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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 14:56 GMT
Mainstream education: Do special needs children benefit?
An opinion poll suggests two thirds of adults are happy for disabled children to be taught in mainstream schools.

But less than a third of those same people are happy to see a child with a learning difficulty - such as Down's syndrome - or mental health problems - such as depression - being included in the classroom.

From next autumn, disabled youngsters will have the legal right to be schooled within the mainstream education system.

What do you think? Are children with special needs better off in specialist schools? Or do all children benefit from their inclusion in mainstream schools?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Good luck to disabled children getting access to mainstream. It is about time, so long as it is their choice and preference.

John, UK

Yes and no. I think I benefited from a mainstream education but then, my disability is not visible. On the other hand, I do think it was unhelpful to be the only disabled kid in the school. Boy, was I glad when someone more obviously disabled joined.
Alcuin, UK

My son was in a mainstream school in his junior years where he left with his confidence at rock bottom. Since being at a special school he has blossomed and regained his confidence and self esteem.

They should never even consider closing special schools - they work at a level which is suited to the needs of children with learning difficulties. If parents and children want mainstream, fair enough, but keep the choice available for thos who do not want it.

Parents have the right to choose a grammar school if their children are bright, so give the less fortunate a right to the education which is best suited to their needs.
Wendy Wilding, England

Good luck to disabled children getting access to mainstream. It is about time, so long as it is their choice and preference. For other children with special educational needs it is a different matter. I don't know what is driving the move to inclusion in mainstream schools. Perhaps it the educational psychologists trying out a new fad from the US. Perhaps it is the government trying to save costs on special school provision. Perhaps it really is well intentioned, however misguided.

Regardless, mainstream schools today cannot prevent bullying. Their effective responses have been prohibited. They have been neutered. So which parents in their right minds will want to send their special vulnerable children to mainstream? Count me out! My child is doing just fine with special friends.
John, UK

The problem is not whether special needs children will be welcome or not. The problem is that it will cost hundreds of millions to equip schools to cater for their disabilities. Schools will have to provide wheelchair ramps, wider doors, elevators, special toilet facilities and so on.


The problem is not whether special needs children will be welcome or not. The problem is that it will cost hundreds of millions to equip schools to cater for their disabilities.

Michael Entill, UK
In many cases, such changes will require major structural work. It will cost a fortune to provide ordinary schools with facilities that in some cases will only be used by a very few pupils. This perhaps wouldn't matter were it not for the fact that schools are already seriously underfunded. Specialist schools that provide all facilities under one roof are the only economically viable option.
Michael Entill, UK

A brave step to include these unfortunate children in mainstream schools. However, we have to ensure that a) other children are not held up because of the disabilities of a few chidren, b) teachers are fully trained to cope with various "situations" which may arise with these inclusions, and c) facilities are available in every school to ensure that the needs of these students are taken care of.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

I believe that parents have the right to chose. However, the closure of special schools in Gloucestershire removes that right. If my children were at the other end of the scale they would be able to go to grammar school, why can't they go to a special school? The school at which I am chair of governors is a community in its own right. It is very highly thought of by the local people. It has excellent results year on year. It makes no sense to close this establishment and lose the excellent staff and resources.
David Waters, UK

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