Virtually all mainstream staff believe there is a continuing role for special schools, with more than half of heads and one-third of classroom teachers saying more children should attend such schools.
Ministers want mainstream schools to take on more children with special educational needs, and to reduce pupil exclusions. But they have also guarded parents' rights to a choice of mainstream or special provision for their children, and said that some pupils will continue to need special schools.
Researchers from Reading University found mainstream teachers' views on inclusion had changed little since a comparable survey in 1981.
"Teachers and heads were virtually unanimous in seeing a continuing role for special schools and were more likely to say that more children should be educated in them," said Paul Croll and Diana Moses, of the university's school of education.
Nearly all the 299 class teachers and 48 headteachers questioned said special schools were still needed. Only 8 per cent of heads and 6 per cent of teachers said fewer children should be placed in such schools - compared with 54 and 33 per cent respectively who said more pupils should be removed from mainstream classes.
Special schools are needed particularly for children with emotional and behavioural problems, according to nearly 70 per cent of respondents. Physical and sensory disabilities were seen as less of a barrier to mainstream education, with only one-quarter of heads and one-fifth of teachers saying that physically disabled children should be in special schools.
However, there was some positive news for supporters of inclusion. The researchers found that, when interviewed about special needs pupils in their own classes, nine out of ten teachers said the mainstream classroom was the right place for them.
"The results suggest that, although there is no support among mainstream primary teachers for the principle of an entirely inclusive system, there is a good deal of inclusive practice, with children who present quite severe difficulties being satisfactorily educated in the mainstream," the Reading team concluded.
"Mainstream primary teachers' views of inclusion", Paul Croll and Diana Moses, School of Education, Reading University