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Idealism for the real world

Some things are very important but also very hard. Providing an excellent, well-planned, properly resourced education for children with special needs in mainstream schools is one of them. There is much first-rate work going on, for instance linking special and mainstream schools.

It is right for ministers to be idealistic. Teachers want the best for every child, too. But they have to operate in real schools in the real world. They are expected to meet the needs of everyone in the class - from a disruptive boy with emotional troubles to the quiet but underachieving girl - while raising exam results year on year. So while the Office for Standards in Education's critical report on inclusion (page 14) is right to show what could be done and what is going wrong, the conflicting demands under which schools operate must also be remembered.

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