04 SES 11 C, The Irresistible Rise of the Special Educational Needs Industry
This presentation offers some explanations for the expansion of special educational services. Discussions with 70 professionals, administrators and others in a study in four countries, suggest that underpinning mass education systems in developed and developing countries is an expanded and expensive ‘SEN industry’. Governments have acquiesced in the development of this industry, conceding its importance in dealing with groups who may be increasingly surplus to labour requirements in ‘knowledge economies’ and also in need of social control measures. It is unlikely that special education will disappear despite commitments to inclusive education. A majority of those regarded as having learning and/or behaviour problems were always largely from the lower social classes; historically middle-class parents usually denied they had ‘defective’ children, and avoided stigmatised categorisation or schooling. More recently middle class parents increasingly claim classification, funding and resourcing for children who are unlikely to achieve in competitive market-driven school systems. A range of explanations for the rise in pupils with SEN are considered, including pressure from parents for resources based on a medical diagnosis, the needs of teachers coerced to ‘raise standards’ to be free of troublesome pupils as well as the needs of an expanding number of SEN professionals.
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