A Government adviser has reassured teachers that special schools will not become demoralised "ghettos" serving pupils with the most severe needs, as a result of the drive towards an inclusive education system.
The Government envisages not only a continuing need for special schools, but also an expansion of their role to support mainstream teachers with special needs pupils in their classes.
Policy-makers do not want the morale of staff in special schools to collapse in the way it did in the old mental health hospitals when they faced closure as a result of "care in the community" policies, said Judy Sebba, of the Department for Education and Employment's standards and effectiveness unit.
Speaking at the Mencap conference, she said: "The Government's special needs programme is not setting targets for the closure of special schools. It is committed to ensuring opportunities for staff to act in slightly different roles."