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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 11:04 GMT
Disabled pupils 'challenge barriers'
wheelchair-bound child in mainstream class
Report says integrating disabled children has benefits
Children develop a more positive attitude to disability when learning alongside disabled pupils, research suggests.

In a survey of 27 schools covered by the government's schools access initiative (SAI), researchers found pupils displayed a greater level of tolerance and more sensitive behaviour, such as refraining from running in corridors.

disabled boy in science class
Integration has seen barriers broken down, the report says
None of the schools reported cases of bullying and two specifically said there had been none.

The government is giving details of how 50m for improving access to schools for disabled children will be allocated - the first instalment of 220m to be spent in England over the next three years.

The Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, Within Reach, was commissioned by the national disability charity Scope and the National Union of Teachers and was published as the Centre for Policy Studies was hosting a debate on the future of special educational needs schooling.

The study applauded the government's investment in the SAI of 220m over three years and recommended it continue to support the scheme, which seeks to integrate disabled pupils into mainstream education.

Parental involvement

The researchers also found 77% of the schools reported an improved effect on parental attitudes to disability and 85% saw greater parental involvement, both among parents with disabled children and those without.

More teachers, more governors and more LEAs need to be aware of this fund that can bring benefits to their pupils and colleagues

Richard Brewster, Scope
All but one of the schools reported a positive effect on the attitudes of teaching and support staff towards disability.

Many of the schools surveyed said special access facilities for pupils had also benefited disabled parents and teachers and others within the community.

In one school, a sound system was installed for the benefit of a hearing-impaired pupil to provide "ubiquitous sound" from a microphone worn by the teacher.

But all the pupils said they gained from the better quality of sound in the classroom.

'Right to invest'

Chief executive of Scope, Richard Brewster, said the report showed the government was right to invest in access to education for disabled children.

"It is heartening to see that all pupils and teachers at schools funded through the SAI are reaping the rewards from the 45m spent thus far.

"Obviously future investment is needed, but the report highlights that more teachers, more governors and more LEAs need to be aware of this fund that can bring benefits to their pupils and colleagues," Mr Brewster said.

General secretary of the NUT, Doug McAvoy, said: "As well as improving access to the curriculum for disabled pupils, the initiative has allowed them to build the sort of long-term friendships which simply would not have been possible before."

"This report clearly shows how the SAI has helped change all pupils' attitudes to disability," he said.


And the Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, said the government had a long standing commitment to increasing access to mainstream education for disabled children.

"The schools access initiative has been an important tool in helping achieve that aim," she said.

As well as the money for schools between 2002 and 2004, further education will get 66m, higher education will get 56m, adult education centres will get 35m and the Youth Service will get 15m.

Research published by the Secondary Heads Association in December suggested that secondary schools in England were struggling with a 16.7% increase over three years in the number of pupils assessed as needing special help with their learning.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Education
Anti-bias law for disabled pupils
26 Jun 00 | Education
Questions over pupils' special needs
22 Dec 00 | Education
Schools' special needs 'deluge'
01 Nov 00 | Education
Blind learners 'denied access'
20 Apr 00 | Health
Disability in depth
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