break and we hope that he gets it sooner rather than later.

Jonathan Stuart-Brown



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