Think-tank fury over ‘segregation’ of disabled children in education

An education think-tank has attacked the government over its
failure to take a tougher line with local education authorities
that place a high number of disabled children in special

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

The centre’s report LEA Inclusion Trends in England
001, published last week to mark National Inclusion Week
2002, shows that, although the overall number of pupils in special
schools fell from 88,000 to 86,000 between 1997 and 2001, there are
huge variations around the country.

For example, about 2.6 per cent of disabled children 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 said the Special Educational Needs 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, on its own, the act would not bring radical
changes because of two provisos. One gives schools the right to
refuse disabled children if it is felt that their presence would
adversely affect other children’s education.

The other – that parents must agree to their child being placed in
a mainstream school – was criticised by Vaughan for making choices
subject to parental agreement rather than the child’s

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

“Inclusion of disabled pupils is a human rights issue, not a
passing fad,” he said.

– LEA Inclusion Trends in England 1997-2001 from 0117 344

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