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Following the letter of the law

Local authorities are complying with legislation on the inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools, but only in form, writes Chris Barnett

18 September 2015

The Education Act 1981 (1981 Act) fundamentally changed the system of support for children with special educational needs (SEN) in England and Wales. One of the main innovations was the concept that came to be known as ‘inclusion’ – in short, that the starting point in terms of school placement would be that children with SEN (like all other children) would be taught in ‘ordinary’ (now called ‘mainstream’) schools.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 further strengthened the inclusion principle, leaving only two grounds on which mainstream education could be refused: where a child’s parents did not want mainstream, or where a child’s presence would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children. The latter ground should rarely apply, as ‘incompatible’ is a high hurdle to overcome, and moreover local authorities have to take reasonable steps to avoid any incompatibility.&...

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