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Special needs go beyond rhetoric

Readers will have noticed the pleasing symmetry of our reports about special needs on pages 4 and 5. One is about the ablest and most talented youngsters; the other is about those with varying degrees of deficits in their learning. But the reports serve to underline the point that those pupils are all on a spectrum of "special" needs. They also represent a microcosm of the challenges facing schools in dealing with diversity, ranging from the talented "obsessives" at one end of the range to those for whom learning to tell the time is a triumph at the other.

The emphasis hitherto has been on pupils who are struggling - partly for its own sake and partly to improve school performance - and the needs of the other special group appear by comparison to have been left out in the cold. But, as campaigners for the latter are now realising, times they may be a-changing. The new rhetoric is about acknowledging creativity and enterprise, listening to pupils and emphasising ambitious, excellent young people (to coin a phrase). Special needs in all their forms should be able to capitalise on it.

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