Warnock right to change mind

1st July 2005 at 01:00
It was disappointing to read Mark Vaughan's attack on Baroness Warnock. Far from being out of touch, Mary Warnock has continued to take a keen interest in developments since the publication of her committee's report in 1978 and the 1981 Education Act that followed.

Mr Vaughan accuses the Baroness of being "rooted in the past", yet it is he who is attempting to halt the tide of progress with his continued use of the term "segregation" and his talk of "special-school survivors".

Happily, most of us have moved on to appreciate the efforts that all types of schools, mainstream and special, have made to become more inclusive, as the complexity of the school population increases.

While he is absolutely right to talk about the need to get the "philosophy of inclusion clear in people's minds", this won't be achieved by rehearsing the arguments that held back progress towards a common understanding in the 1980s and 1990s.

The main political parties and the teaching unions have all expressed the need to maintain a range of provision, so that all pupils have a chance of receiving an education appropriate to their needs.

The Government's special needs strategy Removing barriers to achievement (February 2004), describes an inclusive education service within which mainstream and special schools work more closely together. This gives fresh impetus to a trend that has been happening for some time to the benefit of all concerned.

Pupils should be placed wherever they can be most fully included in the life of their school community, so that they gain a sense of belonging, and, with it, the motivation to become successful learners.

For the vast majority of pupils with special needs, this will be, and always has been, in their local schools. For a minority, such as those who have significant or complex learning difficulties, the emotionally fragile, or those whose autism makes them fearful of a world they do not understand, having an alternative environment in the shorter or longer term, may provide them with the best chance of gaining the confidence and the skills to take their place in society.

Dr Rona Tutt

Immediate past president of the National Association of Head Teachers High Trees 89 Willian Way Letchworth Garden City Hertfordshire

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