Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

1 From ‘ineducable’ to ‘included’

You have followed the story of Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Lee in previous sessions. Watch the video below (which you first watched in Session 2), where Phil Lee talks about his sister’s education.

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Transcript: Video 2

So Bernadette got to school age, and there was nothing. And I-- I remember my father fighting long and hard to get something for her to the extent-- and constantly getting rebuffed to the extent that when it came round to rates time, he went up to the town hall. And he put the money on the desk and said, there's my rates. And I've deducted the education bit because you won't educate my daughter. Eventually, Bernadette got into a training centre. And that was-- that was what was accepted then, and Bernadette loved that, and it was-- but it wasn't really preparing her for later life. It was, you know, keeping her occupied.
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
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Phil’s highly charged interview reflects the historical injustice that people with learning disabilities have faced in terms of getting an education. In the UK, for much of the 20th century, children assessed as having an IQ under 50 were deemed to be ‘ineducable’. Their families received a certificate confirming this, which meant that they could legally be denied an education.

Click through the slides in Slideshow 1 to see how this gradually changed in the UK from 1970 following the passing of the Education (Handicapped Children) Act.

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Slideshow 1
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Activity 2 Where children are schooled

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What proportion of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) do you think are educated in state-funded mainstream primary and secondary schools in England?


a) 75-100%


b) 50-75%


c) 25-50%

The correct answer is c.


The data for England collected in 2017 showed that 48% of students with SEND were being educated in state-funded mainstream schools. 44% were educated in maintained special schools. The other 8% were being educated in a mix of independent schools, non-maintained special schools or Pupil Referral Units. Interestingly, this is quite a different picture to Scotland, which has a stronger policy commitment to inclusion. In Scotland, over 90% of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) are educated in mainstream schools (Scottish Government, 2018), although a proportion of these are schooled in special units on the main site. However, due to differences in how ‘SEND’ and ‘ASN’ are defined, it can be difficult to compare figures.

(Source: Department for Education, 2017)

You may have been surprised to learn that despite the national and international policy commitments to inclusive education, less than half of children with SEND actually attend a mainstream school.


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