Historically, one difficulty has been that special needs funding has been inflexible. Special schools and units have been able to keep stable funding even when local pupil numbers fall. This can limit provision to a few centres, so that the most vulnerable children have to make long journeys to school. They are cut off from their local peers, and fruitful contact between school and parents is more difficult to achieve.
Like many other authorities, Newham started its powerful drive for inclusion by putting more specially funded provision in some mainstream schools. Now it is moving towards giving the additional funding directly to the individual child. Children in a wheelchair, for example, will receive double funding because of the extra physical space they need in classrooms. Children with particular needs will still be grouped together in designated schools when they need access to particular specialists or facilities.
Closing special schools does not necessarily save a lot of money. You lose economies of scale, and specialist staff are still needed to support children in mainstream schools. Reducing the number of children who go to special schools outside their own authority can free some money for more support in local schools. Somerset, for example, now has 130 children placed outside the county, compared with 310 three years ago.
Some people argue that extra funding is less important than developing an inclusive ethos which recognises the right of all children to be educated with their peers. The Manchester research team found that some local authorities and individual schools had made "significant progress" towards inclusion without additional funding.