Government under fire for low numbers of disabled children in mainstream schools

An education think-tank has launched an attack on the government
over its failure to force local education authorities to place a
higher number of disabled children in mainstream schools,
writes Sally Gillen.

Mark Vaughan, founder of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive
Education, has called on the government to take “a firmer lead to
force the higher segregating schools to develop stronger inclusion
polices” after research revealed wide policy variations between the

Figures compiled by the centre, ‘LEA inclusion trends in England
1997-2001’, show that, while the overall number of pupils in
special schools has fallen from around 88,000 to 86,000 between
1997 and 2001, there are huge variations between authorities around
the country.

For example, around 2.6 per cent of children with disabilities
living in Manchester in 2001 were placed in a special school,
compared with 0.35 per cent in Newham, east London.

Vaughan said it was “unfair and unjust” that moves towards
inclusion had been so slow and that a huge “shift in culture” was
needed to ensure that all children could be educated in mainstream

He added that the SEN and Disability Act 2001 that came into
force in September to tackle discrimination in schooling was a
“step in the right direction”.

But he warned that it would not on its own create radical
changes because it contained two provisos, one of which meant that
schools only had to accept children with disabilities if it was
felt that their presence would not adversely affect other
children’s education.

The other proviso, that parents must agree to their child being
placed in a mainstream school, was also criticised by Vaughan who
argued that choices about education should not be subject to
parental agreement, but decided upon by the child.

Millions of pounds spent on providing special needs education
should be poured into mainstream education to allow for the
“properly resourced restructuring of mainstream schools”, Vaughan
added. “Inclusion of disabled pupils is a human rights issue, not a
passing fad.”

Report from CSIE on 0117 344 4007

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