Martians in the playground: researching special educational needs

Anne Pirrie, George Head

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This article offers a critique of what has become known as ‘inclusive education’ under the New Labour administration. The initial impetus for the article was a research project designed to ascertain the impact of the ‘presumption of mainstreaming’ contained in Section 15 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000. This stipulates that the needs of disabled children and others with ‘additional support needs’ should be met in mainstream schools. The authors reflect on the implications of this change in terminology, and examine the consequences of the attendant ‘disappearance of disability’. They also explore how ‘inclusion’ became a largely self‐referential concept that has generally failed to attract critical scrutiny. The authors argue that a highly politicised and ideologically‐charged ‘mission inclusion’ has had the unfortunate effect of tightening the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’. This, they argue, is demonstrated by the emergence of a significant new ‘‐ism’—disabilism—at a time when inclusion was already firmly embedded in New Labour policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-31
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


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