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Daniel Lang 100098632 EDUC4100

'Special schools/settings are a thing of the past, they are anachronistic and
not what education should be about for students with disabilities. All
regular schools and teachers are in a position to provide students with
disabilities with the education they need and deserve.'

Introduction:

This essay will address the topic of special schools and whether they are relevant
and necessary in today’s educational climate. Answering the question regarding
children with disabilities and whether they should be educated at special
education schools, or at inclusive schools that include all children will be the
focus of this discussion. Firstly a definition of a learning disability will be
provided to provide the basis for this discussion. This essay will discuss in detail
regular schools, defined as mainstream, or the inclusion model of education, to
determine if they provide students with physical and mental disabilities the
education they need and deserve. This essay will also present teacher views, and
identify concerns teachers face in a special school setting, and also in a
mainstream school inclusive of students with disabilities. In addition, the
academic and social aspects and comparative results of students educated in an
inclusive model school and those in a special school will be presented. This essay
will also highlight the advantages and disadvantages of special schools in
providing appropriate and beneficial education. In addition, after reviewing
relevant literature and scholarly articles recommendations will be made as to
which is seen to be the best environment for students to succeed.

Learning Difficulties:

Gross (2002, p.2) defines children as having a learning difficulty if they have a
considerably increased difficulty in learning than the majority of children the
same age. According to Dfes (cited in Gross 2002, p.2), disabled children are
defined as those having a physical or mental impairment that has a significant
and long-term effect on their ability to complete daily activities. Furthermore,
students with disabilities make up a small but diverse group whose disabilities

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range from those that have little or no influence on learning, through to


conditions that have severe impairments (Westwood 2003, p.36).

Goss (2002, p.4) also states whether a disability causes a difficulty or not is
completely dependent on whether the situation, or environment, is enabling or
disabling. The education of students with physical disabilities must focus on
enabling these students with the opportunity to access the same experiences as
those without handicaps (Westwood 2003, p.37). It is crucial teachers are aware
a physical impairment does not automatically cause a student to have an
intellectual disability or difficulties in learning (Westwood 2003, p.36).
Assumptions should never be made about a child’s ability to learn on the back of
a physical disability, as even severe physical impairments might have no impact
on intellectual ability (Westwood 2003, p.36). Hallahan, Kauffman and Pullen
(2012, p. 5) state a majority of people with disabilities have abilities that go
unrecognised due to their disabilities being the focus of concern, which distracts
attention from what the individuals can do (2012, p. 5).

According to Shah, Travers and Arnold (2004, p.122) there has been debate
regarding the positives and negatives of special and mainstream education for
young people with a disability. Barnes (cited in Shah, Travers & Arnold 2004, p.
122) explains disabled children often need additional facilities and support to
function successfully. Inclusive schools have a responsibility to eliminate aspects
that hinder students with disabilities, for example they should provide ramps for
children who use a wheelchair (Gross 2002, p.4). Westwood (2003, p.37) states
it is imperative mainstream teachers consider the classroom space and if
necessary make alterations to the environment, as well as the teaching methods
and resources used.

Inclusive Schooling:

According to Moss (2003, p.66), inclusive schooling attempts to provide for all
students, including those with disabilities, in mainstream schools. Inclusion

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provides for all students within the educational program of regular schools, with
a focus on how schools can provide enough flexibility to meet the requirements
of students with disabilities (Moss 2003, p.66). Inclusive schools develop a
culture of understanding and acceptance of the range of differences in people
(North 2008, p.70). Furthermore, in inclusive schools, children without
disabilities will acquire knowledge regarding communication and disabilities,
and will also be advantaged by any additional resources that have been offered
to assist children with additional needs (North 2008, p.70).

Westwood (2003, p.37) writes, in the case of students with milder forms of
disability, there is no reason why they should not attend regular schools and
have access to mainstream curriculum. Incorporating students with disabilities
into regular schools is the favoured educational approach in most Australian
states (Moss 2003, p.66). This approach ensures students with disabilities are
educated alongside their age peers, while being provided with the curriculum
and support to ensure their needs are met (Moss 2003, p.66).

According to Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.54), the inclusion model has
proven the most beneficial to special education students in terms of academic
achievement and social interaction. This model focuses on educating students
with disabilities in the mainstream education setting together with non-disabled
students (Lamport, Graves & Ward 2012, p.54). This includes special needs
children that have emotional and behavioural problems, learning disorders and
mental retardation (Lamport, Graves & Ward 2012, p.54).

Mowat (cited in Lamport, Graves & Ward 2012, p.55) explains education can be a
formidable tool to unite students with and without disabilities. Chakravarty
(2017, p.1) states schools are crucial places where children develop friendships,
and learn social and academic skills. Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.56)
explain students with special needs learn desired behaviours, and academically
from their peers through social interaction and in turn pass on their knowledge
to one another.

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Inclusive schools provide children with disabilities the chance to experience


what other students do, and enable them to grow accustomed to the ups and
downs of the real world (Chakravarty 2017, p.1). According to Chakravarty
(2017, p.8), studies show inclusive environments are beneficial in terms of social
outcomes and social development of students with a disability. Dessemontet,
Bless and Morin (cited in Chakravarty 2017, p.10) state inclusive schools result
in positive academic outcomes for students, and furthermore, participation and
engagement within the classroom was improved.

However, for inclusion to be effective, school personal are most responsible for
its success, as they need to be responsive to the demands of inclusion
(Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden 2000, p.192). Despite the push for inclusive
education as a human rights agenda, many educators have concerns about the
placement of students with disabilities in mainstream schools (Avramidis,
Bayliss & Burden 2000, p.193). Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.54) raise
concerns that inclusion can be challenging for special needs students, but
highlight this can be offset with teacher training and resources to ensure both a
practical and effective learning environment.

Teacher Views:

It is essential to consider the views of teachers when weighing up educating


students with learning impairments. A teacher’s job in having to differentiate
learning to target each student individually may be exaggerated within the
inclusive model (Lamport, Graves & Ward 2012, p.54). Avramidis, Bayliss and
Burden (2000, p.194) explain these concerns mainly stem from teachers feeling
underprepared to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Graves and Ward
(2012, p.54) state some of the concerns teachers face include a lack of training,
planning time and resources. Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.55) explain
inclusion of all children within the classroom has resulted in challenges for
teachers due to the classroom consisting of children from a variety of
backgrounds with widely varying levels and requirements.

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A teacher’s attitude and willingness to include students with disabilities in their


classes is seen to be vital to the success of an inclusive school (Soodak, Rodel &
Lehman 1998, p.480). Soodak, Rodel and Lehman (1998, p.480) states a
teacher’s attitude and beliefs regarding inclusive education, and their support of
inclusion, will influence the level of effort they exert. According to Soodak, Rodel
and Lehman (1998, p.481), teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion can be
contradictory, with some teachers being resistant to integration, whilst others
show support.

Soodak, Rodel and Lehman (1998, p.481) explain a teacher’s willingness to have
an inclusive teaching environment is linked to the nature and severity of the
student’s disability. Teachers are most willing to include students who have
learning disabilities and are least willing to include students with severe
disabilities or mental retardation (Soodak, Rodel & Lehman 1998, p.481).
According to the Northern Sydney District Council (2015, p.3), many mainstream
teachers don’t differentiate their teaching to ensure all students are growing
academically. Many teachers in mainstream schools have low expectations of
students with a learning disability and they must become better informed in how
to cater for students with special education needs (Northern Sydney District
Council 2015, p.4).

When interviewing educators regarding teaching students with disabilities, Idol


(2006, p.5) found nearly all of the teachers thought the best choice was to
include students with disabilities with general education students. However, for
this approach to succeed, it was identified teachers require adults to be available
to work alongside any students requiring assistance (Idol 2006, p.5). According
to North (2008, p.71), teachers regularly report on the benefits of the inclusion
of children with a disability in mainstream schools saying it provides them with
the opportunity to improve their teaching skills, and gain knowledge from
special educators.

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Results of inclusive education for students:

According to Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.57), the result of inclusion on
academic achievement and social interaction for students with disabilities
continues to generate positive outcomes. In a study comparing academic
progress of students with intellectual disabilities in an inclusion setting rather
than special school setting, Dessemontet, Bless and Morin (cited in Lamport,
Graves & Ward 2012, p.58) also found encouraging results. Findings suggested
that children made greater progress in literacy skills than children in special
schools (Lamport, Graves & Ward 2012, p.58).

North (2008, p.69) explains the many advantages of inclusive settings for both
the children with a disability and their family. These positives include the child
being able to have similar experiences to other children, development of
relationships, skill development, as well as being taught in a language rich
environment (North 2008, p.69). According to North, (2008, p.70), inclusive
environments are generally favoured by parents for a number of reasons and
these include reaching the child’s potential, socialisation and learning to live and
function in the real world. Furthermore, North (2008, p.70) notes that parents
also value other children for their behaviour, speech and social skills and how
these serve as examples to their children.

Using autism as an example, Chakravarty (2017, p.8) explains children with this
condition have less positive social results as a student in mainstream education.
Furthermore, research has suggested that students with autism are at risk of
increased rejection and isolation when placed in the general education setting
(Koster et al., cited in Chakravarty 2017, p.9). Bossaert et al. (cited in
Chakravarty 2017, p.8) explain that students with autism had fewer friendships,
were not as accepted as peers and had more feelings of loneliness in relation to
students with other disabilities.

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Special school education:

According to Head and Pirrie (2007, p.7), many children have been distressed by
persistent failures of mainstream schools who are underprepared to deal with
their needs. Shah, Travers and Arnold (2004, p.124) explain despite the world-
wide trend towards inclusion, special schooling still has a significant role, and for
some students, it is still the best choice. Weicher (2011, p.2) explains that while
the inclusion model may benefit some students, it might not necessarily work for
all, highlighting that some students may need a restrictive environment to
effectively learn. According to Weicher (2011, p.2), special education has a
unique and important place in the education field, and furthermore, each student
with a disability requires differing education consisting of varying techniques
and practices.

According to Shah, Travers and Arnold (2004, p.124), students who need more
time, assistance and specific equipment to achieve academic goals are best suited
to special education. Watson et al. (cited in Shah, Travers & Arnold 2004, p.124)
explain that special schools provide disabled children with supportive
environments, both physically and socially, in which they are able to discover
and acquire a sense of self. This development of self comes without constantly
comparing themselves, particularly regarding their achievements, to more
physically competent students (Shah, Travers & Arnold 2004, p.124).

Lamport, Graves and Ward (2012, p.54) state one of the main goals of special
education is to provide students with disabilities the chance to participate in the
least preventive environment in order to receive as much education as possible
with non-disabled students. Shah, Travers and Arnold (2004, p.124) explain
many teachers believe disabled students are better able to establish social
relationships easier within a special education setting. This is due to the students
sharing common goals and interests, values and the way of seeing the world
(Shah, Travers & Arnold 2004, p.124).

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It must also be considered that special education has often been linked to
stereotypical judgements about a students’ apparent lack of abilities (Gross
2002, p.2). Furthermore, being in a protective, isolated environment may shelter
students with disabilities from the realities of society (Shah, Travers & Arnold
2004, p.124). Head and Pirrie (2007, p.7) explain that the role of special schools
is changing, partly due to special schools being required to cater for a
progressively diverse and complex variety of needs. In addition, special schools
create and accentuate barriers between disabled children and their non-disabled
peers (Barnes, cited in Shah, Travers & Arnold 2004, p.124).

Shah, Travers and Arnold (2004, p.124) state another criticism of special schools
is there may be an imbalanced curriculum that focuses too heavily on specific
educational needs, which in turn prevents students from learning the extensive
range of subjects available in mainstream schools. Many students in special
education schools have a lack of academic confidence and self-esteem due to
factors from their home life and prior school settings (Weicher 2011, p.3).

Billingsley (2004, p.39) explains one of the most challenging aspects of special
education is creating a work environment that sustains special educators
involvement. Special education educators have numerous responsibilities and
concerns when working with students with disabilities (Billingsley 2004, p.46).
According to Billingsley (2004, p.46), these concerns range from making
accommodations for instruction and testing, individual education plans and
insufficient support.

Recommendations:

After researching and reviewing numerous scholarly articles, it is my


recommendation students with disabilities should have access to mainstream
schools. Research shows inclusive environments are beneficial to both the
individual with special needs and also their family. Inclusive educational
environments enable students with disabilities the opportunity to socialise, form

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friendships, improve their communication and better equip them to deal with
society as a whole. The success of an inclusive learning setting is heavily linked
to both the school environment and teacher’s views and therefore in my view it
is essential a teacher not label the student and focus on their limitations. Rather
a teacher must foster a positive attitude and open mind and in this way an
inclusive environment is one that will benefit the student.

However, despite the positives of inclusive schools, I believe special schools have
a place in the education system. This has been made evident to me through
conversing with those in the special education sector, as well as research
findings which highlighted in some instances, special schools are better
equipped to deal with the student and their needs. And it must be noted, my
recommendation is all teachers should be educated to provide environments
that are enabling so that students with disabilities have everything they need in
order to succeed.

Conclusion:

This essay has addressed special schools and whether they are still relevant and
necessary in today’s educational climate. The essay discussed the inclusion
model and the success of this model on student with disabilities. It also discussed
in depth the advantages and disadvantages of special schools, and how this may
differ depending on the child. It discussed teacher views by looking at some of
the concerns that teachers face when in a special school setting. It also addressed
concerns of teaching in mainstream schools that includes students with
disabilities. The essay also discussed the results of students in an inclusive model
school, and those in a special school. Based on the reviewing of relevant
literature and scholarly articles, this essay outlined which is the best learning
environment for students to succeed, and what needs to be put into place for this
to occur. After reviewing scholarly articles, as well as discussions with educators
in both regular and special schools, the essay also discussed recommendations as
to which setting is most beneficial to students with disabilities. This essay has

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shown teacher’s attitude is the key to the success of educating students with
disabilities. It is essential for teachers to develop the ability to manage these
differing abilities and needs within their classrooms to ensure children with
disabilities are educated appropriately and beneficially.

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Billingsly, B 2004, ‘Special education teacher retention and attrition,’ Journal of


Special Education, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 39-55.

Chokrovaty, C 2017, ‘Attitudes about inclusive schooling among parents of


children with autism,’ Thesis, California State University, pp. 1-123.

Goss, J 2002, ‘Current perspectives on special educational needs’, in J. Goss, (ed),


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Hallahan, D, Kauffman, J & Pullen, P 2012, Exceptional learners: and introduction


to special education, 12th edn., Pearson, Boston, pp.

Head, G & Pirrie, A 2007, ‘The place of special schools in policy climate of
inclusion’, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 90-
96.

Idol, L 2006, ‘Toward inclusion of special education students in general


education,’ Remedial and Special Education, vol. 27, no, 2, pp. 77-94.

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Shah, S, Travers, C & Arnold, J 2004, ‘Disabled and successful: education in the
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Soodak, L, Rodell, DM & Lehman, LR 1998, 'Teacher, student and school


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Weicker, B 2011, ‘Students in need: benefits and challenges of a special


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Westwood, P 2003, ‘Students with physical disabilities and sensory


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