High costs but higher rewards

Kate Griffin is head of the Greenford high school, a 1,500-pupil multi-ethnic comprehensive in Ealing, west London.

Greenford prides itself on including children with serious disabilities, including those with behavioural problems. The experience can be rewarding: last month a child badly affected by autism managed to get four top GCSE grades even though most schools would have excluded him.

But it cannot be done without significant amounts of cash, says Ms Griffin. And even then, there may be limits. "It's perfectly possible to include these youngsters in a comprehensive. Part of the experience is learning to deal with society in all its forms. But it costs. The youngster with autism had a permanent classroom assistant. We obviously had to use all the money from his statement, and possibly a bit more. That said, it was probably a bit less than the cost of sending him to a residential special school.

"Without the support, it's unfair to expect teachers who are in charge of classes up to 30 to cope.

"Unfortunately, sometimes you find yourself facing a permanent exclusion. You can't let the rest of the children suffer because one constantly demands the teacher's attention. Even with a lot of support, I've been close to saying 'this is too much'.

"There are going to be youngsters that you know are going to prevent you meeting your targets. You try and help as best you can. It helps that refugee children are not counted in the targets any longer.

"In last year's Year 7 we had eight children with very substantial statements - one per class. I don't think you can put more than one in each classroom. We haven't got the flexibility. There does come a point when you have to say we can't manage to take any more youngsters without a detrimental effect."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you