ESRI questions mainstream schooling

Limited evidence of inclusive education system


Children with special educational needs (SEN) who are in mainstream schools are almost twice as likely to dislike school than their peers without special needs, according to a bulletin from the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The bulletin, published yesterday, raises fundamental questions about the wisdom of educating children with intellectual and emotional difficulties in mainstream schools.

Drawing on figures from the Growing Up in Ireland data, the ESRI finds that while 7 per cent of nine-year-old children with no special education needs “never like school”, this figure increases to 12 per cent among children with special needs in mainstream schools.

The paper concludes “there is limited evidence of an inclusive education system” for these children.

Mainstream setting
The study was undertaken in light of changes over the past 10 years in how children with special needs are educated. The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act in 2004 made a commitment to inclusive education and to move children with SENs into mainstream settings, with special needs assistants where necessary.

“Concerns have been raised, however, about the practical implications of mainstreaming for student wellbeing, educational engagement and successful learning,” note the authors of the bulletin.

While overall 12 per cent of nine-year-olds with SEN say they “never like school”, the proportion is higher among children with learning difficulties (13 per cent), those with emotional and behavioural difficulties (14 per cent) and those with multiple difficulties (13 per cent). Children with physical or sensory disabilities or those with speech impairments on the other hand are no more likely to dislike school than children without special educational needs.