Through a glass, darkly: reflections on the presumption of mainstreaming in Scottish Education

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This article draws upon a two-year research project commissioned by the
Scottish Executive1
Education Department in November 2003. The aim of the
study, which was conducted at the SCRE Centre and the Department of
Educational Studies at the University of Glasgow, was to evaluate the impact
of the 'presumption of mainstreaming* contained within Section 15 of the
Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000.2
The evaluation comprised an
examination of the response of education authorities throughout Scotland to
the implementation of Section 15; and assessed the impact on pupils, parents
and teachers, as well as other professionals and agents involved in the care and
education of pupils with special educational needs. Data were gathered by
means of a postal survey to the 32 local authorities, and a postal survey of 183
free-standing special schools in Scotland. The fall report of the findings,
including copies of the main research instruments has been published (Pirrie et
al 2006).3
The purpose of the article is to raise some fundamental questions about the
effectiveness of inclusion as a social reform strategy. I shall use the term
'inclusion* to describe attempts to include - or perhaps more accurately to
accommodate - disabled children and others identified as having 'special
educational needs' or 'additional support needs' within 'mainstream'
educational provision. The article is intended as a contribution to the debate on
the potentiality and limitations of inclusion. It is written from the perspective
of a relative outsider - neither an evangelist nor a disciple. My status relates to
the fact that I do not work in the field of disability- studies or inclusive
education. This article is one of a series of attempts to wrest inclusion from
those who have who have made it their career, and to rescue the topic for
public debate (Pirrie 2006; Pirrie and Head 2007).
The article explores the consequences of the 'dichotomous correlation
between, on the one hand, segregation (i.e. being located in separate schools)
and social exclusion, and, on the other, mainstreaming and social inclusion'
that is perpetrated by 'the practical form of public intentionality that is called
educational inclusion' (Thoutenhoofd 2005, p. 239). It exposes the fuzziness
of the concepts of 'mainstream' and 'mamstrearning', explores the tensions
between notions of identity and difference, of recognition and denial, and
examines briefly how these are negotiated in the current political climate. I
begin with a brief overview of the current legislative context in Scotland, and
patterns of educational provision for children and young people with special
educational needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-79
Number of pages16
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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