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Inclusion is a Monumental Cock-Up

March 25th, 2011

Inclusion is still a political hot potato. Mary Warnock called it a disaster. The Green Paper promised for last Autumn, has just been published. The question is - whose fingers is the potato burning?

By coincidence, drowned out by the Budget, yesterday’s BBC News put out a report by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, with some alarming statistics. ‘Research shows the number of children with disabilities has risen from 700,000 in 2004 to 950,000 in 2009.’ The report also said ‘one in five pupils in England is said to have some form of special needs.’ This equates to around 1.7 million children.

Those who truly have special needs are being lost among those categorised as having them. This has happened because schools have seized the opportunity to get extra money for children with special needs on offer to make inclusion acceptable to mainstream schools, this along with the 100,000 classrooms assistants recruited for the same purpose – all regardless of expense! And there is no follow-up to any of this in this week’s Times Educational Supplement. The drowning process goes on.

What has happened?

In a debate in the House of Lords on school milk in October 1976 – you can imagine how many noble Lords will have been present – in a 41 minute debate an amendment to require LEAs to educate children with mainstream schools (that had earlier in the year been rejected by disability organisations and the NUT) was nevertheless approved, and was subsequently passed into law.

Thus, Parliament gave a legal right to children with special needs to mainstream education. An army has been recruited to try to make it work, and in some cases it has. In many cases it has not. Children have been given rights without benefits; substandard teaching and care, exclusion in an inclusive environment - and bullying.

Yes, sometimes the education of children without special needs has benefited from the presence of children with special needs. However, their right to have an education appropriate to their needs has not always been fully respected because of the demands made on time and limited know how of teachers made responsible for children with special needs?

The post performance discussion last night at Death of a Nightingale concluded that the lucky ones today are those in the remaining special schools, schools like Oak Lodge in Finchley and Barbara Priesman School in Sunderland that I helped parents save from the cull.

Furthermore, what some may have hoped would save money has actually become extraordinarily expensive.

So, why the media silence? Simply because all three political parties support inclusion, and academia validated it. Parliament sanctioned it and the media gave it their blessing.