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Issue 466, 8 May 2001

Schools’ special project will increase inclusion

Collaboration between the University and Education Leeds is paving the way for new and exciting changes in educational practice.

Researchers from the Centre for Disability Studies have been evaluating pilot schemes in the city looking to bring children with disabilities into mainstream schools. Two special schools, one mainstream secondary school and two mainstream primary schools are participating, using different models of inclusion. In the first, children from the special schools began to attend mainstream schools, gradually working up to full-time attendance. In the second, children who were at risk of needing special education were supported by the special schools to enable them to remain in mainstream schools. The evaluation by Dr Parvaneh Rabiee and Dr Mark Priestley will provide a framework by which the provision can be extended to all schools across the city.

Back to school – Dr Parvaneh Rabiee

Dr Rabiee spoke with those involved at all levels, from parents to education officials, in order to gain an all round perspective as to views on inclusion. "I spent some time observing the children in classes in both the mainstream and special schools, and it was heartening to see how easily the children adapted. It was clear that the primary age children – from both kinds of schools – adapted more quickly to being educated together," she said. "I also made a point of getting the reactions of as many children as possible. As central to the scheme, I felt very strongly that their views be taken into account."

"As far as the staff were concerned, while all were committed to the principle of inclusion, they differed on the outcomes. For some staff, the children from special schools should benefit academically from the schemes; for other, mainly mainstream staff, the social benefits for the children were more important."

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