Wary about Warnock

17th June 2005 at 01:00
On BBC2's Newsnight last week, Baroness Warnock said she thought of herself as "antique" in a discussion of her latest attack on inclusive education.

Her use of the word is interesting and not one I would use, though her latest outpouring is rooted in the past.

Lady Warnock has missed out on 20 years of global debate and development of effective practice that has put inclusion of disabled students on a human-rights stage. She seems not to understand that segregation is and always has been a form of discrimination that is slowly ending with the restructuring and resourcing of mainstream schools - for good educational, social and human-rights reasons.

There are now thousands of examples of inclusion in schools working very well in the UK and overseas. Lady Warnock calls this a "disastrous legacy" - a catchy sound-bite - but studies from the past 25 years by the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education clearly show she could not be further from the truth.

Her attitude is offensive to professionals who now work in pioneering and creative ways, and insulting to disabled children and their families. What changes is she proposing? Inclusion for some and segregation for others? If so, who is in and who is out?

We know there is some bad inclusive practice, but then there is also bad education. Turning the clock back on inclusion is not the answer. Getting the philosophy of inclusion clear in people's minds and resourcing it efficiently is the only way forward. It should be taken as read that those who advocate inclusion today want only good inclusion.

If in the past two decades Lady Warnock had spent more time talking to disabled adults who describe themselves as special-school survivors, she might show more enthusiasm for the social model of disability (which underpins all good inclusive education) as opposed to the offensive and outdated medical model in which her 1978 report on special education was deeply rooted. Indeed, she was never in favour of inclusion for all, and the Warnock report always supported segregation for some children.

I visited Bulgaria recently to work on inclusive education with Save the Children. The ministry of education announced at a national conference that the medical model of disability was history, and that the country now fully promotes the social model.

Bulgaria! Baroness Warnock should inform herself - or stay out of the limelight.

Mark Vaughan Founder and co-director Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education Bristol

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