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Warnock condemns special needs policies

Article | Published in TES Newspaper on 10 June, 2005 | By: Dorothy Lepkowska

The woman who inspired current practice in special needs education now says it is failing pupils and needs drastic reform.

Baroness Warnock has published a damning report, in which she condemns statementing and the policy of inclusion. "Nothing less than a radical revolution" was required to correct the damage caused, she said.

This would include the creation of a network of small specialist schools for youngsters whose needs cannot be met in large secondary schools.

These schools would educate children with specific disabilities and those whose needs arise from social disadvantage.

Lady Warnock, 81, headed the inquiry which led to the 1981 Education Act, which transformed the teaching of children once described as subnormal and maladjusted.

In her report Special educational needs: a new look, Lady Warnock says the criteria for determining which children are entitled to a statement are unclear, resulting in pupils with similar needs receiving different support.

"The present system is both needlessly bureaucratic and liable to cause bad blood between parents, schools and local authorities. Children will lose out as long as these problems persist," she said.

The concept of inclusion might spring from the heart, but schools were not a microcosm of society, Lady Warnock warned.

"What is needed is that all children should be included within a common educational project, not that they should be included under one roof."

She said the most effective way to improve special needs provision was to create small maintained schools to which statemented pupils and children in care would be admitted.

"My hope would be that gradually parents and employers would stop thinking automatically that if someone has been to a special school he is doomed."

Lady Warnock also criticised the Government for rejecting the Tomlinson review and for seeking to expand the most popular schools.

She said: "I am appalled to think that the Government, committed as it is to the rhetoric of inclusion, is so conservative and timid in its thinking that it cannot even now contemplate abandoning the divisive and increasingly useless so-called gold standard of A-levels.

"Such conservatism is as thoughtless and wrong-headed as the obstinate adherence to statements."

another voice 22

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