Warnock Report (1978)

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The report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, chaired by Mary Warnock, and viewed as revolutionary at the time of its publication. The Report was to change radically the educational picture for children with disabilities as most of the recommendations became enshrined in law in the Education Act 1981. The Report introduced the term special educational need to identify any child needing extra or different support, and argued that 20 per cent of children have special needs at least for some part of their educational career. It further introduced new terms to identify groups of children with the intention of moving away from the previous medical labelling of children: these were ‘speech and language disorders', ‘visual disability and hearing disability’, ‘emotional and behavioural disorders’, and ‘learning difficulties: specific, mild, moderate and severe’. The Report recommended that segregated ‘special’ schools should be for those with the most complex and multiple disabilities which were long‐term, and that mainstream schools should develop to meet the needs of all other children. It put forward three models for the integration of children with disabilities—locational, social, and functional integration. This recommendation for mainstreaming children had criteria attached: parents should be in agreement with the placement; the child's educational needs were capable of being met in a mainstream school; the local education authority was using its resources efficiently; and the education of other children was not affected. To help facilitate the integration of children the Report recommended an expansion in special needs advisory and support services. With the aim of protecting the educational needs of the most severely disabled and ensuring they received appropriate resources to make progress, the Report recommended statements of special needs. These statements were to be issued by local authorities to individual children only after a five‐stage assessment process had been followed. Once issued the local authority had a statutory duty to make the provision listed on the statement.

T. B.

Trisha Bowen,


Liz Ellis

Subjects: Education.

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