UK National Union of Teachers: “School Inclusion Can Be Abuse”


Children with special needs are far more likely to be excluded
Including children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms can be “a form of abuse”, a professor of education has said. John MacBeath of Cambridge University was commenting on a report he co-wrote for the National Union of Teachers.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott called for an audit of provision around England as a step towards addressing “major areas of policy failure”.
But ministers said children were taught successfully in a range of settings.
Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: “We put the needs of the child first.”
The Cambridge report, The Costs of Inclusion, said teachers and teaching assistants were often going “beyond the call of duty” to help children with special educational needs (SEN).

National Union of Teacher’s press release.

The complete report is evidently not online. However, Gregor Sutherland mentioned that the report is available for £7. His email: gs280 at

6 thoughts on “UK National Union of Teachers: “School Inclusion Can Be Abuse””

  1. Jim…
    I am curious as to why you chose to post this article from the UK. I am also curious as to why you chose to title this article in, what I consider to be, an extremely inflammatory manner.
    I look forward to your response.

  2. Hi Barbara:
    Thanks for posting.
    I view this site as a place for original words/media, links and commentary related to the education process. I’m certain there are items written and/or linked to that many may agree, disagree or simply not care about. In short, a place for dialogue.
    The title was taken, in quotes, from the BBC’s coverage of the report.
    Finally, as to this article, I found it interesting on several levels:
    a) The report was co-written for the UK National Union of Teachers (what motivated this?)
    b) MacBeth is an Ed School Prof
    c) The topic in general has generated discussion locally as well as around the world
    d) I’ve heard discussion from teachers on this matter
    e) The BBC picked it up in a prominent way
    Those interested in more background on this matter can check out Larry’s very nice video archives of recent MMSD BOE Performance and Achievement meetings on the Madison School District’s growing classroom grouping strategy:
    February 16, 2006
    March 8, 2006:

  3. There is a lot going on here. On a first pass it seems that the BBC story nearly conflates two distinct groups who have problems with the current (British) “inclusion” efforts. First there are those who believe in the segregation of some, (if not all) special needs students. Then there are those who support inclusion but bemoan the lack of funding and resources. The Cambridge Report (as described) seems to be in latter group. The NUT seems to straddle the two camps.
    It is important to keep in mind that despite the familiar ring to all of this, the underlying laws and school systems are very different; so different that I won’t even try to guess what is applicable in both countries.
    Here is a link to another NUT press release which gives some more context:

  4. Let’s face it: there are bigots out there who think that any child labelled “special ed” should be segregated from “normal” students. IMHO, it’s better to know they exist than it is to have them operating covertly. Nancy Mistele is a prime example, as is my neighbor who I’ll keep anonymous for now. But, it’s only in the past decade that these bigots have fallen into the minority. The MMSD has been a national leader in inclusionary efforts and, speaking from personal experience, they’ve been successful. That’s not to discount some nutcases who think otherwise; they’re entitled to their opinions. However, this is Madison, not England- thankfully. Now if we could only get real ale on tap in Madison 😉

  5. Because I work in this field and have a daughter who receives special education services, I’m familiar with all the issues in this article. As TJ points out, the British and the American laws and systems are vastly different. For instance, skilled nursing care and personal care are both services in the United States that would be written into a child’s plan and implemented NOT by teaching staff but by other designated special education staff in a school (ed. assistants and registered nurses).
    But as TJ says in his post, a huge underlying issue here is inadequate funding, coupled with inadequate training and staffing in schools. Similar to the debate on this blog regarding “out of control” leadership at a Madison elementary school, the real issue facing schools that inadequately implement inclusion lies with the staffing and training, not with the children. Removing children to separate facilities, which eliminates the “problem” of unmet needs in public schools and relegates them to separate facilitaties (which historically provide inferior curriculum, are less monitored and are away from public scrutiny) puts our society back 40 years to a segregated “out of sight, out of mind” system.
    To argue that the solution to poor funding, staffing and training is removing children with disabilities and other special needs from a quality education with their peers in facilities and with curriculum that are deemed adequate by state and federal standards, is missing the point and results in a “blame the victim” mentality, which is poor logic.
    I have read the full report, in which the author/researcher points to the many merits of inclusion, including educating non-disabled peers about people with disabilities and differences. Likewise, I completely agree with the author that inclusion doesn’t mean the mere presence of a person with a disability. True inclusion means meaningful participation and acceptance in the school community of students with disabilities and other differences. There are many Madison schools that have achieved true inclusion, and it would be extremely helpful if their staff and leaders could work with colleagues that have not yet achieved that goal in helping those schools develop programming and staffing set-ups that can contribute to the success of all students in each MMSD school.

  6. Excellent post, Beth. I really appreciate your repeated comments on this blog that we need to move away from the “blame the child” approach and, instead, focus our efforts on ensuring the adequacy of resources and training and excellence of building leadership in every MMSD school to contribute to the success of all students. Thanks for this important reminder.

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