Recent visits to mainstream and special schools reveal little difference between the two in quality of provision and outcomes for pupils with special educational needs.
A new report by education watchdog Ofsted finds that pupils with the most severe and complex needs can make outstanding progress “in all types of provision”, providing they have access to experienced and qualified specialist teachers.
“The inclusion debate has for too long focused on whether children with learning difficulties and disabilities should be educated in special schools or mainstream schools, rather than the quality of the education and support they receive,” said chief inspector of schools Maurice Smith.
The report criticises the over-reliance by some mainstream schools on teaching assistants, and calls on them to develop the knowledge and skills relating to learning difficulties across the school workforce.
The watchdog also echoes recommendations by MPs last week for the Training and Development Agency to improve teacher training on SEN.
The latest report from the House of Commons committee charged with scutinising education policy called for SEN training to be made compulsory and become part of initial teacher training, induction and continued professional development.
The MPs also demanded an urgent clarification from the government on its position on SEN and inclusion, and a clear national strategy for SEN policy in the future.