THE LATEST Department for Education and Employment figures show that the number of special schools in England is still declining. In the past 21 years since the Warnock Report, just under a quarter of special schools have disappeared. While there has been a similar decline in the number of full-time pupils attending special schools, the rise in the number of pupils attending pupil referral units remains of concern.
One key issue is that when compared to other types of school, a smaller percentage of younger teachers work in special schools. Indeed, only 26 per cent, or just over one in four, teachers in special schools were under the age of 40 in March 1998; 50 per cent of the teachers were in their 40s. An absence of younger teachers is likely to have implications for the future leadership and staffing of special schools.
There were also very small numbers of teachers with recognised SEN qualifications.
Only 271 teachers in special schools had the specialist qualification to teach visually impaired children; 501 had the specialist auditory qualification; and just 41 were qualified to teach children with both visual and auditory impairments. Overall, 19 per cent of teachers working in special schools had some form of recognised specialist qualification.
Now may be the time to reassess training and recruitment initiativesfor those teachers wanting to work in this vital part of the education service.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Email: int.edulineone.net
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