Wide angle;Opinion;Editorial

Virginia Makins

There are two ways of looking at special educational needs. One way is to categorise "special" children by syndromes and labels, and appoint a separate battery of specialist professionals to provide for them. That way leads quickly to segregated schools, where the focus can too easily become the children's difficulties and deficiencies rather than their potential.

The other way is to recognise that categories have their uses - but real human life is more complicated. Two children with autism or with emotional and behavioural difficulties can be as unlike each other as they are unlike mainstream children. Pupils with communication difficulties need specialist help - but they're more likely to improve if they are in daily contact with communicating children.

Many mainstream pupils have special needs at some time - long-term illness, family conflict or bereavement can drastically affect their educational progress. And, as many teachers know all too well, there will never be enough special provision and support for children in their classes who need extra help.

This is a new termly magazine produced by The TES that will aim to take the wide-angle view of the subject and recognise that every teacher has to provide for children with special needs. It will describe successful ways that those needs are being met by both special and mainstream schools, in the belief that both sectors can learn a lot from each other.

It will report success stories, provide information about new techniques for reaching children, including the increasing possibilities of information technology, and review new books and teaching resources. We hope that all teachers and many parents will find something relevant and interesting.

This first issue tackles the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools - a fashionable topic that causes many teachers a good deal of often justifiable anxiety. We discuss the issues, the difficulties and the benefits wholehearted inclusive practice has brought to both special and mainstream children in many schools.

A lot can be done without grand policies and extra resources - on page 12, we describe how two teachers from opposite sides of the divide bridged the gap to the benefit of both their classes. We also look at the potential of new voice-recognition computer software for children who have problems with writing, and tackle an issue of high importance to many families -the management of children's medicines in schools.

A new magazine always needs the ideas, comments and criticisms of its readers to come fully to life. Please let us know what you think, and tell us about your successes. Call us on 0171 782 3000, e-mail Special Needs at copy@tes.co.uk or write to us at Special Needs, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London, E1 9XY.

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Virginia Makins

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