Behind the headlines

Teachers meeting at the annual conference of the National
Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers delivered a
blow to the government’s inclusion agenda by calling into question
moves to encourage more children with special needs to go to
mainstream schools.

Delegates argued that more special schools were the way forward for
dealing with children with special educational needs. They argued
that these young people were being disadvantaged by the “league
table mentality” and drive towards higher academic standards.

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“The government’s policy of inclusion appears to me to be a
misnomer. In my experience children and young people with special
educational needs who are educated in mainstream schools often
experience segregation, discrimination and isolation within school
from their peers and sometimes staff. This is not inclusion and I
believe such children need to be offered an education that can meet
their needs and if this is through the provision of special needs
schools then so be it.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“From age seven, I entered mainstream education and learned to cope
with the taunts and torments of my peer group. While the vision of
inclusion in mainstream education set out in the Special Education
Needs and Disability Act 2001 is right and must be pursued, the
reality for many disabled young people is appalling. National and
local government are guilty of cutting specialist teachers and
facilities while not building capacity in mainstream schools. The
civil rights of disabled young people are foundering on the rocks
of cynical political and financial expediency.”

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham
“Both Margaret Hodge and schools minister David Miliband
have argued that excellence and equity are compatible, but the
National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers
(Nasuwt) clearly disagrees. This is a difficult issue, but unless
disabled children are educated in the same schools as those without
disabilities they will always suffer social exclusion.

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“The philosophy of inclusion had the potential to create a
more integrated society, but it has only worked well when the extra
resources saved by closing special units were reinvested Êin
classroom support. What we need is not a total policy reversal, but
fully costed individual educational support plans, allowances for
time out of the core curriculum, and the option retained for
special environments for the most vulnerable. Where inclusion has
worked well all the children in the class haveÊlearned to
communicate better and gained understanding.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham
“Nasuwt’s position as reported seems to be in direct
contradiction of all the principles in Every Child Matters which we
have all so warmly welcomed. The main thrust is to mainstream
vulnerable children into universal services. Of course that’s not
always easy and specialist services will be needed to work
alongside universal ones and be phased in appropriately, but the
fundamental principle is right.”

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