Susannah Kirkman looks at a range of information technology innovations that aim to give equal chances to children with different levels of skill.
Inclusive is the key word for the flood of new information technology resources streaming out of the software publishers. "Children with special educational needs need access to the same curriculum as their peers so they should be using the same software," explains Elaine Hampson, special needs consultant to Granada LearningSemerc. "They don't want to feel marked out because they're using different resources from their friends."
Thanks to sophisticated software technology such as video, speech input and output, animation and picture symbols, the same basic program can be modified to meet the needs of a range of pupils. Youngsters with physical disabilities, severe learning difficulties, dyslexia and those with no special needs can all use Granada LearningSemerc's Primary Toolkit, for instance.
The toolkit includes a fully integrated word-processing package with a speaking word processor, video and word and picture lists. It also has art and Internet exploration packages, as well as database and spreadsheet systems for primary pupils.
This adaptability benefits teachers, too, says Tina Detheridge, joint managing director of Widgit Software, another information technology resources supplier. "Teachers have an easier job because there isn't so much software for them
HOW TO FUND RESOURCES FOR INCLUSION
Think laterally and be imaginative hen you are making bids for funding, suggests Richard Rieser of Disability Equality in Education. An accurate assessment of pupils' needs and skills will ensure schools do not waste money on inappropriate resources, says Chris Stevens, head of special educational needs and inclusion at BECTA.
* The Schools Access Initiative supports capital projects to help improve access to mainstream schools for children with special educational needs. It covers ICT equipment as well as specialist furniture and adaptations to buildings.
* Section 18 of the Standards Fund supports projects that promote inclusion for pupils with special needs in mainstream schools. Such projects could focus on improving the quality or increasing the levels of inclusion. Section 18 also funds training for co-ordinators, teachers and assistants. The money will cover half the cost of a project.
* The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education has a useful leaflet explaining the different sources of funding for inclusion. 'Money for Inclusion!' is available from CSIE, 1 Redland Close, Elm Lane, Redland, Bristol BS6 6UE, tel 0117 923 8450.
* The New Opportunities Fund is providing pound;230 million of Lottery money to train teachers in IT and there will be trainers with expertise in special needs. NOF, tel 020 7211 1750 Stand L43
BECTA stand P32
Crick software stand IT72
Granada LearningSemerc stand IT65
iANSYST stand SN12
Inclusive Technology stand IT74