Antony Power
Posted on 31 Jan 2014

Special Needs – Integration or Segregation

As published: 28 January 2014

Many people will remember David Cameron being accosted during the last election campaign by a parent of a child with special educational needs remonstrating about the perceived Tory policy preventing children with special needs being integrated into mainstream schools.  This is reflective of a long running discussion about whether children with special needs should be educated in special schools or in mainstream schools.

The first misnomer that needs to be challenged is that all children with a special need should be treated the same.  It is estimated that just over 17% of pupils in England have a special educational need.  In the vast majority of cases, this will be low level which can be addressed in mainstream schools. 

Approximately 2.5% of pupils in England with more severe needs will have a 'statement'.  This statement sets out details of the special need and how it should be addressed.

Even children with a statement will have a broad range of needs; can these be addressed in mainstream schools? Parents will often offer anecdotal evidence that children with special needs can be disruptive in mainstream schools.  There are also concerns about whether mainstream schools are equipped and capable of dealing with special needs. But for a child that can be supported by a mainstream school, should we not promote integration as much as possible?  After all, children with special needs have to live in the same world as other children and there is no segregation once they leave school. 

In most parts of the country there remains an element of parental choice, at least at secondary level, which perhaps is about the best solution for what at the moment seems an insoluble problem.

For further information, please contact Antony Power, Partner at Michelmores, by telephone on 01392 68 7713 or by email antony.power@michelmores.com.