Inclusion? Don't count me in yet

6th June 2003 at 01:00
WANDSWORTH has been named (TES, May 23) as one of the local authorities with the slowest progress rates in integrating statemented youngsters into mainstream education, but I do not feel particularly shamed.

In Wandsworth we are consulting about the closure of two of our 10 special schools, as these schools are suffering from falling rolls and applications. But it is an enormously painful process - the parents of youngsters in these schools have left us in no doubt whatever that they value the atmosphere that a special school can give to children at the milder end of the learning difficulty spectrum - children, paradoxically, who sometimes face more negative responses from their mainstream peers than are faced by youngsters with more severe difficulties.

Whatever Lady Ashton might say, government policy is heavily skewed towards the closure of special schools. For example, the host LEA cannot recoup any capital expenditure on such a school from other LEAs which might choose to send youngsters to it. This acts as an incentive for an LEA to close its own special schools and use those of its neighbours. I accept there are examples of successful integration, examples from which we intend to learn.

But it is too early to regard inclusion as a good thing by definition.

Malcolm Grimston

Cabinet member for education Wandsworth Borough Council 67 Trevelyan Road, London SW17

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