Parental Concerns vindicated by Official Statistics
For many years, parents have been expressing concerns over moves to include more children with Special Educational Needs in mainstream schools. While the Inclusion Movement and the Audit Commission have claimed that this is raising the educational standards of these pupils, there has never been any evidence to support this. In contrast the experience of parents, whose children have experienced both types of provision, is that they achieve very much better in Special Schools.
The latest set of league tables containing the new value added measures finally give an opportunity to compare progress of pupils of differing abilities in schools of different types. Some results were quite predictable.
In the KS2 - KS3 tables, selective schools performed very well. It was not a surprise that talented pupils in a highly academic environment made above average progress. What was a surprise was that the highest performing school on this measure was Belmont School in Cheltenham, a Special School catering primarily for children with moderate and complex learning difficulties and under threat of closure. Further study of the figures showed that as a group Special Schools had performed above the County average for the mainstream sector, whilst the schools involved in the inclusion pilot as a group were below the average.
The KS3 - GCSE tables at first glance give a slightly different picture. In this case it must be remembered that the attainment is based upon GCSE grades and that high achievers at KS3 are expected to obtain high GCSE grades and hence it is more difficult for the selective schools to obtain 100+ scores. This has a significant effect and may be largely responsible for the disappointingly low average for the county as these are more of a reflection on the improvement made by pupils of lower abilities.
Once again the mainstream sector was out shone by the county’s Special Schools, most notably by the two schools currently under threat. Belmont School again recorded a score indicating that the very good progress in earlier years continued throughout the pupil’s time at the school. In these tables it was Alderman Knight School that recorded the county’s top score by some distance, with a score putting it amongst the top 20 in the UK. This was not a surprise to anyone involved with the school, being a clear reflection of they efforts made by staff to ensure every pupil leaving the school does so with some qualifications.
Tewkesbury School Head Teacher Aydin Onac freely admits, that pupils at Alderman Knight are achieving better results than they would if transferred and also that the results are better than those being achieved by some pupils with less severe problems at his school. The truth of this can be seen from taking a look at the results for Archway School, the county’s flagship comprehensive for inclusion. Whilst over three quarters of the pupils at Alderman Knight passed one or more GCSEs, at Archway, where only 1 pupil out of 193 in the final year had a Statement of Special Educational Needs, 5% left with no GCSE or GNVQ passes.
Convinced that this was unlikely to be a Gloucestershire problem, but more likely the result of a national policy based upon somewhat dubious Social Engineering rather than Educational Attainment, we looked at results from other LEAs. As a start we picked areas in which we were in touch with other groups of parents fighting the closure of quality Special Schools as the result of inclusion initiatives. Conveniently, these were a good national spread covering the North East, North West, Midlands and South East. There was one shire county and three urban authorities and unlike Gloucestershire, which is one of the highest performing on exam results, these covered a good spread from medium to low achievement. Despite the differences, the pattern was the same in each, in both phases the Special Schools were outperforming the Mainstream Schools in adding value.
In case this was simply a transitional problem, we also took a look at authorities who publicly support the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the extremist group that claims “segregated schooling violates children's rights “. We could not get a full set of comparison figures for Newham, the flagship inclusion authority, as the Borough has only one surviving Special School and there was insufficient data for a value added score to be computed for it for KS3 - GCSE. It did, however, perform above the mainstream average at KS2 - KS3. In the other two authorities, the value added scores for the special schools were much higher than those of the mainstream schools. In the case of Leeds City Council the difference is huge.
Picking LEAs almost at random, we found a similar pattern in the vast majority of cases. As a parental group we believe our children have a fundamental human right to a quality and appropriate education. The figures in the attached tables confirm our own experiences, that our children are being short changed by Inclusion. All they are being offered is the chance to experience ridicule and bullying and to learn that behaving badly can be to their benefit as people then pay attention to them. This is a poor exchange for an education.