A puzzling matter : special schools, justice, and inclusion.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Inclusion, understood as all children receiving their education in their local regular school, is promoted almost universally as both a moral and a political imperative. From this perspective inclusion, and only inclusion, is equated with just educational provision for disabled children and young people. But at the same time, special school provision is a feature of many, if not most, education systems. In a policy climate in which inclusion is the dominant motif, the special school sector is an anomaly and special schools inevitably occupy an uncertain and somewhat invidious position. This situation raises a number of questions concerning matters of justice and fairness with respect to its impact on special schools and their communities. It also raises questions about the validity of the view that inclusion, and only inclusion, can represent justice in education for all disabled children and young people. This thesis explores these matters from a philosophical perspective and with particular reference to the turn to inclusion in New Zealand’s education policy context in the years 1987-2005. It examines the realities of the development of the policy Special Education 2000 (SE2000) and the experience of special schools under that policy. It also presents a philosophically based examination and critique of the notion of justice with respect to location that underpins inclusion and inclusive education policies such as SE2000. Drawing on the work of I.M. Young (1990), the thesis argues that the privileging of inclusion in SE2000 positioned special school provision as a lesser and undesirable alternative, and resulted in a state of affairs in which some disabled children and their families experienced, or were more likely to experience, injustice. The examination of the New Zealand setting provides the context from which the broader philosophical concerns of the thesis emanate. These centre on the broader question of what, with respect to where they go to school, might constitute a just state of affairs in education for disabled children. The thesis presents a critique of the notion that inclusion is the only educational arrangement that constitutes a just state of affairs for disabled children. It argues that the availability of special school provision rather than being a barrier can be a factor that contributes to a just state of affairs in the educational arrangements for disabled children. The thesis concludes that as regards the matter of location, what is required to achieve a just state of affairs for disabled children and their families is a nuanced approach that will mitigate injustice in their daily lives and reflect the multiple views, values and aspirations they hold.