Desegregation for the disabled

12th November 2004 at 00:00
I was very disappointed to read the Platform article by Louisa Leaman (TES, October 22). Despite all the advances in society to improve the lives of people with special needs in terms of access and opportunity, there is still a feeling that when it comes to children they should still be segregated into special schools.

The answers to the challenges that inclusion presents were in the article.

Lack of expertise and lack of funding are what stand in the way of giving all our children the opportunities and experiences that education is all about.

I have taught in both mainstream and special schools and am well aware of issues of lack of expertise. Back in 2001 I started to take my special school class (all pupils with severe learning difficulties) to a local primary school. We have now celebrated our first anniversary of being in the mainstream school full-time with our own purpose-built facilities. The children and staff moved together, so that we can now share our expertise with our mainstream colleagues on a daily basis. Also, we (staff and children) have stayed on the roll of the special school so there are not the concerns over league tables and the headteacher could not exclude any of my pupils even if he wanted to!

Above all the pupils have benefited tremendously from being part of a lively and successful school where they have the companionship and support of their peers. They are recognised as being "different" but that doesn't stop them enjoying all the benefits of a mainstream education. We have created flexibility that means for some of the time the pupils are in their own base but as far as possible they are in the mainstream classes. Clearly if their behaviour is too demanding, the base is there. Being in a mainstream school has given them opportunities and experiences that they would never have had if they had stayed in a special school, and I have taught in some "good" special schools.

SM Siddall 39 Hollin Lane, Leeds

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