David Blackburn

A deeply emotive issue

A deeply emotive issue
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Jonathan Bartley, the man who ambushed Cameron yesterday, has written a piece for the Guardian. In it, the education establishment’s counter-productive monopoly is exposed. Bartley writes:

‘Either we are for inclusion or we aren't. To include children with special needs in mainstream schools takes commitment and a lot of work. Indeed, it requires "bias" – which has actually been lacking in the education system, despite all the talk of inclusion from Labour.

There are few parents of children with special educational needs who would not want their children to attend their local school with brothers and sisters and friends, provided that the school is properly resourced, equipped and able to successfully include their children.

The problem of the last few years has been that mainstream schools have not been equipped well enough to be able to show parents and others that they work for children with special educational needs. The move toward inclusion has been half-hearted. Many parents have been let down, and many feel therefore that they have to opt for special schools. It is the symptom, rather than the actual underlying problem, which David Cameron is seeking to address. Indeed, he has made a misdiagnosis of what is actually going on, which will have a direct impact on many families.’

With respect, Bartley is confronting the symptom not the cause. Mainstream schools are ill-equipped to educate special needs pupils because the education establishment does not provide the necessary resources, despite record investment. This is either because bureaucracy consumes funds or because the system remains wedded to the counter-factual notion of educational equality. Special needs pupils require additional help. That is tragic but self-evident; to claim otherwise is extraordinary.

The Gove school reforms attack the cause. By breaking that omnipotent establishment with a lucrative voucher system and choice, new special needs schools and rejuvinated mainstream schools will fight for the privilege of educating special needs pupils with appropriate resources. Inclusion in education would be tailored to specific needs.