Special Educational Needs 3000 words

Special Education Assessed Assignment: Part Two


Educational Provision and Attitudes Toward Children with Special Educational Needs has moved from Segregation to Inclusion


Discuss the above statement


This essay will largely agree with the above statement. It will argue that educational provision and attitudes toward children with Special Educational Needs has largely moved from segregation to inclusion. This can be seen as the result of a number of factors, but in particular the influential Warnock Report of 1978. It will first of all consider definitions of segregation and inclusion in this context and then look at some of the history of the development of Specialist Education. After focusing on the Warnock Report, and considering the opposition between social and medical models, it will consider how policies have developed and been adapted since 1981. Finally, by drawing on more contemporary material, it will argue that although inclusion has been the dominant mode of Specialist Education Teaching, this dominance is now being challenged from a variety of perspectives, leading to a resurgence in Specialist Schools and attempts at combining the two approaches. Although provision has moved largely toward inclusion, then, it will be argued that such a binary distinction is not necessary and approaches can be found which combine segregation and inclusion.


In order to address the question, it is necessary first of all to have an understanding of the meaning of the terms segregation and inclusion. Traditions of ‘segregation’ can be traced to the nineteenth century, where as Farrell argues, the focus was on sheltering the “deviant” from society in order to protect him or her, or to protect society from him or her (2004, p.13). A more recent reading would interpret it as the provision of a Specialist School, which caters for Specialist needs of SEN pupils. ‘Inclusion’ has been understood and defined in a variety of ways in the context of the educational provision and attitudes toward children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). It differs from integration in that integration suggests a pupil with SEN being incorporated into the mainstream school structure, without those mainstream school structures changing. Inclusion, on the other hand, suggests that the mainstream school structures must change in order to adapt to the needs of and support the SEN pupil (Farrell, 2003, p.27). This can be understood in a number of ways. Farrell summarises that inclusion can be “to do with placing pupils in mainstream schools rather than special schools” (2003, p.28). This can be seen as a challenge to ‘exclusive’ attitudes of mainstream education (2003, p.27) as well as to the mixing of pupils with different needs. Reports such as the OfSTED 2000 inspection of school inclusion (OfSTED, 2000) defined the term primarily in terms of equal opportunities – whatever the needs of the pupil, they should all have equal opportunity to learn. This definition includes not only mixing of classes but also issues such as ensuring appropriate participation in classes for SEM pupils. Gersch and Gersch also discuss inclusion specifically in relation to student performance, arguing that the SEN pupil should not be excluded from processes of classroom learning (2003, p.20). Considering these definitions then, inclusion can be understood as, in a sense, the opposite of segregation. While segregation suggests keeping SEN pupils in a separate environment, giving them separate classes and not allowing them to mix with mainstream school life, inclusion suggests the bringing together of Special Education and mainstream education both in terms of classroom mix and in terms of lesson planning, in order to ensure equality of opportunity for all. Provision and attitudes can not be so easily separated and it can be seen that segregated classrooms and segregated lessons could quickly lead to segregated attitudes, where diverse and potentially ‘ghettoized’ communities are formed.  Inclusive educational provision, on the other hand, can easily lead to ‘inclusive attitudes’, overcoming not only educational issues but also issues such as perception in society, which could be damaging for and discriminatory against those with Specialist Educational needs.


The Warnock Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young people was established in 1974. Its report (DES, 1978) made a distinction between ‘disability’ and ‘handicap’ by arguing that a disability only becomes a handicap in relation to other factors such as the way that a school deals with the special educational needs, the child’s own character and the general quality of support (Gulliford & Upton, 1992, p.2). The effect of this is to blur the sharp distinction between ‘handicapped’ and ‘non-handicapped’ children that had previously existed (DES, 1978, p.37). It also encouraged a more holistic approach where contextual factors would be taken into account regarding forms of special education. It went on to recommend special needs provision in three main ways:


  1. Special means of access to the curriculum through special equipment, facilities or resources, modifications of the physical environment or specialist teaching techniques.
  2. The provision of a special or modified curriculum.
  3. Particular attention to the social structure and emotional climate in which education takes place.

(Gulliford & Upton, 1992, p.4)


This can be seen as a development of modes of teaching based on inclusion. Rather than requiring Special Education, SEN pupils could participate in mainstream classroom contexts through the use of specialist equipment and training, through the adapting of the curriculum – suggesting therefore inclusion rather than integration, and through focusing on the whole teaching context within with SEN could be developed. Farrell goes on to look into specific methods for improving the inclusion of SEN pupils in the classroom. This includes such elements as curriculum development and assessment procedures, which must be devised in such a way as to not exclude those who have Special Educational Needs. One impact of this can be greater differentiation in teaching (2003, p.33). A uniform approach to the class as a whole may not be most appropriate for ensuring the inclusion of those with differing abilities, but one which treats each student’s needs as different could allow for the inclusion of a variety of needs. This also, however, points to some potential problems. Teaching strategies need to be adapted, increased resources are needed and there is more demand placed on teachers, who have to deal with a variety of needs all within one classroom. This could lead, for example, to the inability to focus on those who are not defined as SEN.


Inclusion became so dominant in the Specialist Education philosophy that a new Education Act in 1993 made it into a law This was followed by the ‘Salamanca Statement’ in 1994, which called on “inclusive education, enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise” (Gersch & Gersch, 2003, p.11).  A further Act in 1996 also made inclusion of paramount importance and this was followed by guidance for local authorities in 2001 (Gersch & Gersch, 2003, p.11). Such examples show that inclusion was certainly the dominant approach during this period. It led to a focus on how barriers to learning should be removed, how all children, regardless of ability, should be able to participate, and that even if inclusion did not happen immediately it would remain as an aim (Gersch & Gersch, 2003, p.11). Farrell (2003, p.33) looks at how these strategies were implemented in the classroom, including the need to “create effective learning environments” which would “provide equality of opportunity through teaching approaches”. They can provide a challenge to the ‘medical model’, which emphasized “the child’s deficits rather than the limitations of suitable provision” (Sandow, 1994, p.45). Inclusion, in other words, focused on how pupils could be accommodated for, rather than viewing their needs as something to be diagnosed and dealt with separately. They were situated within the context of society in what can be understood as a ‘social model’ (Sandow, 1994, p.57) of dealing with Special Educational Needs. The social model would class SEN as a social disadvantage and see not a defect in the child but a deficiency in the ability of the school to adequately account for this. Some educational theorists, however, have criticized this distinction between medical and social models, arguing instead that they must be considered together. Norwich and Kelly (2005, p.7) for example, argue that “an individual model cannot exist outside the context of the social, as a social model cannot exist without reference to individuals”. Their argument suggests that making such a separation is not necessarily the most useful approach to take in the context of seeking the nest model for Specialist Educational Needs


It can been argued so far that inclusion has been the dominant mode of dealing with issues of SEN since the report of the Warnock Committee in 1978. More recent approaches, however, have come to question some of its assumptions, its pragmatic implementation, and its perceived failures. Wilce (2006), for example, points out a number of problems that have been raised for inclusion in Specialist Needs Education. One is that the term Specialist Needs itself is so general that it is difficult to accurately implement strategies. As she argues, it is a “vast umbrella” (2006) accounting for a whole variety of different needs. Using inclusion as a blanket term to cover all the different types of Specialist Education Needs that exist can seem a refusal to engage with the individual types of need and individual attention required. Another point she draws attention to is that inclusion has been difficult to implement. Even those who believe it is the best way to deal with SEN admit that “you need more resources, more training and a mandatory code of admissions” (2006). Even Baroness Warnock herself now calls the policy a “disastrous legacy” (cited in Wilce, 2006). While Labour, in 1996, was still committed to inclusion, Wilce’s report suggests that many parents had become unhappy with the SEN teaching in mainstream schools and were demanding Specialist Education. The trend, in other words, was swinging back towards modes of segregation.  Balchin (cited in Wilce, 2006), chair of the Conservative Enquiry into Special Education argues that there should be more freedom of choice. Specialist Schools may work in some cases, while, in other cases, inclusion may be more appropriate. It may also be the case that there does not need to be such a strict binary between inclusion and segmentation. Wilce points to the example of Hazel Court School in Eastbourne, which combines Special Education classes with inclusion into mainstream activities. There may be a trend, this example suggests, for looking at modes of compromise and ways of combining inclusion and segregation that can work in the interests of Specialist Education pupils, and make the best use of available resources.


So, it has been argued here that educational provision and attitudes toward children with Special Educational Needs has largely moved from segregation to inclusion. Inclusion has been the dominant mode of provision since the Warnock report and beyond. This has led to a focus on issues such as social versus medical models of Specialist Educational Need, of the role of the school in ensuring adequate SEN provision within the mainstream classroom context, and on the development of new teaching strategies. It has also shown, however, that this is difficult to implement, both in terms of resources and in terms of training, and more recent reports suggest that the focus on inclusion has not been entirely successful. This has led many to seek Specialist Schools, leading to a current return from inclusion back to modes of segregation. However, this is not a return to a situation of an entirely segregated society. Attitudes have definitely changed with years of focus of inclusion, and the question now must be how best to combine the two approaches. How can the SEN pupil’s needs be appropriately met through a combination of inclusion and Specialist help. This must be a challenge for a new generation of educational practitioners.






DES (1978) Department of Education and Science – Special Education Needs (The Warnock report). London: HMSO.


Farrell, M. (2003) Understanding Special Educational needs: A Guide for Student Teachers. London: Routledge.


Farrell, M. (2004) Special Educational Needs: A Resource for Practitioners. London: Sage.


Gersch, I.S. & Gersch, A. (2003) Resolving Disagreement in Special Educational Needs. London: Routledge.


Gulliford, R. & Upton, G. (1992) Special Educational Needs. London: Routledge.


Norwich, B. & Kelly, N. (2005) Moderate Learning Difficulties and The Future of Inclusion. London: Routledge.


OftSTED (2000) Office for Standards in Education Report on Inclusion. London: OSE.


Sandow, S. (1994) Whose Special Need? Some Perceptions of Special Educational Needs. London: Sage.


Wilce, H. (2006) ‘Special-Needs Education: Does Mainstream Inclusion Work?, The Independent, Thursday 23rd March, 2006, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/specialneeds-education-does-mainstream-inclusion-work-470960.html, [accessed 1/12/10].