Dash for inclusion has hurt families

12th August 2005 at 01:00
The House of Commons Education select committee is inviting submissions on special educational needs.

In my submission I will suggest that parents choose the setting that produces the best outcomes for their child. A local education authority that has closed nearly all its special schools is the least likely to be truly inclusive - if inclusion means choosing the school where they are most likely to succeed.

Mark Vaughan, of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education ("Inclusion lottery exposed", TES, July 29) is disappointed at a lack of progress towards "fairness and justice". The centre embraces the 2020 campaign which seeks the closure of all special schools by 2020. Mr Vaughan's view of inclusion is extreme and narrow.

It may be that other parents of children in special education wish to share their views about inclusion with the select committee on inclusion. They may also tell the committee, perhaps, how they are dismayed and hurt by the lamentable and often-expressed belief of Mr Vaughan - that we are breaching our children's human rights.

I would like to propose an alternative 2020 campaign to end the all-too-frequent disciplinary exclusion of young people with autism and other special needs from mainstream schools because those schools are not resourced to support them. I would also like to see more places in special schools to provide the specific and targeted approaches many children need.

There have been only a tiny number of long-term studies that compare the progress of children with similar special needs in mainstream and special schools. I will urge the select committee to recommend that the Department for Education and Skills should commission this vital research.

We simply cannot reliably know how or if the closure of special schools has damaged the life chances of many young people with special needs. Equally, we can only guess at the number of families whose lives have been damaged as a result of policies that promote mainstream inclusion for the sake of it.

The select committee seeks to bring "clarity and objectivity to the debate". I hope that it will also seek the evidence to inform the debate for years to come.

Daniel Janes 20 The Grove Fartown Huddersfield

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