Inclusion, but not at any cost

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
With reference to the views of Francesca Martinez and Kirk Leech (TES, First Appointments, January 9), I believe in inclusion, but not when it is to the detriment of everyone involved. Some children really do need a special curriculum and an extremely high pupil-teacher ratio. Because of the changes in inclusion policy, many schools (especially primaries) feel they must keep children with severe behavioural problems. These behaviours range from constant disruption (talking, calling out, interfering with other children, absolute refusal to co-operate), to unpredictable rages including howling and screaming for half an hour or more, running away, and attacks on other children andor teachers. Even with a supporting adult, these children make life almost impossible for the teacher and the rest of the class.

Teachers may be advised on strategies to cope with the child. These are frequently time-consuming requiring one-to-one teacher attention for long periods. Also a teacher may be advised to "remove the class" when a tantrum occurs. As well as the disruption to the lesson, the class will often need calming and counselling before work can continue. How can high educational standards for the rest of the children be maintained in such circumstances?

Other adverse effects include: children being afraid to come to school, experienced and able teachers on the verge of nervous breakdowns, and knock-on effects on the behaviour of other vulnerable children - those whose attitudes and progress would be successfully managed and maintained by the school without the disruption and example of these extreme behaviours. And, of course, the child's own education and behaviour management is not in any way satisfactory. Some children, those with Asperger's syndrome for example, do not understand normal social behaviour and largely do not benefit from being in the mainstream.

Surely the best solution would be for many or most primary and secondary schools to have specialist and appropriately staffed units. This would mean that children with particular needs could have the education, behavioural teaching andor medical treatment that they need, and they could also join in with the mainstream school activities whenever appropriate. This would mean they were not "shut away" from everyday school life and also most children could find an appropriate unit not too far from home.

L Boztas

Primary teacher

18 Alma Road



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