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Educational Inclusion


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' Those arguing the case for inclusion are often tempted away from the path of logic into the realms of ideology.'- British Journal of Special Education

As increasing numbers of students with complex needs transfer to mainstream schools how possible is it for all students to get a fair deal from education?

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A very interesting question - and an interesting quote.

Here in Tasmania I am battling (on behalf of our union members) to make our hierarchy see this point.

We have mainstreamed almost every student with special needs. We have closed all but three special schools and have only about .02 of disabled students in these schools whent the OECD accepted % is about 1.5. We have classrooms where the other students cannot hear the teacher because the included child makes constant loud wailing noises. We have classrooms where TAs have to change the nappies of 15 yr old boys in wheelchairs. We have seriously disabled students with only a few hours aide time a week. Yet, when I challenge this, all I get is quotations from the Disability/Discrimination Legislation and a comment that aren't we absolutely marvellous for having a lower ratio in sp schools than other places. Hard to argue that one and not sound anti. I would love to hear more comments on this.

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Very interested to hear about Special Needs in Tasmania.We are sometimes prevented from including students with physical disabilities as many of our aging purpose built secondary schools do not have the required facilities or accessibility. Although every school has an access development plan there is not the money to support it. However, we do have increasing numbers of students with statements for complex needs both medical and behavourial and this impacts on the subject teachers as well as SEN staff. Does increased inclusion diminish the status of the special school?

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To be enrolled in a special school here, a child must be almost bedridden and have below 50IQ. Out of a population of 400,000 we have fewer than 200 in special schools. The rest, we are constantly told, are better off in mainstream classrooms. It is an ideology that brooks no criticism and parents have been brainwashed accordingly to believe the same, regardless of the fact that specialist services may be reduced in the mainstream school.

Our legislation mandates for provision of access to kids, even if it is only one child in a school who needs a ramp or a lift installing. Huge amounts are spent on that even though the child could be bussed elsewhere. Our biggest problem, however, is lack of teacher and aide support in the classroom. I am about to go on TV this week on this very subject. Last week a little boy with a very rare syndrome (Floating Harbour it's called) who is epileptic, autistic, low IQ, non-verbal, behavioural problem, had aide time cut from 6 hours a week to 3 because he wasn't considered sufficiently disabled. Mum had to go to media before Minister "found" some extra funding - something like 30 pounds a week!! One has to ask what sort of society we live in that does this, when politicians are just about to get a pay rise and today's paper says they are adding $500,000 a year to their bill for extra "minders" for MPs. It makes me incredibly angry.

I have just read a very interesting piece in an American Sp Ed journal which suggests that having them in mainstream school causes focus to be on normal/modified academic curriculum with consequent lack of life-skills and training which in fact may disadvantage them for reaching potential in later life. I don't believe that you can claim to have successfully included unless you can demonstrate that each and every child is receiving more of everything than when they were in a special school. We have an obsession here for believing that "place" is the important issue not access to opportunity.

Grrrr!

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