Mainstream is the answer

19th November 2004 at 00:00
I protest at the headline "Results down in inclusive schools" (TES, November 5) over an article on a substantial piece of research commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills: Inclusion and Pupil Achievement.

The report establishes that local authorities with a high level of inclusion do not have lower results for their mainstream pupils than other authorities. The between-school factors can be explained by the social disadvantage of children in schools with a high proportion of disabled pupils and the lack of support and training for staff.

I have just visited more than 40 schools for the DfESDisability Rights Commission sponsored Reasonable Adjustment Project. This work is showing that where there is a can-do attitude and strong leadership, inclusion does benefit all pupils. This was also the main finding of the Inclusion and Pupil Achievement research.

More importantly, to examine empirically the value of inclusion one needs to look at the attainment of pupils not included. The report suggests that the average point-score at key stage 4 in 2002 was 38.55. For non-statemented pupils with special needs in mainstream it was 21.85 and for pupils with statements it was 16.99. What the report does not say but DfES statistics show, is that the average point score for pupils in referral units, hospital schools and maintained special schools was only 2.4 points!

Many will say we are not comparing like with like. However, the 2004 school-census data shows 31 per cent of the special school population have moderate learning difficulties, 9 per cent physical and sensory impairments and 14 per cent behavioural and emotional needs and 9.5 per cent are on the autistic spectrum. Many of these pupils have similar needs to the majority of disabled pupils in mainstream schools.

A growing number of parents of disabled children are choosing mainstream as they see inclusion as a human right.

Richard Rieser

Director, Disability Equality in Education

436 Essex Road

Islington

London N1

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