Mainstreaming Pupils with Special Educational Needs: an evaluation


2: Setting the scene

'Inclusion is not easy, but it's also not optional.'

Graham Donaldson, HMIE Senior Chief Inspector, speaking at the National Conference Count Us In, Further Good Practice in Inclusion, 30 November 2004, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

2.1 The bigger picture

2.1.1 Children and young people with SEN in Scottish schools

It was widely anticipated that The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 would lead to an increase in the number of children and young people with SEN in mainstream schools (Audit Scotland, 2003, p.4). However, the evidence reported below suggests that the 'movement to mainstream' predated the new legislation. We shall explore this theme in more detail in Chapter 3.

As can be seen from Tables 2.1 and 2.2, between 1998 and 2001, the years for which comparable data are available ( see Appendix 1), there appears to have been a modest increase in the number and percentage of pupils with SEN in mainstream primary and secondary schools in Scotland. 4

Table 2.1: Number and percentage of children with SEN in primary schools, 1998-2001

YearRollSEN (n)% SENRecord of Needs ( RoN)% RoN of total population

























Table 2.2: Number and percentage of children with SEN in secondary schools, 1998-2001



SEN (n)


Record of Needs ( RoN)

% RoN of total population

























By 2004, there were 25,383 pupils with a Record of Needs ( RoN) and/or an Individualised Educational Programme ( IEP) in mainstream schools. This represents an increase of nine per cent on the previous year (2003). 5 However, some caution is required in interpreting these data, as the increase may be partly attributable to changing practices in schools in respect of the use of IEPs.

There have been only minor fluctuations in the percentage of the school-aged population in special schools in the last decade. In 1996, the special school population represented 1.05 per cent of the total school population (primary and secondary). It peaked in 2000 at 1.11 per cent, and by 2004, it had declined to 1.02 per cent.

There have, however, been substantial changes in the nature of the special school population over the same period. For example, since 1998 (the year that autistic spectrum disorders ( ASD) first appeared as a category of main difficulty in learning, there has been a steady rise in the number of children and young people with ASD educated in the special education sector (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Characteristics of the special school population, 1995-2004

Figure 1: Characteristics of the special school population, 1995-2004

This mirrors the evidence from the survey of special schools, namely the reported increase in the numbers of children with ASD and other communication disorders (see Section 2.1.2 below) among their populations. The headteacher of Dragon Well, a special school that was one of the case-studies, also reported that the school was catering for increasing numbers of pupils with ASD.

It is important, however, to set these findings in context, and to note that local authorities appear to have made substantial efforts to include such children in mainstream provision (see Section 3.3.1 and Appendix 3, Tables 1 and 2). The evidence points to a steady rise in the incidence of these conditions across the whole school-aged population. As the evidence from Earl Grey PS (one of the case study schools) suggests, children on the autistic spectrum may exhibit behaviour that is incongruous and challenging, and which severely disrupts teaching and learning. It is possible that the perceived rise in the incidence of challenging behaviour in schools, and indeed in the incidence of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties ( SEBD) is related to the reported increase in the number of children on the autistic spectrum. However, as Macleod and Munn (2004) point out, there is also a 'lack of consensus as to what SEBD actually is', and 'broad agreement in the literature that the definition of SEBD is problematic' (p.171). Furthermore, the statistical evidence indicates that local authorities are operating with rather different constructions of some of the main 'difficulties of learning'. For example, the 2004 census data shows large inter-authority variations, not just in the number of children described as having SEBD, but also in respect of those with moderate learning difficulties and specific learning difficulties in language and/or mathematics (including dyslexia). It is anticipated that the monitoring procedures currently being developed by the Scottish Executive will substantially reduce the extent of such variations between authorities.

The relatively minor fluctuations in the number of children with moderate learning difficulties ( MLD) and SEBD amongst the special school population between 1996 and 2004 are more difficult to interpret (see Figure 1). They may simply demonstrate the contingent nature of inclusion across the country; and the enduring effect of local government reorganisation (see Riddell Committee, 1999). The statistical evidence relating to the age of pupils currently being educated in special schools supports the hypothesis that emerged from the case studies and the special school survey. This was that the presumption of mainstreaming has resulted in the placement of more children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools than previously. One respondent to the special school survey reported that there are 'fewer children coming into the school at the P1 stage than there were five years ago'. As can be seen from Figure 2 below, the statistical evidence suggests that that the majority of children and young people who are currently attending free-standing special schools are of secondary school age.

Figure 2: Pupils in special schools in Scotland in 2003, by age6

Figure 2: Pupils in special schools in Scotland in 2003, by age

There is no available data on the educational career paths of individual pupils. However, the evidence from the special school survey gives rise to the speculation that some young people currently attending special schools may have experienced a mixed economy of provision in the past. The following comments, made by the head of a special school serving a diverse community, make interesting reading:

The number of children traumatised by repeated failure in under-equipped mainstream settings is very high. Many would be able to integrate successfully if intervention was early and adequate. We are receiving numerous applications for children whose behaviour has become too extreme for our setting. (SS 101)

One possible explanation for the over-representation of older children in the special school population is that the process of reaching a diagnosis can be protracted and difficult for all parties. The example below is a case in point.

Vignette 1: a little bit different…

Mrs Black's son David was in S2 at Dragon Well special school. David had started off his school career in an urban mainstream school. His mother reported that he 'had always been a little bit different', but that 'things were going o.k. until the end of P4'. 'Things really began to fall apart in P5', she told us. Psychological services became involved at this point, but no definitive diagnosis was reached. He was referred to a specialist psychiatric unit, and finally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the end of P6. By this stage he had become deeply distressed. His mother described him as 'depressed, unstable, and difficult to live with'. Despite the supportive attitude of the senior management team, David was excluded from school on twelve occasions. Mrs Black observed that the 'P5 teacher had been unable to cope', and that David's teacher had been absent frequently in P6. In the latter stages of his primary school career, David had become increasingly withdrawn. He was now bed-wetting, and curling up in corners. He began his secondary career in a mainstream school with a unit for children with communication disorders. This proved an unsatisfactory solution for all parties, and it was agreed that David would continue his education in the same school, but would no longer be based in the unit. The result was more exclusions. Negotiations began about a placement in a special school, and David started to attend Dragon Well at the beginning of S2. Although she reported that David still 'hated school', Mrs Black felt that Dragon Well was 'small enough to be flexible', and that the staff 'were willing to try different strategies'.

2.1.2 Inter-authority placement patterns

The recent statistical evidence confirms the pattern observed by Professor Sheila Riddell in the late 1990s (Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2001): namely, that there are substantial variations between local authorities in respect of the percentage of pupils with SEN educated in a mainstream setting ( see Appendix 2, Table 1). As Professor Riddell pointed out, 'there is high mainstreaming in outlying areas, low mainstreaming in cities'. However, there are also substantial variations between cities in respect of the percentage of children in specialist provision. For example, in 2002, 33% of the 2,569 pupils with SEN in Glasgow City were educated in mainstream schools. In contrast, 71 per cent of pupils with SEN in Aberdeen City attended mainstream schools. Some of this variation can be explained by the web of inter-dependence in SEN provision that we explore more fully below, and some is a result of the re-configuration of specialist provision.

We conducted a detailed analysis of inter-authority placement patterns in the 12 local authorities that comprised the former Strathclyde region 7 ( see Appendix 2, Figures 1 and 2). We looked specifically at the number of children with SEN placed in mainstream schools and in special schools outside their home authority in 2001 and in 2003. The evidence suggests that inter-authority placement patterns have remained relatively unchanged since local authority reorganisation; and that the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh act as magnet providers of special school placements. For example:

  • 120 (14%) of the 828 pupils with SEN in the City of Glasgow in 2001 went to mainstream schools outwith their home authority.
  • There were considerable numbers of pupils with SEN from the twelve authorities from the former Strathclyde Region being placed in specialist provision within the City of Glasgow.
  • There was a small volume of exchange between adjacent local authorities, eg East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire; and North and South Lanarkshire. ( See Appendix 2, Figures 1 to 4 for an account of how patterns have changed between 2001 and 2003; Figures 5 to 8 relate to the situation in the former Lothian region during the same period.)

This accounts for some of the variation in the percentages of pupils with SEN attending local authority mainstream schools.

2.1.3 The impact of mainstreaming on attainment

In respect of the impact of inclusion on levels of attainment of all pupils in mainstream schools, the main findings can be summarised as follows:

  • There was no evidence from the statistical analysis that the presence of pupils with SEN has an effect - positive or negative - upon pupils' attainment. (As with the attendance data, univariate analysis of variance relating to attainment was confined to the years for which there were data on the number of pupils with RoN/ SEN.) This is consistent with the findings reported in a study of inclusion and pupil attainment conducted by Alan Dyson and colleagues on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills in England (Dyson et al, 2004). The researchers found 'no evidence of a relationship between inclusion and attainment at LEA level', and 'a very small and negative statistical relationship between the level of inclusivity in a school and the attainments of its pupils.' They go on to observe that 'the possibility that this is a causal relationship cannot entirely be ruled out, though this seems unlikely.' (Executive Summary, p 11)


  • We found no clear relationship between mainstream school examination results, attendance figures and the percentage of pupils with RoN/ SEN. (Univariate analysis variance in relation to attendance data was confined to the years for which there were data on the number of pupils with RoN/ SEN.)
  • At local authority level, there was no relationship between Free School Meal Entitlement ( FSME) and the incidence of children with RoN.

2.1.4 Perceived impact on the special school sector

The evidence from the special school survey suggests no clear trend in respect of an increase or decrease in roll in the 119 schools that responded to the survey. (We achieved a response rate of 65% for the survey of special schools. See Appendix 1 for further details.) The 'headline news' in terms of reported trends is summarised below.

  • 41 special school respondents (39%) reported that there had been an increase in the school roll over the last five years.
  • 44 special school respondents (37%) reported that the school roll had decreased over the last five years.
  • When asked what changes they attributed in whole or in part to mainstreaming, 21 respondents (34% of those who responded to this question) directly attributed the reported decrease in school roll to the impact of the inclusion policy.
  • The majority of respondents reported no change in the number and frequency of exclusions from school (56% and 60% respectively). However, larger schools were significantly more likely to report an increase in the number and frequency of exclusions. The same holds for secondary schools as compared to primary schools.
  • The evidence from the special school survey points unequivocally to a perceived increase in the range and complexity of conditions catered for in individual establishments. There was also a substantial number of references (25) to a perceived increase in the number of children on the autistic spectrum; and to a perceived rise in the numbers presenting with challenging behaviour and/or mental health difficulties (18). A total of thirty-six headteachers (32% of those who stated that the needs of their school populations had changed over the last five years) reported an increase in these two related areas of need.

The following comments from a respondent to the local authority survey set some of the findings reported above in context.

…Despite the best efforts of all staff to implement the 2000 Act, the population of our special schools, apart from the school with the most vulnerable pupils is not reducing. In fact, or MLD school roll is increasing. (East Ayrshire)

We shall consider the impact of the inclusion policy on the special school sector in more detail in Chapter 5. We shall now focus on the immediate political climate in which the research was commissioned, and outline policy developments in the area of educational provision for children and young people with SEN.

2.2 The policy framework

When Graham Donaldson told the audience at the Count Us In conference that 'inclusion is not easy, but it's also not optional', he provided a succinct overview of the policy environment in which the evaluation was conducted. Mr Donaldson was, of course, referring to the fact that since the introduction of Section 15 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, the onus is now on schools to provide for all pupils - including those with disabilities - if that is what their parents want.

The Senior Chief Inspector's remarks set the parameters for the research team. Our remit was to draw upon the quantitative and qualitative evidence gathered in the course of this study in order to suggest ways of making inclusion that little bit easier. We also hope to make a significant contribution to the debate on the potentiality and limitations of inclusion.

2.2.1 The legislative background

Section 15 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 states that in carrying out their duties to provide school education to a child of school age, education authorities should, except in 'exceptional circumstances', provide that education in a mainstream school rather than in a special school. The circumstances under which a decision may be made to educate a child in a special school are as follows: where education in a school other than a special school would not be suited to the ability or the aptitude of the child; would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for the children with whom the child is being educated; or would result in unreasonable public expenditure being incurred which would not ordinarily be incurred.

It is not our intention here to provide a comprehensive account of the policy environment and the legislation in respect of children and young people with SEN. There have been significant analyses, including illuminating comparisons between Scotland and England (for example, Riddell, 2002; Riddell et al, 2000, 2002).

For the benefit of readers of this report, however, Appendix 2 provides a synoptic overview of policy and legislation in Scotland since it was recognised that every child had a right to education. 8 (See Allan, 2003a; MacKay & McLarty, 2003; Brennan, 2004; and Hayward, 2003 for more detailed accounts of legislative change as it impacts upon Scotland; and for an overview of the attendant changes in nomenclature.)

In the global context, the key driver of the inclusive education agenda was the Salamanca Statement on Principles, Policy and Practice in Special Needs Education ( UNESCO, 1994). The Salamanca Statement recognised 'the necessity and urgency of providing education for children, youth and adults with special educational needs within the regular education system' (p.viii). It called upon all governments to 'adopt as a matter of law or policy the principle of inclusive education, enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise' (p.ix).

In the UK context, the publication of the Warnock Report ( DES, 1978) signalled the beginning of the inclusive education agenda in respect of young people with SEN. Warnock endorsed the principles of 'integration', while acknowledging that special schools represented the most effective provision for certain groups of pupils. In the Scottish context, the view taken in the HMI report published the same year ( SED, 1978) was that the practice of withdrawing pupils into segregated remedial classes was counter-productive, in that it diverted attention from the extent to which appropriate curricula were being provided for all children.

Section 1 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 ( SENDA), which amends Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 ( DDA), also refers to the 'duty to educate children with special educational needs in mainstream schools'. This came into effect in England and Wales in September 2002.

The creation of the Disability Rights Commission ( DRC) in 2000 was an important driver of change, and a tangible expression of the government's commitment to disability rights in a broad sense. In response to the legislative changes contained in Part 4 of the DDA, the DRC subsequently published two separate codes of practice to explain the legislation - one for schools and one for post-16 provision. 9 To support the legislation that is now in place, the Scottish Executive has also published guidance for schools and local authorities. Moving Forward! Additional Support for Learning ( SEED, 2003) provides a framework for meeting the needs of children who require additional support for learning ( ASL); Inclusive Educational Approaches for Gypsies and Travellers ( LTS, 2003) and Guidance on Education of Children Absent from School through Ill-health ( SEED, 2001) have provided support for other vulnerable groups.

The Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records (Scotland) Act 2002 places additional duties on educational providers to develop accessibility strategies in respect of the built environment and the curriculum for disabled pupils; and to improve communication for disabled pupils. There is a broad consensus that these are the hallmarks of a successful inclusion policy (Dyson et al, 2002).

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 arose from widespread concern that the current assessment and recording system for children with SEN was outdated and overly bureaucratic (Scottish Parliament Education, Culture and Sport Committee, 2001; see also Allan, 2003b; Riddell Committee, 1999).

From the policy perspective, there is a dual focus on promoting social inclusion on the one hand (Riddell Committee 1999; The Scottish Executive, 2000) and raising attainment on the other ( SOEID, 1998; 1999). However, questions have been raised by academics with established records in the field as to the extent to which these twin aims are compatible (see, for example Riddell, 2002; Armstrong, 2005). Nevertheless, it is important to recognise how the debate has moved forward in Scotland in respect of the fundamental purposes of education. For example, it is significant that in its response to the National Debate in Education, the Executive undertakes 'to reduce the amount of time taken up by tests and exams', and notes amongst its major achievements the 'transformation' of 'provision for pupils with special educational needs'. 10

2.3 From integration to inclusion

Many commentators have attempted to distinguish between integration and inclusion (see, for example, Corbett & Slee, 2000; Armstrong et al, 2000). However, as MacKay and McLarty (2003) point out, with some justification, the terms integration and inclusion 'often defy definition or description' (p.822). In their recent study of the impact of inclusion on attainment, Dyson et al (2004) describe inclusion as a 'multi-dimensional concept around which there is much scope for misunderstanding and disagreement' (p.19) (See also Wilson, 1999; Hornby, 2001.)

Broadly speaking, the shift in terminology from 'integration' to 'inclusion' can be said to reflect a change in emphasis from a needs-based agenda to a rights-based agenda (Thomas, 1997; Ainscow, 1997). Evans and Lunt (2002) also argue that 'while "integration" [is] largely a "disability" or SEN issue, inclusion is usually promoted from a wider principled and idealistic, or even ideological, perspective' (p.3). The definition proposed by the Scottish Executive is a case in point:

Social inclusion is about reducing inequalities between the least advantaged groups and communities and the rest of society by closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that support reaches those who need it most. 11

Nevertheless, our experience suggests that practitioners and parents commonly use the term 'inclusion' in a more restricted sense, namely to describe educational provision for children and young people with SEN in mainstream schools. We follow this usage in this report.

Vignette 2: when exclusion means inclusion…

We came across one instance where exclusion from school was the mechanism through which to achieve the broader, longer-term goal of social inclusion in a remote and rural setting. The Silver Surf programme in one of the island authorities was aimed at reducing the number of vulnerable young people with SEBD being placed in residential care on the mainland. This was considered a costly last resort, and previous experience indicated that young people returning to the island from 'exile' - the word the educational psychologist to whom we spoke used - had great difficulty in re-integrating to their local communities. Close collaboration between education and social work was a sine qua non for the success of the programme, which was able to offer rapid-response, round-the-clock support to young people in difficult family circumstances.

The young people on the programme were all between 14 and 16 years old, and had had very negative experiences in mainstream schools that had been unable to meet their needs, particularly those relating to their personal and social development. The programme was viewed as the only way of salvaging these young people's self-respect at this relatively late stage in their school career, when early intervention was no longer an option. In many cases, the parents or principal carers of these young people had had an extremely poor educational experience. The combined effect of these two factors was a strong hostility to the mainstream education system that spanned several generations. The pattern for each participant was similar: they had all been excluded from school on numerous occasions because of their behaviour, and because of the challenge they posed to the value system of the school. Paradoxically, it was their very exclusion from school that had allowed wounds on both sides to heal, and was paving the way for their eventual re-integration into the full island community.

It appears that integration is generally construed as a pragmatic, politically-neutral form of service delivery, whereas inclusion has a strong ideological charge. An example of the former might be the introduction of unit-based provision for a small group of pupils who have 'special needs'. 12 Inclusion, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with notions of 'support for all', of 'celebrating diversity' and embraces the whole school population. According to Mittler ( nd), 'there is a consensus that inclusion calls for a fundamental reorganisation of regular schools and classrooms in order to cater for a greater diversity of children's needs in the community'. In the Index for Inclusion, Booth et al (2000) put forward the view that 'inclusion involves restructuring the cultures, policies and practices in schools so that they respond to the 11diversity of students in their locality'. The Index also states that 'inclusion is concerned with the learning and participation of all students vulnerable to exclusionary pressures, not only those with impairments or those who are categorised as having "special educational needs".' (p.12).

Inclusion can be described in very much the same terms as Bauman (2004) describes identity, namely as 'an agonistic notion and a battle cry' (p.21). It is not entirely coincidental that Allan (2003a) describes inclusion as 'a political and social struggle which foregrounds difference and identity and which involves whole-school and teacher reform'.

The overall aim of the inclusive education agenda is to enable children and young people 'to become fully participating members of their communities' ( SOED, 1994; see also Armstrong et al, 2000; Dyson 1999). The notion of full participation in the school community is, however, rarely adumbrated. For example, the Review Group in Inclusive Education (Dyson et al, 2002) set out to define participation. However, they do little more than reiterate a political agenda and provide rather incomplete definitions of the terms 'culture', 'curriculum' and 'community':

Inclusive education as defined is about the participation of students in key aspects of their schools: their 'cultures', that is their shared sets of values and expectations; their 'curricula', that is the learning experiences on offer; and their 'communities', that is the sets of relationships they sustain.

The idea of whole-school involvement is also closely linked to notions of school effectiveness and improvement (see, for example Ainscow, 1997; 1999). Understanding and Developing Inclusive Practices in Schools is a case in point. This is a collaborative action research network funded under the Economic and Social Research Council's ( ESRC) Teaching and Learning Research Programme ( TLRP). The project is designed to address the following research questions:

  • What are the barriers to participation and learning experienced by pupils?
  • What practices can help to overcome these barriers?
  • To what extent do such practices facilitate improved learning outcomes?
  • How can such practices be encouraged and sustained within LEAs and schools? 13

The ideological standpoint of the research partners is clear: inclusion - however nebulous a concept - is something to strive for. However, the fact that terms such as 'responsible inclusion' (Vaughn & Schumm, 1995; Hornby, 2001) or 'cautious inclusion' (Kaufmann, 1995; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994) have gained wider currency is an indication that there may be limits to 'full inclusion'. Part of our remit is to explore these limits from the perspective of teachers and school managers, pupils with disabilities and their families, therapists and others involved in the care and education of children and young people with SEN.

Table 2.4 below provides an overview of what the literature suggests are the main differences between integration and inclusion. It also suggests how these have evolved from the earlier notion of segregation. Table 2.4 is not intended as a rigid categorisation. Rather, it is a potentially useful starting point for describing and analysing a complex and largely contingent reality

Table 2.4: A typology of segregation, integration and inclusion14




Focusing on services

Focusing on needs

Focusing on rights

Establishing a medical model of disability

Perpetuating a medical model of disability

Positing a social model of disability


Individual adaptation

Institutional adaptation

Providing special treatment

Providing equal treatment

Providing Support for All

Emphasising the importance of a special setting

Emphasising benefits to the disabled person

Emphasising benefits to all pupils

Categorising difference

Managing difference

Celebrating diversity

Atomizing the individual

Atomizing the system

Unifying the system

Stress on inputs

Stress on process

Stress on outcomes

Separate curriculum

Focus on curriculum delivery

Focus on curriculum content

Professional involvement

Professionals for inclusion

Professionals and parents in partnership
Parents for Inclusion

Providing educational opportunities for disabled pupils

Improving educational opportunities for disabled pupils

Focusing on school effectiveness and improvement

2.4 Discussion

Table 2.4 represents a veritable mine-field of competing priorities and juxtaposed values that are not mutually exclusive. For example, it is evident that one has needs as well as rights. It also appears that there is no rigid dichotomy between a medical and a social model of disability, as has been suggested by some commentators, including disabled academics and organisations that represent disabled people (Barnes et al, 1999; Barnes, 2002; Barnes et al, 2002). Dewsbury et al (2004) argue that to posit a clear distinction between these two models gives rise to an 'anti-social model of disability'. Dewsbury et al are in the business of designing assistive technologies, and are primarily interested in the 'ordinary, practical and procedural concerns' of disabled people - in their particular case individuals with psychiatric problems. The authors question the validity of some of the assumptions that underlie the social model and suggest that

…the Social Model of disability can be profoundly 'anti-social' in that … it can either ironicize ordinary experience, treating it as somehow partial and flawed in its ignorance of what is really going on … or can privilege versions of 'experience', which equally attend to socio-political matters, but which leave the ordinary practical business of getting on with one's life unattended to. (p.145)

And as Brennan (2003) points out, 'even one of the strongest proponents of the social model … incorporates a personal biography into one of his most influential accounts' (see, for example, Oliver, 1996).

The tension between inclusion versus specialist provision is one that spans the domains of both policy and research, and has spawned many an ideological divide (Hegarty, 1993; Percy-Smith, 2000; Booth & Ainscow, 2000). As Norwich has pointed out, a degree of 'ideological impurity' is inevitable in a system that is attempting to balance competing values of equality, individuality, social inclusion and - last but not least - feasibility (Norwich 1996; 2000). Neither is systemic adaptation the preserve of inclusion, as some degree of institutional adaptation is also required for, say, the introduction of unit-based provision for small groups of children.

It is clear from above that the notions of integration and inclusion are far from self-evident facts of life. Indeed it might be argued that what is interesting is the current fascination with inclusion, rather than the notion itself. Furthermore, there appears to be an overwhelming preoccupation with the perceived gap between what is and what ought to be in respect of inclusion.

As we shall see in the succeeding chapters of this report, conceptions of inclusion vary considerably across authorities. The qualitative data gathered to date from the twelve case-study sites (see Table 1 above) also indicate variations at school level. The task facing the research team is a formidable one. It is far more complex than assembling even the most challenging of jigsaw puzzles. As Bauman (2003) has pointed out, solving a jigsaw is essentially a goal-oriented activity - you know what you are aiming at, even if it does take you a while to assemble the full picture of distant snow-capped mountains. Working towards inclusion, on the other hand, is a contingent, means-oriented activity. You start from what you have, and try to figure out how you can order and reorder the components to get a pleasing picture. In sum, the first case (solving a jigsaw puzzle) is guided by the logic of instrumental rationality (selecting the right means to a pre-determined end); the second (working towards inclusion) follows the logic of goal rationality (achieving the best possible ends with the available means). This would suggest that examples of good practice are of limited hermeneutic and predictive value if they are presented as blueprints for success. It is not so much the end-product that is of interest, but the process through which it evolved, and the lessons learned along the way. The latter are the focus of much this report. For as Mittler ( nd) has pointed out, 'inclusion ... is a road to travel rather than a destination'.

Vignette 3: contingency and critical mass

It is a truism that success breeds success. Sometimes, however, the trigger for later success was entirely contingent. Pauline, the principal teacher of Support for Learning in Orange Pekoe HS explained that 'there have been a number of placing requests, partly on the back of the school's academic reputation, and partly because until the late 1990s it was the only school in the area that had lifts.' The headteacher had championed support for learning, which was now the largest department in the school. This example clearly illustrates how the full commitment of the senior management team is a pre-requisite for successful inclusion.

Frank, the headteacher of Oolong PS explained that the school had developed a strong reputation in the local community and further afield for providing care and education for a cohort of children with severe motor difficulties. This expertise had been built up in response to the fact that additional facilities had been 'parachuted in to the school' some years earlier. Since then, the senior management had invested considerable effort in developing their vision of inclusion. This was central to the mission of the school, and the senior management team were united in their efforts to ensure that the curriculum was sufficiently flexible to ensure that 'all teaching and learning takes place in the [mainstream] classroom.'

Lapsang HS also enjoyed a strong reputation for providing for children with a wide range of additional support needs. The presence of a large cohort of such children in the school, coupled with a long tradition of providing focused provision for children with sensory impairments, meant that the school had developed a range of mechanisms to ensure greater curriculum flexibility. This was perceived to benefit all pupils: those in the 'mainstream' who were experiencing difficulties during certain times of their school career; and children with a variety of support needs who could access an alternative curriculum - a mixed economy of learning-support led basic skills with some subject specialist input. The courses were structured and time-tabled to enable children to move from one form of provision to another within the school.

2.5 Issues for further consideration

Every research project raises as many questions as it answers. The evaluation reported here is no exception.

  • The inter-authority placement patterns described above underline the need for a coherent and transparent approach to workforce planning and the development of resourced provision in an era characterised by a changing profile of needs. This is a tall order. Nevertheless, changes in service management in one authority are likely to have a knock-on effect on other authorities in the web of interdependence. This area may merit further consideration.
  • In the light of the above, the Scottish Executive may need to fulfil a strategic planning role in order to ensure efficient and effective provision for all children and young people with SEN.