A history of special needs

Tes Editorial

1944 Education Act

Children with special needs are categorised by disabilities defined in medical terms. Pupils are offered "special educational treatment" in separate schools.

1978 Warnock Report

Defines special needs as we now know it. Mary (now Baroness) Warnock says many in mainstream schools have learning difficulties and it is inappropriate to educate them all separately. Statementing introduced.

1981 Education Act

Incorporates many Warnock recommendations. Defines special needs and provision, and outlines the responsibilities of mainstream schools in assessing children, and rights of parents to appeal against decisions.

1988 Education Reform Act

Introduces the national curriculum, which all children, whether in mainstream or special education should follow.

1993 Education Act

Introduces a code of practice on identifying and assessing special needs for all schools.

1997 "Excellence for all children" policy document

Stresses importance of spotting learning difficulties early, and introduces literacy and numeracy initiatives. Opens up new technologies for special needs.

2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act

Outlaws discrimination against disabled and SEN students in schools, colleges and higher education. Parents can go to tribunals to ensure this right. Schools told to anticipate the needs of disabled pupils, and adjust to meet them.

2004 "Removing barriers to achievement" policy paper, emphasises the importance of raising expectations for SEN pupils in mainstream schools.

2005 Warnock's U-turn

Baroness Warnock backtracks on her 1978 report (see box, below) condemning statementing and inclusion. She calls for "a radical revolution" to correct the damage caused. This includes the creation of a network of small specialist schools.

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