Tried but not tested

9th February 2001 at 00:00
The largest contribution the Parliament's education committee could render special education was to make it the subject of an inquiry and thereby to raise its profile. Unfortunately, no sooner had MSPs started taking evidence than the exams fiasco diverted their energies, and most on the committee would accept it never regained full momentum. The fact that this week's report was not launched at a media conference (except for a private enterprise one held by Brian Monteith, who has reservations about the fate of independent special schools) was also bound to reduce its impact and undermine the committee's own purpose.

The first major piece of legislation by the Parliament had already set out the presumption that children should be educated in mainstream schools if parents want that. The Executive has put extra money into special needs and has raised questions about the effectiveness of the recor of needs. So the education committee had little role other than to make the Executive stand taller still (except for Mr Monteith's concerns about the future of specialist provision).

Had the Parliament been longer in place and had the education legislation not been at the head of the queue, the committee would have had a better chance of fulfilling its constitutional function of taking pre-legislative soundings. But in this case the Bill came first, with its special needs provisions not receiving the informed scrutiny they might have.

The situation now can be summed up. Parents' wishes come first. Children should be kept in mainstream where possible, or returned there as soon as feasible. Councils have bigger bills, to support individual pupils and to make buildings fit disabled requirements. Special schools face more restricted intakes and councils are less eager to use them.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today