Learning the hard way: a strategy for special educational needs

Document type
Wilkins, Lucy
Policy Exchange
Date of publication
6 May 2008
Disabled people, Education and Skills
Social welfare
Material type

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This policy paper examines the educational provisions for children with special educational needs. The term 'special educational needs' (SEN) refers to a huge range of learning disabilities from physical and sensory impairments to 'invisible' difficulties such as autistic spectrum disorders or dyslexia. The UK is believed to have one of the highest incidences of SEN in the developed world. Nearly 20 per cent of all pupils have some form of learning difficulty, a rise of 10 per cent in the last four years. Furthermore, SEN is not equally distributed across society: it hits the most deprived hardest. Despite recent government efforts, education for children with special needs is still inferior to that received by those without SEN and there are high levels of dissatisfaction among parents and teachers. Parents of children with special educational needs are some of the most disenfranchised in the education system, with little control over how and where their child is taught. This paper argues that the inclusion debate is redundant and that it is not the role of politicians, pressure groups or bureaucrats to dictate where a child should be educated, but must be the decision of the parent. Three key policies are proposed to achieve this: by ending schools’ ability to select pupils; expanding the supply of good school places for SEN children; and by ensuring parents have easy access to information about local SEN provision.

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