No return to dark days

Everyone is entitled to a change of heart. But when an entire
system has been built on the premise of your earlier beliefs, you
are always going to create waves if you reverse your opinion.

Last month, the very person who laid the foundations for an
inclusive education system and the introduction of statements of
special educational needs shocked the sector by suggesting, 30
years on, that every child with a statement should be removed from
mainstream education.

Baroness Warnock is proposing that all children with a statement
should be taught instead in small, specialist schools. Under her
plan, children with special needs who choose to remain in
mainstream schools would not be entitled to statements and would be
catered for in the normal classroom.

Warnock’s rationale for her apparent u-turn is her belief
that current practice means children are often physically included
but emotionally excluded. She says it is essential to acknowledge
children’s differences and defend their right to learn, but
not their right to learn in a particular environment.

While it is undoubtedly true that some children get on better in
special schools than mainstream schools, the idea that all children
requiring help should be obliged to make the switch seems both
extreme and backwards.

As the extended schools agenda takes off over the next few years,
there is also a risk that barring children who want extra support
from mainstream schools would alienate them and their families from
a whole range of other services too.

Rather than the “radical review” of special needs
education that Warnock recommends, what is required here is a
servicing of the existing system. With the appropriate teacher
training and resources, schools could – and in some places
already do – make inclusion a reality. 

In the 21st century, there can be no excuse – not even one as
eminent as Baroness Warnock – for returning to the dark days
of compulsory segregation.

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