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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Schools 'failing' special needs

By Angela Harrison
BBC News Online education staff in Bournemouth

Many children with special needs are being failed by schools which cannot cope with them, a teachers' union is warning.

Teachers are concerned at children with behavioural problems

Policies aimed at including everyone in mainstream schools have led to big problems for some schools, according to members of England's second-biggest teachers' union, the NASUWT.

Delegates at the organisation's annual conference in Bournemouth heard criticism of the closure of many special schools.

One delegate, Ron Clooney, from a Southampton secondary school, said teachers were being told to reward the good behaviour of children who were generally very difficult to control or even violent.

"We are being urged to give the kids Mars bars when they are walking around with iron bars," he said.

"It doesn't work. You don't see policemen walking around with Mars bars instead of truncheons.

"Inclusion doesn't work and we don't want it."


The NASUWT's general secretary Eamonn O'Kane said the issue of inclusion was one which concerned many members.

The union was not opposed to inclusion, which he said could be good both for children with special needs and the main school population, provided schools were given enough resources.

But he added: "If a school is not given proper facilities it can be a disaster. When you apply the concept of inclusion for youngsters of all special needs, that leads to real problems.

"Schools with a high proportion of children with special needs have to deal with a multiplicity of problem behaviour.

"The children themselves do not benefit from the experience. Sometimes they are very vulnerable children who find themselves being bullied."

Mr O'Kane said the closure of many special schools under Labour had been driven by cost-cutting and he was pleased the government now seemed ready to maintain surviving special schools.

"The rush to close special schools was ill-judged and mainstream schools can often reap the consequences."

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