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Inclusion or Disillusion?

April 7th, 2009

I have suggested to you that you have to be very careful how you used words. If you are not careful they can be like a straight jacket. When you wear a straight jacket you can see and you can talk, but all movement is restrained. It can be the same with words. When you use them, you can see and you can speak, but your thought processes can be severely restricted. They first control what you think. They then influence what you do. Some words, like the word ‘right’ for instance, can change their meaning depending on how they are used.

While it may be “right” for children with special needs to go to a mainstream school they are not necessarily “wronged” if they are not. Human rights lawyers in particular please note.

Children without special needs have their rights too. Don’t imagine that there cannot be a clash of interest, and one resolved by fair play rather than by Equality.

Rights! My mind goes back to a lecture by Herbert Hart, the eminent Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford8. He explained that there was not one single meaning for the word ‘right’. There could be five or more different meanings depending on how it was used. In addition ‘rights’ are not always complementary to each other and they are rarely, if ever, absolute.

Now let’s look at the word ‘inclusion.’ Twenty years ago it was enough to say that it was all to do with equal rights – note the two words – never mind the cost, never mind the practicality. They have been teaching it and preaching it ever since. Laws passed under its influence have to be obeyed. Jobs are built around it. It is widely presumed that the Government has a policy of inclusion or an inclusion agenda.

But Baroness Warnock in a recent article, which many described as a U-turn in her position on inclusion, concluded that ‘possibly the most disastrous legacy of the 1978 report was the concept of inclusion.’ She argued in the article that inclusion could be taken ‘too far’ and that this was resulting in the closure of special schools to the detriment of children with SEN.

The Government has repeatedly stated that ‘it is not Government policy to close special schools’ and that  ‘Government plays no role in relation to local authority [...] decisions to close schools.’ I am not sure that that has always been true.

But what if inclusion is not all that it is cracked up to be? What if children with special needs are excluded in an inclusive environment and bullied as well? What if parents want to assert their right to have their children educated in a special school? That is what interests me, and troubles me.

Can you think of any checks you would like to see on bureaucratic cock-ups? Should the TV programme “Watchdog” deal with some of them?

The best of lawns need the application of a weed killer as well as a feed on a regular basis. This one certainly does.

Judges have ruled that children with special educational needs must receive education appropriate to those needs. All of this gives them legal protection and their legal rights – if they can exercise them. About 100 Special Schools have been closed since 1997. Parental choice? Legal rights? Tell that to the fairies.