Special education and minority ethnic young people in England: Continuing Issues

Sally Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In countries that have developed special education provision, whether in segregated settings or ‘included’ in mainstream, racial, ethnic and immigrant minorities continue to be disproportionately represented. This has always been as issue of great concern to minority parents, often to the point of litigation. In England the disproportionate representation of minority students, especially African-Caribbean and Pakistani students in categories of mild learning difficulty, and behavioural, social and emotional difficulties either in segregated settings, ‘included’ in mainstream in lower sets, streams and tracks, or excluded into ‘alternative’ education provision, mirrors the situation in the USA. Much evidence there points to disproportionality in these categories of African American, American Indian and some Hispanic students. Explanations for placement in special education programmes continue to centre round assumptions of deficiencies in student abilities to learn and ‘behave’, their family backgrounds and communities. Many policy-makers, politicians, schools and teachers ignore or are ignorant of the historical background and social contexts in which these students are expected to learn. The article overviews some of this history and policy responses concerned with special education, low attainment and troublesome school behaviour in England , including recent evidence and current explanations for the placement of the students. A premise here is that research, policy and literature is still separating what is happening in ‘special’ education from other areas of education. This cannot continue, as world-wide moves towards inclusive education has meant that mainstream schools and Colleges now incorporate (or still exclude) a range of students regarded as having learning difficulties or disabilities, and all young people are now expected to acquire some kind of qualification or be prepared for independent living (Tomlinson 2013).
Original languageEnglish
Early online date14 Aug 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • special educational needs
  • race
  • social class


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