Mainstream or Special Needs school?

I can only speak from my experience here in the UK.

My son started life in mainstream. Infant school for three years, then changed at 7 to a middle school where he stayed for one year. When he was 8 he moved to our local special needs school.

He always appeared to be petty happy at his mainstream schools and the other children adored him (a bit too much as they would crowd him at every opportunity). The problem was convincing the school (Head Teacher and staff) that he should be there and securing appropriate funding for him.

Why did we put him in mainstream? One of the main reasons was so he could see “normal” behaviour, hear normal speech, and so on. And we were influenced by DownsEd. I would recommend you take a look my entry on DownsEd. It a great resource for you if you are going down the mainstream route. They have got some fantastic materials.

In the end however, as the gap between him and his year group widened, he was spending more and more of the teaching time in isolation with his helper. It was becoming inclusion in name only.

Now in his special needs school he is one of the more able children and he is expected to do a lot more for himself. We have also magically found that he has started getting access to services (through the school) that he just didn’t get when in mainstream (or to a lesser extent) such as speech & language provision (Note to UK parents – make sure this is stipulated in the “statement”) and swimming lessons.

I am not going to advocate one route over another. All our kids are different and some will thrive in mainstream whilst other may do better going the special needs route. But if you go the mainstream route, especially in the UK, be prepared to fight a few battles – at the very least for proper funding!

1 comment to Mainstream or Special Needs school?

  • [...] Our son went through mainstream up until Year 4. But we are very fortunate to be in an area with excellent schools by pretty much any criteria you care to name. The other kids took to J with ease and genuinally seemed to love him. If I’m honest we actually felt more bullied by the Head and SENCO at his last school than I believe my son ever was – they made it pretty clear he was not welcome in the school. Oh all the right things where said but the the manner of their saying and the body language said the opposite. [...]