mainstream vs specialist education?

I read an article online today about how mainstream education is so important to disabled children and it really got me thinking about when I was younger and education professionals seemed to think they automatically knew what’s best for me.

I started my school life in a specialist nursery at age two and stayed in specialist education until about the age of 8 when my school teachers decided (without asking) that I should start attending the local mainstream school one day a week, when you’ve grown up around people who are just like you, small classrooms and extra support. Going from that to classrooms with 30+ children, only 1 teacher and children who stare is a huge deal!

So being the person I am instead of saying no I attended the school every week with 1 to 1 support and I hated every second of it, nothing made sense. Why was everywhere so busy?, why was everyone staring? And why couldn’t I just stay with my friends in the school I knew?. I mean it wasn’t that I couldnt handle the work I actually enjoyed being pushed intellectually instead of just doing the same work as the whole class, regardless of our abilities. I couldn’t cope with the change though and after many arguments with a headteacher who told me ‘I had to get on with it’, I stopped attending the mainstream school and got back to my normality.

As I got older I realised that even though emotionally in the past I’d struggled with mainstream, being in specialist education was holding me back because no matter how good I did in lessons, I was still given the same work as others who weren’t on my level in terms of work. I’ll never understand why we all got given the same work even though despite having the same disabilities, we weren’t at the same level in terms of our abilities in the classroom. During our GCSE’s it became clear to me that if I’d been in mainstream education things might of been different, that was made more apparent when we were told that even though we were capable of higher grade GCSEs we were only being entered in at foundation level. Please tell me how that is fair?

I did really well in my GCSE’s but obviously didn’t achieve the grades I believe I could’ve if I’d be given the chance. I’m not sitting here saying that ‘special school’ was awful and ‘mainstream’ was great because there are good and bad points to both and I honestly believe that if I hadn’t been in the school I was, I may not of had the opportunities I did.

All I’m really trying to say is that too me they only person who should decide about your education is you and your parents/family, one size doesn’t fit all after all! What might be amazing for one person might have a negative effect on another. I know from my experiences that there are some people who I know that wouldn’t of been able to deal with mainstream not only physically but emotionally and others that I believe could’ve done alot more given the right help and support.

So I’d love too hear your opinions are you for or against mainstream?


6 thoughts on “mainstream vs specialist education?

  1. I am a strong believer that you should only attend a special school if you have a moderate learning/behavioural disability.

    I attended a special school when I was very young and moved on soon after. Without my mainstream education i
    Do believe I wouldn’t be where I am today. After working in a special
    School and knowing many people who have attended one, from what I’ve seen they can and do hold someone back.

    I attended a college where there was a unit for anyone who needed support and I was the youngest doing a levels even though I was 16. Everyone else was over 20 and came from special school..


  2. I couldn’t agree more Holly, thinking back now I wish I would’ve just gritted my teeth and stayed in mainstream as I strongly believe I’d be in better places now but I’m determind that won’t hold me back! I really do believe there should be better systems in place for people who are shy to make that transition from special education to mainstream,


  3. I went to Mainstream school for both primary and secondary, my primary school had a special unit for those that had additional needs. We were very well catered for (physio etc.) It was soon decided rightly that I only needed help with the physical aspects of learning due to my difficulties with fine motor control, I did really well, often above average. Secondary school on the other hand was a nightmare….
    Because I struggled to keep up physically, it was assumed that It must be the same academically, which simply was not the case. I was put in lower sets with very disruptive pupils, and felt I was not listened to when I complained that I was in the wrong classes. It got so bad in Maths (a subject I had excelled in when at primary school, then begun to fall dramatically behind) that I refused to attend class in my GCSE year, and instead had my work collected for me and worked from text books in an office. I did leave school with 6 C grades, but still felt I could have done better with the right support, and that school had failed me… I did not attend leavers ceremony, where I was given an ‘award’ for ‘achievement through diversity’ which I found highly patronising.


  4. Its crazy isn’t it Chris how some people just assume they know what’s best for us and then choose not to listen when we try to explain! I defiantly think the education system needs to be improved in a huge way because I feel so many people are being let down.


  5. I agree disability or not you should never be held back and there should always be support for everyone and anyone no matter what. Great work Michelle keep it up.


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