Experts Challenge Government on Special Needs Reforms

Academics, activists, young people, parents and carers will debate government plans to involve parents in the assessment process and introduce a legal right to give them control over funding for their child's support.

The proposals claim to give parents a greater choice of schools, along with the power to set up special free schools in their communities.

The proposed changes would fulfil a promise by the coalition government to 'prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools, and remove the bias towards inclusion'. But event organiser Dan Goodley of Manchester Metropolitan University argues that such measures would lead to the greater isolation of disabled children. "There never has been a bias towards inclusion," he said.

"Disabled children are already more likely to face isolation and unfair treatment, and we know that disabled children are currently more likely than their non-disabled peers to be excluded from mainstream school, and to be set apart in their communities."

"Our big fear is that more and more disabled kids will be taken out of mainstream schools and put into special schools," he added. "We could end up with disabled kids being pushed even further away from their communities than they are now."

Goodley is drawing on previous research funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) called 'Does every child matter, post Blair?' The project's findings show that disabled children and their families continue to suffer exclusions in their day-to-day lives in schools, hospitals, social care and in their leisure activities.

The research also found that narrowing definitions of what represents a 'normal' childhood are helping to create increased discrimination and belittlement for disabled children. Expectations for disabled children are low and, despite recent changes in policy and practice, many children are still being denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential.; Source: Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

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