Inclusion is hard - but worth it

4th November 2005 at 00:00
This summer saw a long and heated debate fuelled by a paper by Baroness Warnock, arguing that inclusion has gone too far and we should be placing more pupils in special schools.

But contrary to some of the headline messages inclusion has progressed little over the past few years. While a number of special schools have closed, the proportion of pupils educated out of the mainstream has not declined.

It is important to recognise that it is only recently that parents have won increased rights to a mainstream place for their child. We need to ensure that these children are taught by teachers who have been trained appropriately, understand the needs of pupils and have access to additional support.

The Special Educational Consortium recognises that some parents seek a special school place for their child, mostly because of poor experiences in the mainstream. Many schools are re-organising so they can include all children.

Therein lie two key messages from the TES survey ("Thousands 'better off'

in state schools", TES, October 14): first, that so many teachers thought that special needs children were most likely to achieve their full potential in a mainstream school; second, that so many thought that the education of all pupils is enhanced by special needs pupils.

There is a real risk that, because inclusion presents real challenges, it will be seen as not working. We need to re-focus on making it work better.

Evidence suggests that inclusion makes schools a better place for all children and teachers.

Brian Lamb. Chair of the Special Educational Consortium (convened by the Council for Disabled Children) 8 Wakley St, London EC1

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