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Nutters and hooligans?

In public, teachers talk about pupils with emotional problems, disaffection and challenging behaviour. But in the staffroom, such children are often referred to as "nutters" or "hooligans".

Elias Avramidis, a lecturer in teacher training at York university, said many teachers felt poorly-prepared to include pupils with emotional and behaviour difficulties in their lessons.

He told a conference of special- needs experts last week that teachers needed to think about their own classroom abilities.

At the Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress at Strathclyde university, he said: "Teachers can be too quick to label children as having special needs. Maybe they need to examine how they are teaching rather than jumping to conclusions about pupils."

Mr Avramidis was presenting a paper on changing attitudes towards inclusivity through continuing professional development. He said that when talking in public about special-needs pupils, teachers used appropriate terms. But in the staffroom their vocabulary showed a lack of understanding.

They also tended to believe that only experts in dyslexia, autism and other special needs could help children with learning difficulties. With appropriate training, though, teachers could be taught how to integrate most pupils in the classroom, Mr Avramidis said.

He said initial teacher training had become too subject-orientated, with students on PGCE courses often receiving just one session on special-needs teaching.He said: "ITT courses should provide training on the psychological principles of teaching and learning, as well as a critical understanding of the educational process. Central to ITT training should be topics such as differentiating the curriculum, assessing academic progress, managing behaviour and working collaboratively to enable prospective teachers to respond creatively to the challenges of inclusion. In this way, we can produce new teachers who are committed to inclusion."

Mr Avramidis accused the Government of "wanting it both ways" and creating a conflict.

"The legislative and policy framework of the 1990s - which was underpinned by a market- place philosophy based upon principles of academic excellence, choice and competition - is at odds with a policy of educational and social inclusion," he said.

Although some schools had successfully raised standards while implementing inclusion, "most continue to resist the pressure to become more inclusive because they are concerned it will have a negative effect on the academic progress of other pupils, and lower academic standards," he said.

* dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

Promoting inclusive education from expertism to sustainable inclusive practices can be obtained on ea13@york.ac.uk

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