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Tests hurt special needs

"People may think testing just passes special needs pupils by, but they become very stressed by it."

So says Rona Tutt, a leading special educational needs expert, whose paper published today warns that nearly 1.5 million pupils with special needs are being demoralised by a targets, tables and testing regime that sets them unreachable goals.

The former National Association of Head Teachers president, awarded an OBE for her work as a special school head, highlights the conflict between targets and the Government's aim of an inclusive system where all pupils feel equally valued.

The paper co-written by Tricia Barthorpe, former head of North Lincolnshire's special needs service, puts pressure on the Government to overhaul an SEN system that MPs have described as "not fit for purpose". It echoes the Commons education select committee's call for national guidance and standards for SEN statements to end the "postcode lottery".

It says the Government failed to consider the effect of testing and targets on "pupils who find it hardest to learn". Ms Tutt said testing was particularly difficult for special needs pupils in mainstream schools.

"They are made to feel like failures because of the Government's huge emphasis on achieving certain levels. Children are not all the same so let's not test them all on the same papers."

The report also calls for the Government to restore parents' trust in the ability of schools to provide the resources their children need without having to resort to a statement. "The whole panoply of statementing needs to be revisited," said Ms Tutt. "It is past its sell-by date."

"All Inclusive" by Rona Tutt and Tricia Barthorpe. For details email: iris@educationpublishing.com

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