40 years on: new improved labels

Forty years ago this month the Warnock Report was published. Though now eponymous with Mary Warnock it was entitled “Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People” and was published four (FOUR) years after being set up by Margaret Thatcher. “Warnock” made its mark, not the least in its noting

“the particular expression of a widely held and still growing conviction that, so for as is humanly possible, handicapped people should share the opportunities for self- fulfilment enjoyed by other people”

As the good doctor in Star Trek might say “it’s inclusion Jim but not as we know it.”

Warnock noted the long-standing policy that

“no child should be sent to a special school who can be satisfactorily educated in an ordinary one”

Warnock decided against engaging in debates about the 2% in special schools to consider the 20% of the population that at any time should be considered as having “special educational needs” and be described as children with learning difficulties.

Warnock considered three types of integration  – locational, social and functional.  Functional integration built upon the other two is about joint participation in educational programmes. It was described as a form of association  “where children with special needs join, part-time or full-time, the regular classes of the school, and make a full contribution to the activity of the school.”

From above the Warnock Report was at the foothills of  inclusive education and was more about what was being left behind rather than clarity about rights of disabled children, universal design of provision or personalising learning and support to take account of difference.

Its strength today was its comprehensive history of previous developments where we came from rather than a vision for the future  of the journey towards successful inclusive education for all.   My next blog looks to pull together “A brief history of special education in Scotland” will be drawn from Warnock.

However just to mark the watershed approach of Warnock in terms of categrisation and us eof labels. The report made that disctivtion about 20% having special educational needs nad described as having leanirng difficutlies in place of the following system of categories in Scotlnad

In Scotland the categories of pupils requiring special educational treatment are defined in the Special Educational Treatment (Scotland) Regulations, 1954 as follows:

“(1) deaf pupils, that is to say pupils who, because of defective hearing, are without naturally acquired speech or language;

(2) partially deaf pupils, that is to say pupils whose sense of hearing is defective but who possess naturally acquired speech or language;

(3) blind pupils, that is to say pupils who have no sense of sight or whose sense of sight is, or is likely to become, so defective as to be of no practical value for reading or writing;

(4) partially sighted pupils, that is to say pupils whose sense of sight is, or is likely to become, defective but is, and is likely to remain, of practical value for reading or writing;

(5) mentally handicapped pupils, that is to say pupils who have little natural ability;

(6) epileptic pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from severe or frequent epileptic seizures or who, by reason of epilepsy, behave in such a way as to make it inexpedient that they should be associated with other children;

(7) pupils suffering from speech defect, that is to say pupils who suffer from defect or lack of speech not due to deafness or mental handicap;

(8) maladjusted pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from emotional instability or psychological disturbance;

(9) physically handicapped pupils, that is to say pupils who suffer from a physical disability which is, or is likely to be, permanent or protracted and which does not bring them within any of the foregoing categories.”

So much for the medical model!  Some authorities still use such categorisation for their provision. We still talk up children’s difficulties rather than seek the system change necessary to meet their needs. Warnock understood that implicitly it was about individual children. The report did not talk about the quality of provision other than realising that  high quality planning was necessary.  Ending one set of levels has only generated the use of the  use of the label of ASN in Scotland (another blog to follow)

Author: dknwatt

Up to recently, I was the Senior Education Officer for Inclusion and Equalities with Education Scotland, Scotland's education improvement agency. Throughout my career, I worked in schools, education authorities and nationally to promote inclusion and reduce barriers to learning for differing groups. Latterly, I was Scotland's Representative Board member with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. I worked as HM Inspector from 2002. As well as leading work in inspecting special schools and units, autism and tackling sectarianism I have presented on diversity, inclusion and equity across Scotland, Europe and in Pakistan. I enjoy coffee, football, learning and family holidays.

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