Total inclusion is a pipe dream

28th October 2005 at 01:00
If there's one sorry truth your valuable survey of professional opinion on inclusion shows up (Thousands 'better off' in special schools, TES, October 14), it is that this has been a policy based on high ideals but also some breathtaking assumptions.

These include the following:

* that mainstream schools can address complex and unfamiliar needs at the drop of a hat (and with only a "drop" of training for that matter)

* that special schools, already stretched to the limit, can find the resources (let alone the expertise, which has declined since training in many areas of special needs stopped) to "educate" their mainstream peers

* that education authorities and schools, pre-occupied with watching their backs for fear that the Office for Standards in Education or a special needs tribunal will criticise them, will fully embrace an inclusive culture

* that special needs pupils and their families will be happy to put up with an under- resourced inclusive placement as automatically preferable to a special school place.

This mess can only be addressed if central and local government are prepared to move on from a belief that "inclusion is a good thing" and properly fund placements and training in this area.

It is obvious that special schools are not going away - that is an easy point to score politically. What is harder for everyone in education and government is to be prepared to identify what the continuum between inclusive and specialised provision should look like - and then admit to the public that this needs to be properly funded.

As it stands, casualties of this ambiguous situation will continue to mount, from burnt-out professionals to isolated and misunderstood pupils.

Phil Goss

(former headteacher)

22 Ruskin Drive, Kirkby Lonsdale

Carnforth, Lancs

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