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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 13:22 GMT
Disabled 'welcome in mainstream schools'
Disabled pupils in school
Many believe integration breaks down prejudices
Two thirds of adults are happy for disabled children to be taught in mainstream schools, a survey suggests.

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.

This can be a win-win for everybody, where prejudice really breaks down

Liz Sayce, Disability Rights Commission
The NOP poll of 2,000 people aged 15 and above across Britain found just 12% of respondents thought disabled children should be taught in special schools because they would not get the proper support they needed in a mainstream school.

The survey was published to mark the start of the Disability Rights Commission's (DRC) Educating for Equality campaign.

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

New legislation

Under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, which comes into force on 1 September 2002, educational institutions will be obliged not to treat disabled people less favourably than others.

They will also have to make certain types of "reasonable adjustment" to ensure disabled pupils and students are not at a substantial disadvantage.

Liz Sayce
Liz Sayce: "A win-win situation"
Liz Sayce from the DRC said integration could significantly change attitudes.

"What we're seeing and what our survey today shows is that this can be a win-win for everybody, where prejudice really breaks down," said Ms Sayce.

"Able-bodied, non-disabled young people are saying we didn't realise what it was like to be disabled - we never really met disabled people.

"And young disabled people are finding that they can have a different sense of their own opportunities and own life," she said.

Awareness training

The survey for the DRC also found 70% of respondents thought children should learn about disability as part of the curriculum, to prevent disabled pupils being bullied at school.

Over 80% thought it would teach disabled and non-disabled pupils to respect and understand each other.

Many people believe that disabled children should have access to the same educational and social opportunities as everyone else

Bert Massie, chairman of the DRC
Half of those surveyed thought awareness training should be a priority for teacher trainees, so they could support disabled children in the classroom.

The commission's chairman, Bert Massie, said: "Our survey shows that many people believe that disabled children should have access to the same educational and social opportunities as everyone else."

It was clear there were some concerns, particularly for children with more complex needs, he said.

"That's why we are launching the Educating for Equality campaign - to raise awareness of the benefits we can all reap when disabled pupils enjoy the same educational opportunities as everyone else."

Despite efforts to improve educational opportunities for disabled people, they are twice as likely as non-disabled pupils to have no qualifications.

More than double the number of non-disabled people are out of work compared to the rest of the population, the commission says.

Mainstream education
Do special needs children benefit?
See also:

13 Mar 01 | Education
Disabled pupils 'challenge barriers'
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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