Heads accused of disabled bias;News;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
THE ATTITUDES of headteachers and staff towards disabled children are the biggest obstacle to their attending mainstream schools, according to the director of a government-backed training network.

Headteachers still regard disability as an individual child's problem to be coped with rather than seeing it as a school-wide issue, said Richard Rieser, director of Disability Equality in Education.

The network, which employs disabled people to run awareness programmes for schools and education authorities, was launched this week by education junior minister Jacqui Smith.

But headteachers say more money to support children with special educational needs in schools is the key to greater inclusion - not more awareness training.

Mr Rieser said: "It's not about money. It's about how the money in schools is used and how schools are organised. There are plenty of examples of schools that have done this and are successful in achievement for all pupils."

The Government is keen to make progress towards a more inclusive education system.

Last week, the Queen's Speech included a Bill on special educational needs, and one of its more controversial proposals is to strengthen disabled and special needs pupils' rights to mainstream education.

The Bill may also help extend disability rights legislation to schools and colleges.

School standards minister Estelle Morris claimed last week that some headteachers were refusing to admit children with special educational needs or those from under-privileged backgrounds, for fear of lowering their school's position in performance tables.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "I don't think there's any question that performance tables act as a disincentive to schools to take children who might perform badly."

Disability Equality in Education, which has developed the trainers' network, can be contacted on 0171 359 2855.

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