Special schools should be closed

One of the greatest things learned in the 20th century was that
racially motivated eugenics and separating people because of their
skin colour is wrong. Those who express views in favour of these
are deemed racist and shunned.

Yet in recent months it has again been shown that my rights as a
disabled person to exist, to have the same civil and human rights
and life opportunities, experiences and expectations as other
people are still not taken for granted.

People still discuss putting disabled children in special schools
or reinforcing the split system that has existed for decades in
education without the involvement of disabled people, the only true

The special schools debate works on three myths. First, that
special schools are perfect and give disabled children the best
chance in life. But ask some disabled people about their
experiences of special schools and they would rather a child is put
in the hands of the military than suffer a special school.

The second myth is that inclusion is bad for disabled children.
Inclusion is fundamental to ending a century of segregation that
has weakened the fabric of all society. Just go to any town centre
on a Saturday morning and you will see the benefits of inclusion,
where disabled teens are without their parents, feeling they are a
part of society and have the right to expect the same treatment as
everyone else.

Rather than throwing inclusion in the bin because no one can be
bothered to read the instructions, it is now time we stopped
victimising disabled children and actually get on with the

The final myth is that it should be left to parents to make the
choice. But people can only choose what others wish to offer them.
Besides, there is no real choice; why would parents put their
children in a special school and condemn them to a life of
dependency when they could give them a good quality of life?

However much you sweeten the idea of special schools, for disabled
people they are no different to the racist ideas and institutions
of the 20th century.

Simon Stevens is chief executive of disability services
provider Enable Enterprises and has cerebral palsy

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