04 SES 01 B, Barriers To Inclusion? School Placement, Space And Access
Though inclusion in education is more than the placement of pupils with special educational needs in ordinary schools (Booth and Ainscow, 2012), the placement of pupils with more severe impairments in ordinary schools is a critical criterion of inclusion. This paper reports on a unique national longitudinal study of school placement trends (i.e. the proportion of children sent to special schools or other separate settings) in English local authorities, which started 30 years ago. It extends the previous analyses of special school placements analysed at English local authority level since 1983 (see for example Swann, 1985; Norwich, 2001, Black & Norwich 2014).
Legislation which established that all children were to be educated in ordinary schools, unless various conditions were met, was introduced in 1983 following the Warnock Report (DES, 1978) and the 1981 Education legislation. After 1983 the then Centre for Studies on Integration in Education (CSIE, now the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education) initiated this study using national statistics.
Not only does this study show national changes since 1983, but also enables analysis of changes at local authority level and the variation in special placement of different authorities depending on their demographic and political contexts. Variations in provision across local authority have been a feature of UK (Dockrell, Peacey & Lunt, 2002; Pirrie, Head, & Brna, 2006).
Since the late 1980s there have been major changes in the organization and governance of schools in the UK (Education Reform Act, 1988) and in the statutory framework for responding to special educational needs (Children and Families Act, 2014). The former introduced a more market style of governance and less control by local authorities. Currently there is a renewed move towards greater school autonomy from local authorities (the Academy and Free schools). The analysis will be examined in the context of this changing pattern of school governance.
From the 1980s and for about 20 years the national picture was of a gradual and continuous decline in special school placements. However, the percentage of children and young people placed in special schools started to rise from the mid 2000s. This study examined the continuing trend from the early 2010s to see if this rise continues, flattens out or declines.
The aims of this paper are:
- to identify trends in special school placement nationally and at local authority level in England (150 Authorities) from 2014 to 2017;
- to identify changes in school placement trends over this period across individual and groups of similar local authorities;
- to explore patterns in national school placement trends over the past 15 years.
- To discuss the context and significance of these trends.
The data defines placement outside ordinary schools as placement in local authority maintained special schools, as well as independent special schools and off-site units, taking account of export/imports of pupils that are the responsibility of local authorities. The proportion of pupils in special schools or other settings is calculated for each local authority by taking the number of this local authority’s pupils aged 0-19 who have a statement of special educational need or an education and health care plan and are placed in this or another locally authority’s special schools or other separate settings, and dividing this by the total number of children aged 0-19 for whom the local authority has responsibility, then multiplying the result by 100 to express it as a percentage. Data for the years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 for school placements of pupils aged up to 19 years in each of the 150 Local Authorities were used. The findings for the current analysis will also be connected with the previous analyses for years before 2014.
Our research on school placement trends shows a rising national trend of special school placements over the last 10 years. It is unclear yet whether this is continuing to rise or plateau in the last two years. The research also shows that there continues to be significant variation in the proportion of children each local authority regularly places in special schools. Embracing new technologies available, research findings will be made freely available online on a “shinyapp” platform including an interactive map. The policy and practice context of this trend and its significance for inclusive schooling will also be discussed.
Black, A. and Norwich, B. (2014) Contrasting Responses to Diversity: school placement trends 2007-2013 for all local authorities in England. Bristol: CSIE DES 1978. Warnock Committee Report. London: HMSO. Dockrell, J., Peacey, N., & Lunt, I. (2002). Literature review: meeting the needs of children with special educational needs. London: Audit Commission. Norwich, B. (2001) LEA inclusion trend in England 1997-2001: statistics on special school placement and pupils with Statements in special schools. Bristol: CSIE. Pirrie, A., Head, G., & Brna, P. (2006). Mainstreaming pupils with special educational needs. Insight, 27, 1-8. Swann, W. (1985) Is integration of children with special educational needs happening? An analysis of recent statistics of pupils in special schools. Oxford Review of Education, 11(1) 3-18
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