Heresies and other questions

14th April 1995 at 01:00
Allocating Resources for Special Educational Needs Provision By Ingrid Lunt and Jennifer Evans 0 906730 61 9

Planning and Diversity: Special Schools and their Alternatives By Max Hunt. 0 906730 60 0 Pounds 4.50 each from the National Assoc-iation for Special Educational Needs , 2 Lichfield Road, Stafford ST17 4JX

These two booklets are the most recent write-ups from a seminar series entitled, "Policy options for special educational needs in the 1990s". Allocating Resources centres on an outstanding paper by Ingrid Lunt and Jennifer Evans, who skilfully pick out key themes. What are special needs? How many children are there with special needs? What have LMS and formula funding done? Are LEAs doing a good job?

These are huge questions and it is pleasing to see that some heresies are proffered for discussion, including the questioning of the notion that one in five children has special educational needs. When historians come to look back on our era "one in five" will - with the Sinclair C5 - surely top the list of well-meaning, wrong-headed ideas.

Hywel Thomas in the Lunt and Evans paper actually has the temerity to suggest that LMS will not necessarily result in children with special needs becoming less attractive to schools. He suggests in fact that the opposite might be more likely - because of the substantially increased funds which will accompany these children. Such iconoclasm is refreshing and makes a thought-provoking change from the tired rhetoric which simply demands more resources.

In Planning and Diversity: Special Schools and their Alternatives, Seamus Hegarty's short but meaty essay (a response to Max Hunt's introductory paper), made me want to shout "Hooray!". It manages to confine itself to the theme - the role of special schools - and to avoid discussion of what role there is for a reduced LEA. (The latter is a subject into which much special needs policy discussion unfortunately lapses.) Hegarty's paper is imaginative and creative and takes us to 2005 when, he suggests, there will still be a sizeable number of special schools catering for around 1 per cent of schoolchildren - those with severe and complex learning difficulties. He suggests that the special school must move beyond "ad hoc outreach" and become a multi-purpose institution.

One only hopes that there are some policy-makers out there listening and that this discourse is not taking place in a kind of virtual policy world - it deserves to be noticed.

TES APRIL 14 1995 "Partridge" by Nguyet Truong, a pupil at Thurlow Park School

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