When inclusion can mean separation

24th September 2004 at 01:00
As the teacher from Mere Oaks school in Wigan says (TES, September 10), the issue of inclusion is not straightforward.

There is a real danger that children with particular special needs (and the range is enormous) who are at ease and achieving well in a special school may not thrive to such an extent in a mainstream school.

There appears to be an assumption that special schools somehow provide an inferior type of education. In fact, those I know are totally dedicated to helping each child achieve his or her potential.

At my school, a leading edge special school, every child leaves with some form of accreditation. Because of their huge learning difficulties, many of the students are working below national curriculum levels. Talking to colleagues in mainstream schools, it seems to be the case that children working just above these levels in mainstream schools tend to leave school with no accreditation at all, with the consequent loss of any self-esteem they may have had.

Our school is physically attached to a mainstream school, although we are two entirely separate institutions. We get along very well, but it is inconceivable that many of our pupils could take a full part in the life of a mainstream school.

The pace of life at our special school is tailored to fit the needs of the children. They follow a mainstream school timetable, but at a totally different pace and with a high level of supervision. We are forever thinking of ways to improve teaching and learning, and I fear such expertise could be lost if our school were to become part of a huge organisation.

The term inclusion is bandied around by many people who have no idea at all of the situation which actually exists. Our special school is a beacon of excellence in which respect reigns and students are focused, happy and learning. They are certainly not patronised, but they do receive a level of care which parents greatly appreciate.

To the powers that be, please get your facts straight before you throw away good practice and make the lives of our most needy children unnecessarily miserable.

Margaret Riley 67 Lymbridge Drive Blackrod, Lancashire

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