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TX: 13.04.04 – SPECIAL SCHOOLS – Part 2 – Debate: Is Inclusion Of Special Needs Pupils Into Mainstream Schools Always The Right Option?

PRESENTERS: CAROLYN ATKINSON AND LIZ BARCLAY


THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

ATKINSON
And in the second of this week's reports on special schools we visit the Sybil Elgar School in London for pupils with autism who rather unfashionably aren't included in mainstream education.

CLIP
I think you have to be very careful when you're talking about inclusion, what you mean by inclusion. A child can be included "in a mainstream school" and be so isolated that their lives are quite miserable. We have to be very careful that inclusion is not isolation.

BARCLAY
So not everyone's convinced that inclusion is always the best option. On Call You and Yours at around half past twelve we're asking whether you think children with special educational needs - those with autism, behavioural problems, a disability or who are exceptionally gifted - should be educated in special schools or integrated into mainstream education? Do standard schools provide the best environment for everyone and do teachers always have the resources and training they need to deal with the most challenging pupils or are special schools better equipped to meet their needs? Does the presence of children with special needs hold back others in the class or is it important for all that they mix and integrate as they will do in the adult world? Do children in special schools do as well as those who are included in the mainstream? We'd like to hear from parents, pupils, teachers and those of you who've been through either type of education - what's your view or experience?

Richard Rieser is director of Disability Equality in Education which campaigns for inclusion of disabled pupils into mainstream schools. Richard Rieser why are you against special schools?

RIESER
Well I wouldn't say that way, I don't think I'm against special schools, I think they're outdated and it's about time we moved on to inclusive schools. And by the way the comment just before - I agree entirely - if the child is just placed there and isolated that's not inclusion, that's a matter of location, it's integration. What our organisation does is provide training for teachers, non-teaching staff, throughout the country to actually look at what it is that gets in the way - the barriers - that prevent them in their current practice, current procedures, current environment from including a wider diversity of staff.

BARCLAY
What are those barriers?

RIESER
Well the barriers are particularly the way that teaching and learning is organised, the curriculum and how they think that that should be organised, the materials that are in the classroom, the physical environment of the school and most importantly attitudes - attitudes of staff, attitudes of parents, attitudes of other children - and those are things that can all be changed. What can't be changed so easily is the child themselves, they can be educated but they will have their impairment for their whole life and that's why I think it's really important that they're part of the community, part of the school, part of the life that everybody else leads because there's plenty of evidence that suggests that if you go to a separate school then you remain separate for all of your life. And the achievement is very, very low in most of the special schools.

BARCLAY
Well let me bring in here Jerry Bartlett who is Assistant General Secretary of the NASUWT. Jerry Bartlett, this is a subject that's coming up for discussion on Friday at your conference. What about that point that there are barriers - barriers like attitudes for instance - that can be changed and that therefore inclusion is the better option?

BARTLETT
Yes of course there are barriers and I agree with much of what your previous speaker said and those barriers which can removed, those attitudes that can be changed, teachers are working towards and significant progress is being made. However, it remains the situation that there are pupils whose best interests are not served by a policy of universal exclusion within mainstream schools when in fact the special needs of children with certain types of problems would be far better and more effectively met through education in special schools.

BARCLAY
You're saying that their needs might be met better in special schools, what about other pupils in the classroom?

BARTLETT
Precisely, accept entirely the point about the need for integration and the contribution that's made to the education of pupils without disability by working with pupils who have such problems. But at the same time there are particular types of disability, like emotional and behavioural disruption, where the interests of other pupils are not served by having included within their teaching groups youngsters whose conduct is such as both to prevent them from making and achieving - making progress and achieving their own educational potential and preventing others within their teaching group from also achieving their potential and making progress.

BARCLAY
So Richard Rieser it's not always the best option either for the person with the special educational needs or for the rest of their counterparts.

RIESER
It depends on what's been going on in the particular school and the history of the child but generally it is in the best interests. Now I've just been carrying out a project for the Government called Reasonable Adjustment Project and we're visiting up to 50 schools to look at good practice, including children with challenging behaviour and it's very interesting, there are schools in very challenging circumstances who never exclude pupils and there are others who exclude a great many pupils when they've got the same population. Now it seems to me we need to look much more about what it is that's happening in the schools that are successful, including a wide diversity of children and learn from that. And of course if a child is disrupting their learning or is a danger to themselves and others then we must take steps to help them but that doesn't mean that we should punish them by excluding them and sending them somewhere else, we should give them the support they need to actually do that.

BARCLAY
So JerryBartlett it's back then to those barriers that can be changed, schools can learn from successful schools.

BARTLETT
But there's also a need for a definition of concepts. Exclusion is not a punishment, it is sometimes the only mechanism available to practising teachers to ensure that children with emotional, behavioural special needs have their special needs met, have the specialist resources provided to them that are essential for them to achieve their potential.

BARCLAY
So two very different viewpoints there - Jerry Bartlett and Richard Rieser - thank you both. But we'd like to hear your views as a parent, a teacher or someone who has been or is being educated in a special school or included in mainstream education. How is it working for you? Call us now if you'd like to take part in Call You and Yours, the number is 08700 100 444 and we'll hear from as many of you as possible between half past twelve and one o'clock.

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