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From Exclusion to Inclusion
In the United Kingdom, discussed by Shah (2005), segregated or special schools were the most common form of provision for pupils with disabilities, despite the fact that the cost of special education per child is too high for most countries. Governments are now recognizing the need to develop a more affordable system which will provide quality education for all children, additionally, legislation is clearly moving towards an increasing emphasis on inclusion.
In Scotland the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (Department for Education and Employment, 2001), which amends the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), deliver a stronger right to a mainstream education for disabled children unless this is conflicting with the parents wishes or the provision of efficient education for other children. One of the main aims proposed in the recent White Paper, Removing Barriers to Achievement (DfES, 2004) is to reduce the number of special schools and encourage more mainstream schools to adopt fully inclusive practices. In addition, by reducing the number of residential schools and reallocating resources to local provisions and service, disabled children and young people can be educated closer to their homes and families. But it is argued that, even with the worldwide trend towards inclusion and the increasing participation of disabled children in mainstream schools, special education still has an important role and, for some students, is still the best option.
However, others need to be put in situations in which they have opportunities to succeed and develop self-esteem and confidence. (Shah, S, 2005)
There has been much debate over recent years concerning the provision of segregated special education for pupils with disabilities. There are both arguments in favour of inclusion and against.
Advantages of segregated education
Cited by Shah (2005), Barnes (1991) and Middleton (1999), argue that special education is promoted to parents of disabled children as a safe option to the hustle and bustle of mainstream schools, which may otherwise be too stressful. Some researchers claim that separate schools offer the best opportunities for disabled students, for instance, Jenkinson (1979) argues that with smaller classes and higher teacher pupil ratios, special schools allow concentrated one-to-one attention and tuition which can be delivered at a level appropriate to each child's needs. They are perceived as more supportive, both physically and socially, and less threatening to students with disabilities, encouraging their feeling of security and enhancing their self-esteem by avoiding continual comparison of their achievements with other students. According to Pearse (1996), segregated institutions are an essential element of the social and psychological independence of disabled children. Moreover, being supported in an environment free from the involvement of mainstream barriers allows the children to explore and develop a sense of self. Cook, Swain and French (2001) propose that disabled students are likely to build positive social relationships more easily in segregated institutions where they not only share common goals and interests, but values, goals and ways of viewing the world. In mainstream school, where a disabled child requires support, Watson et al. (1999) suggest that successful social integration with peers may be hindered. They found that for some disabled people, the physical location of the helper could work against their acceptance among other children in the class. Allan (1996) suggests that the child's interaction can be brought to the attention of the staff, as disabled children are more carefully monitored than their non-disabled peers: All children are the object of analysis within schools, but for pupils with special educational needs, the observation reaches further. They are observed, not only at work in the classroom, but also at break times. The way in which they intermingle with mainstream peers or integrate socially is often viewed as equally important, if not more so, than their attainment in mainstream curriculum goals. (Shah, S, 2005)
Criticisms of segregated education
Shah also discusses arguments against segregated education; Alderson and Goodey, (1998) argue that reports which suggest that students have a higher self-esteem or do better at special schools are worthless if self-esteem depends on being in an artificial, sheltered world. Barnes (1991) argues that being in a protective, segregated environment holds back disabled individuals from society. Dr John Mary and the British Council of Organizations of Disabled People (1986) believe that special education is one of the key routes for distributing non-disabled views of the world and making sure that disabled school leavers are socially isolated. The outcome of this isolation is that disabled people accept social discrimination and lack the skills needed in adult life. This argument is supported by Jenkinson (1997) and Fuchs and Fuchs (1998) who feel that the deficiency of suitable behavioural role models, and the removal from the general way of life of childhood and adolescence contribute to isolation in the community. Barnes, (1991) also argues that by producing socially and educationally disabled individuals, the special education system maintains discrimination practices in all other areas of social life, particularly employment. Dunn (1968), also had the same views, in that, a segregated placement is responsible for people with disabilities being negatively labelled and excluded from society. He goes on to say that labels have damaging effects on both teacher expectations and the student's own self-concept. Another major criticism of segregated education is that an isolated curriculum that focuses on specific educational needs stops students from learning a wide range of subjects offered in mainstream schools. Jenkinson (1997) argues that the small number of staff in special schools, along with their considerably limited, curricula expertise, restricts the range and content of the curriculum. She feels the lack of training and experience of most special school teachers in the secondary curriculum to be a growing obstacle as students with disabilities move into adolescence. An article entitled Special School Shame (Disability Now, January 1997) reported on a study, conducted by the Alliance for Inclusive Education, which evidenced that special schools are less likely than mainstream schools to enter their students for public examinations. According to the sample statistics, only 6 of the 85 special schools in the study (7 per cent) proceeded to compete in national exams. The reasoning was based on the assumption that children in special schools were unable to learn as well as their peers in regular education.
Shah has also discussed inclusive education and cites a number of authors for example, Barnes (1991) has argued that inclusion plays a crucial role in the fight towards the abolition of discrimination and of disabled people being accepted as citizens of the social majority, he suggests that being educated in mainstream schools is positively related to the successful transition of people with disabilities into employment and wider society, although, being placed in mainstream school does not necessarily mean experiencing total inclusion. Inclusive education is more than just placing a disabled person in a mainstream school and providing extra support. Inclusion requires major changes within society to allow everyone to take part, interact and make choices. Young disabled people are less likely than their non-disabled counterparts to pursue academic subjects of their choice due to restrictions imposed by the physical environment. Burgess, (2003) believes that even now, mainstream schools are not fully accessible, as those responsible for developing inclusion still often think of accessibility as ramps and rails. Burgess also points out that discriminatory attitudes among teachers in mainstream schools have also been confirmed by UK education inspectors. A survey by the Department of Education and Science (DES), published in 1989, noted that the attitudes of some staff were patronising, while others were reluctant to work with disabled pupils. These attitudes were likely to be reproduced in the attitudes and behaviour of non-disabled students towards their disabled peers. The result of such attitudinal prejudice among peers may be critical. Haring, (1991) argues that peer acceptance is a primary outcome of schooling, with important outcomes for the quality of life of students with disabilities. (Shah, S, 2005)
As Shah discusses arguments in favour of, and against segregation, it becomes clear that there are a number of authors that support both viewpoints, for example, Jenkinson (1979) argues that with smaller classes and higher teacher pupil ratios, special schools allow concentrated one-to-one attention and tuition which can be delivered at a level appropriate to each child's needs, yet, at the same time, she also says that the small number of staff in special schools, along with their considerably limited, curricula expertise, restricts the range and content of the curriculum and feels the lack of training and experience of most special school teachers in the secondary curriculum to be a growing obstacle as students with disabilities move into adolescence. Barnes (1991) stresses that one of the principal functions of segregated education is to protect disabled children from the rough and tumble of the normal environment, at the same time, arguing, that being in a protective, segregated environment holds back disabled individuals from society.
These contradictory views lead to the belief that the authors feel that special schools do have their place in society, but not to the detriment of those attending, as in the past. People are different and diverse, and what is suitable for one may not be suitable for another, in that, total inclusion in a mainstream school may be damaging for some pupils but more beneficial for others.
Perhaps this is where mainstream schools which have a special unit can be beneficial. This can be construed as partial inclusion. Pupils attending the special units can have access to the mainstream curriculum, and social interaction with their more able peers, at the same time, those who simply could not cope with mainstream institutions have the benefit of the caring special unit, where they can still have access to a similar curriculum as that offered in mainstream, and feel protected and less vulnerable.
Partial integration is often seen as combining the best of both worlds in special education: the student has access to special curriculum and small classes in the special school, while also having the opportunity to socialize and participate with non-disabled peers in extra-curricular activities that are not available in the special school. (Jenkinson, 1996, p 107-108)