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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Happier in a special school
Mother and son
It took Sarah Lamont years to get her son a special school place
Matthew would be under the classroom table or throwing chairs at the teacher, screaming and terrifying other pupils.

"Inclusion sounds wonderful," said his mother, Sarah.

"But it scares other pupils, it scares staff, when they see these children having rages."

Matthew, who is 13, has a number of problems including ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

He now has a place at a special school, and says he is happier there.

"It has been so hard to see the pain he has been under and begging us to help him," his mother said.

"To see him now - I got told in his special school that he is 'a credit to me'. And he is a sweetheart - he can be. That's lovely."

Plea for help

But his parents had to fight for years to get him there.

He had been caught in a cycle of short-term placements, during which he would improve enough to be returned to a mainstream school, only for his behaviour to deteriorate again. This happened eight times.

Other parents would complain about the effect of his behaviour on their children, Sarah Lamont said - she had done the same with regard to other children on behalf of her daughter, who does not have such problems.

Sarah Lamont
It's heartbreaking to see the helplessness that families go through
Sarah Lamont
On the first occasion that the family appealed to a special needs tribunal to get Matthew a "statement" of need, they were turned down.

A few weeks later he tried to hang himself, his mother said: "He was screaming."

She telephoned the tribunal office pleading for help.

They arranged an emergency review, which led to another tribunal hearing, and this time they were successful.

His mother draws on her experience in running a support group for parents facing similar difficulties.

"It's heartbreaking to see the helplessness that families go through," she said.

"I have talked to fathers who have been close to suicide because they can't cope with the family situation.

"This is quite a big group of parents that aren't coping with the way things are.

"Inclusion is wonderful, but you need to know where to draw the line.

"You can put in children with physical disabilities, you can put all nationalities in together - and everybody needs to accept each other, especially in this world today - but you cannot put aggressive children in a classroom where other children are going to suffer and then they suffer themselves."

The resources are not there for individual teachers to deal with those children
Ron Clooney, NASUWT
In the Southampton area, where the family lives, the NASUWT teachers' union representative Ron Clooney has long been concerned about the problems caused by children with behavioural difficulties.

"Children who are in wheelchairs, children who are blind or deaf - no problem," he said.

Provided the necessary precautions and resources were there, they could be integrated into a mainstream environment.

But with behavioural problems there were huge issues for teachers to cope with.

He gives an example of a class of 28 children in a secondary school.

Most would have varying degrees of intellectual ability and could access the curriculum at various levels, and if the work was differentiated appropriately there was no problem.

"But if one child's on sedatives, another is suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, another child has got Tourette Syndrome, there could be swearing, disruption, and 80% of the teacher's time could be absorbed by those three children to the detriment of the other 25 children within that classroom.

We need to look carefully at how many such children can be included
David Bell
chief schools inspector
"And that's the problem - that in fact the resources are not there for individual teachers to deal with those children on an individual basis."

A report on inclusion by Ofsted inspectors has said schools find particular problems in taking children with behavioural difficulties.

The chief inspector for England, David Bell, said: "There's no point in running away from that.

"We have to accept that it's one of the harder parts of inclusion and we need to look carefully at how many such children can be included."

Management advice

The Department for Education and Skills says its approach was "pro-inclusion" but not "either/or" - "unhelpful divisions" between special schools and mainstream schools.

But it was up to local education authorities how best to manage special educational needs (SEN) provision in their area.

It was important to get this right.

"That's why we are today announcing that a new team of SEN advisers is now operational to help local authorities build capacity in identifying special educational needs so children get the help they need as early as possible."

They would also be promoting better specialist advice and support to schools and better information and accountability to parents, as well as encouraging better management and delegation of SEN funding to schools.




SEE ALSO:
Behaviour problems strain schools
12 Oct 04 |  Education
Special school could remain open
11 Oct 04 |  Wiltshire
Family's landmark autism victory
06 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland
Tories to review special schools
06 Aug 04 |  Education


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