Many happy returns in Newham

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Making sure special needs students play a full part in lessons is second nature to teachers in the London borough of Newham.

"The council is committed to inclusion, and the teachers here are predisposed to work in an inclusive environment," said Neil Berry, the head of Brampton Manor, a mainstream secondary in East Ham. "It sounds pompous, but it's true."

Just 0.4 per cent of children in Newham are educated in special schools, one of the lowest rates in the country.

Brampton Manor caters for children with the whole range of special needs.

Its special needs budget is more than pound;1 million and it has around 10 special needs teachers and 25 teaching assistants. Staff have been trained to work with children with Down's syndrome, autism and Asperger's. Among its recent successes are two students with Down's syndrome awarded GCSEs for dance.

Mr Berry said two-thirds of the school was accessible to wheelchair users, and he hoped all of it would be once the old block is refurbished in 2008.

Brampton Manor works closely with a special school, Eleanor Smith in Newham, which specialises in social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. More than 95 per cent of Eleanor Smith's 66 students attend a mainstream school for part of the week.

Kevin Higgins, deputy head, said the handful of students who remained at the special school all week were at "the extreme end" of the behaviour spectrum and could become confrontational very quickly. "A variety of things might trigger them off," he said. "It could be that the work they are given is too difficult, or a comment or a look by another pupil. It can be very hard for a classroom teacher to identify."

However, Mr Higgins said the ultimate goal was to return every student to mainstream education.

"Last year around one third of our primary children returned to the mainstream," he said. "We make it clear when they come to Eleanor Smith that they will be with us as long as necessary, but hopefully not forever."

KEY FACTS

* 242,500 children in state and private schools aged five to 18 had statements of special needs in January 2005, or 2.9 per cent of all children.

* 1,230,000 children had special needs but no statement, 14.9 per cent of all children.

* In state schools boys are more than twice as likely to have statements as girls.

* Secondary schools have a higher percentage of students with statements than primary schools, but primaries have a higher percentage of special needs without statements.

* There are 90,000 pupils in special schools, a drop of 8,000 since 1997.

* 60 per cent of pupils with statements are in mainstream schools

Source: DfES

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