Equity means a two-way street;Leading Article;Opinion

17th December 1999 at 00:00
IDEALLY all children should be in a mainstream educa- tional setting where special needs are met. Life, with its imperfections and practical problems, is not like that. So when the newly formed Equity Group campaigns (page five) for fully inclusive schooling it is unlikely to win short-term backing outside academic circles.

The campaigners would say they have at heart the interests of the individual child. But although being in an ordinary school is the right answer for most children, that does not mean it is right for everyone. Primary and secondary schools have adapted to take in disabled chil- dren, and not just by installing ramps and other physical changes. The emotional challenges and those of care and teaching have also been tackled. For children with uncommon handicaps, partnerships among far-flung schools, using new technologies, are helpful.

Yet for some children, especially the most severely handicapped, separate education is still preferable. That is particularly so if parents (and children themselves) want it. Special schools, council run or self-governing, are under pressure for numbers. But they are not yet redundant, and enthusiasts for inclusivity should make sure they are not preaching exclusivity, for that would be removing choice.

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