The term ‘special education’ has highly political and multiple meanings (Cumming 2012) and is generally considered to refer to a segregated education due to ‘limitations’ within the student. However, with greater awareness of the role of oppression, society and the environment in creating restrictions (Goodley 2011), there is acknowledgement that schools play a role in structural inequality between those with disability and those without. Consequently, there is a move toward educating students within general education rather than within a separate, segregated special education system. The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) has been a step closer to an inclusive model. As part of the NCCCD, teachers are required to report the adjustments that some students require as part of the quality, differentiated teaching within their classroom. While the NCCD has three levels of support above quality differentiated teaching practice that may include a segregated placement, it does imply that teachers should be reflecting upon their instruction and changing this if the student is not responding. The NCCD has raised questions regarding the placement of students with disability and the efficacy of special education. What does the research tell us?
The small amount of research that supports segregated education is largely from anti-inclusion campaigners such as Anastasiou and Kauffman (2011), but is contradicted by a much larger body of research that indicates that students do less well when placed into segregated education settings. Dempsey and Valentine’s (2017 p. 71) review of three studies concludes that ‘without evidence that the special education system is effective then the profession leaves itself open to accusations that special education acts as little more than a form of respite for regular education.’ If there is no evidence for segregated special education, why does it exist? Dempsey and Valentine (2017) claim that segregation is based on philosophical and legislative requirements rather than research. Consequently, there is a need to review the placement of students with disability and ensure that all teachers have a repertoire of teaching strategies that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of all students.
Anastasiou, D. & Kauffman, J.M. (2011) A Social Constructionist Approach to Disability: Implications for Special Education in Exceptional Children Vol. 77 No. 3
Cumming, T.M. (2012) The Education of Students with Emotional and Behavior Disabilities in Australia; Current Trends and Future Directions in Intervention in School and Clinic Vol. 48 No. 1
Dempsey, I. & Valentine, M. (2017) Special Education Outcomes and Young Australian School Students in Australasian Journal of Special Education Vol. 41 Issue 1
Goodley, D. (2011) Social Psychoanalytic Disability Studies in Disability and Society Vol. 26 Issue 6