Critically evaluate legislation in relation to Special Educational Needs and the impact of legislation on practice.
Children with any form of disability or additional needs have, historically received unequal treatment in education. Towards the end of the 19th century, the introduction of compulsory laws began to change the educational opportunities for these children. This essay aims to look at such legislation and how it impacts on today’s practice. What does the term “special educational needs” (SEN) mean? The 1996 Education Act states that children have a special educational need if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision being made for them. Children are considered to have a learning difficulty if, compared with children of the same age, they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning and/or a disability which prevents them from making use of the educational facilities available (Drury, Miller & Campbell 2000 and DfES 2001). The 1870 Education Act was the first piece of legislation to deal specifically with the provision of education in Britain, but it was not until 1893 that education was also extended to blind and deaf children under the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, and similar provision was made for physically-impaired children in the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act of 1899 (Living Heritage). Although these acts recognized children with additional needs, the list of needs was limited and the children were segregated in special schools, rather than being included in mainstream education. These schools were scarce and residential which meant that children were sent away from their family for extended periods. It is also worth noting that prior to the Education of Handicapped Children Act in 1970, children with severe learning difficulties were often deemed ‘uneducable’ and became the responsibility of local health authorities (Taylor & Woods 2005). The 1944 Education Act marked an important turning point in the development of special needs and education. It recognized education, for those with special needs, as a major priority and introduced eleven categories of ‘handicap’. However, it’s definitions of children with special needs was limited and the act still focused on a medical model of dis¬ability. Special schools were still seen as the most appropriate way to educate children with special needs, with the general attitude being, the child should fit the school rather than the school fit the child (Silas). In 1974 the Warnock Committee was established which aimed to review the provision for children with mental and physical disabilities. It highlighted that these disabilities were not the only ones that constituted a special educational need, others that needed consideration included specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and autism, and emotional or behavioural disorders (Pugh, 2001 & Thomas & O’Hanlan, 2007). The report made 225 recommendations, one of which was to abolish the use of categories, which it saw as damaging and irrelevant. The Commit¬tee’s research suggested that only 2% of the school population required separate educational provision, but another 18% of children would require special provision in normal schools. This research led to the publication of the Warnock Report in 1978, which in turn formed the basis of the 1981 Education Act, surpassed by the Education Act 1993 (Drury, Miller & Campbell 2000 and Macleod- Brudenell & Kay 2008). The main provisions of the Education Act 1981 were: the replacement of the category of handicapped pupil by special educational needs; the introduction of a statement for each such pupil; and an emphasis on integrated provision. It also stated that the education of children with SEN should be carried out in ordinary schools where possible. It empha¬sized an approach that favours inclusion and integration, rather than separation and isolation. This...
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