Cause to celebrate

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Richard Evea Head of Angmering School

1,350 pupils. It includes the Lavinia Norfolk Centre which caters for 64 pupils with hearing impairments and physical disabilities, 20 of them in wheelchairs

' Some pupils will make less progress in five years as they're often in hospital rather than school. They don't go to all their lessons because they're being cleaned or having hydrotherapy. They will make less progress because they have a degree of brain damage. Some have a limited life expectancy, which makes for a daunting challenge. There's a nice atmosphere in the school: a lot of that is down to having the support facility on site and the people who staff it.

The initial view of inclusion was that we'd take the bright children with disabilities - a euphemism for the kids who would benefit from inclusion. There was never any doubt that having these children would be something to celebrate.We now take children with multiple disabilities and learning difficuties.

Our premise is that they must be in the mainstream for every lesson unless there's something better for them to do. They wouldn't not be in a lesson because it wasn't appropriate. That argument just wouldn't hold.

I still find some of it quite choking when I talk to parents about life expectancy and the way they have come to terms with it. There's some blistering honesty between folk and it makes you wonder how far down that road you can go.

If you're teaching PSHE, and you want to talk about abortion, you have to think very carefully about who's in your group because there may be a child with a disability. Most of our kids can't understand, why that should be a problem in terms of the quality of life of the child. They're not old enough to appreciate the impact of that on the parents.

The unit parents are well in tune with the quality of life it offers their children because their lives will be relatively short. However, nearly all of them say:"I want you to treat him like everyone else."

Most years, we'll have a death, a child with muscular dystrophy, typically.

The day after the funeral, the unit students will go out and have a game of wheelchair hockey to get things out of their system. We've got kids with muscular dystrophy into university: two or three have graduated now.

We get 52-53% five A-Cs at GCSE and we have 8 per cent of students with statements. Similar schools might be doing better, but they haven't got 100 children with statements. We would hate for people to say 'The reason your results are not so good is because you've got all these children with statements.'

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