The General Teaching Council for Scotland was understandably pleased with the size of the audience that turned out in Edinburgh recently for its annual lecture, given by Baroness Warnock, who chaired the seminal committee of inquiry on special educational needs in the late 1970s. But the 300 or so listeners were not the only people in the room: there were some "Aunt Sallies" as well. The publicity which attended Lady Warnock's celebrated "U turn" on inclusion might well have been a factor in generating interest in her lecture. It was not entirely clear, however, that she had gone into reverse gear.
Certainly, she called for the legislation which was born out of her committee's work to be reformed - and who would question the sense of that, after an interval of almost 30 years? She commended strongly the virtues of special schools - and who in authority has done otherwise? She strongly criticised the lobbyists she said had "captured" the Government to drive through inclusion policies - and she may well be right. She said "blind faith" in inclusion is gradually being shaken - and there are few outwith the ranks of the lobbyists who proclaim such dogmatism.
It is very unlikely that there will be anybody in the Scottish Executive who would disagree with much of what Lady Warnock said (although her remarks were more relevant to England than Scotland, as her repeated references to "statements", rather than records of need, showed). In fact, she commended the Additional Support for Learning Act in Scotland as being superior to English legislation.
The fact is that Scottish ministers have never been guilty of "blind faith"
in inclusion. Their mantra, supported by the vice-chair of the GTC at the lecture, is that inclusion must mean inclusion in schooling, though not necessarily in school. The watchword should be "appropriate" education for all, and there is nothing in mainstream political rhetoric to suggest that special schools should not be regarded as playing a crucial role.