Special Educational Needs (SEN) is a hot topic. The arguments centre on inclusion vs exclusion and the consequences of government policies. The incoming Labour government of 1997 originally introduced a policy of inclusion, in mainstream schools, on the basis that it would be beneficial to children with Special Educational Needs.
Inclusion has its origins in a positive urge for change but has potentially negative consequences. Baroness Warnock’s 1978 report was seen as ground breaking in its intent to bring children with special needs into mainstream society as, at the time, they faced exclusion on many fronts, not least in education.
However, one consequence of implementing a policy of inclusion has been the closure of Special Educational Needs schools and the loss of over 9,000 SEN school places over time. This leaves mainstream schools with the issue of having to ensure they can meet the needs of SEN pupils absorbed into their intake.
Paul Green, Director of St Helens-based Versatile Lift Company, explains, “One key issue arising is over access for disabled pupils. Studies have thrown up case studies where inclusion had resulted in there actually being barriers put up, preventing SEN pupils from accessing mainstream school activities. Many of these examples highlight the issue of lack of proper wheelchair access, leading to disabled children being excluded from classes“.
“The original 2001 Special Education Needs and Disability Act has a presumption in favour of mainstream schools”. continues Paul. “This may limit choices for parents with SEN children. What we can offer is the provision of the sort of equipment that will enable pupils with special needs to have the right level of physical access in mainstream schools”.
Putting in a lift is not a facile solution to a complex problem. With the variety and adaptability of modern lifts, overcoming obstacles to physical access becomes less of an issue.
“Modern lifts are not simply metal shafts”, Paul explains. “Different models provide access solutions for particular locations. Platform lifts, for example, are a cost effective means of ensuring that wheelchair-bound pupils can get to all floors of their schools”.
The issues of inclusion and exclusion are difficult for schools to grapple with. But sometimes the very practical element of physical provision can provide at least some of the answers.
To discuss the disability provisioning for your school, please call Versatile Lift Company on 01942 719565 or visit their website.