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What became of Mr. Dale's daughter?

You know, this autumn marks twenty years since I started my GCSE English. My parents had to fight for me to do it: I went to a special school which luckily had a comprehensive nearby. A few students from my school - the more academically able ones - took the odd class at the nearby comp. I had always shown a gift for writing and a passion for literature, so the idea was for me to do GCSE English alongside able bodied peers. That way, I could benefit from more specialised teaching, and hopefully go on to do the more advanced stuff, instead of frittering away my potential.

It was fairly daunting at first. Up until that point, my education had been a matter of small classes of no more than eight or nine fairly disabled classmates, being taught at the most basic level. All of a sudden I was in a class of twenty or thirty able-bodied kids, where I knew far more would be expected of me. I didn't have a LSA to accompany me until a month or two in, so for the first few lessons I was completely on my own. I knew I had to pull my socks up and make an effort, so that is precisely what I did.

Luckily we had the most awesome teacher in front of us. I often still think of Steve Dale these days, wondering what became of him. It was Mr. Dale that gave me my first taste of proper education: through him I got to know Shakespeare, and books like To Kill A Mockingbird. He was an inspirational, energetic teacher. I also recall that, that first year, he took some time off for the birth of his first daughter. The aura he gave off when he came back was truly wonderful. She would be nineteen or twenty by now; I wonder what became of her.

Time, inevitably, passes. I think I have mentioned on here before that the comprehensive school, Woodford Lodge, has now been demolished. Yet without it, without that first taste of real education twenty years ago, I doubt I would be who I am today. I have been thinking about Mr. Dale a lot recently: he was wisecracking, yet wise. He shared my love of Tolkien. I wonder what he would say about me - I'd love to show him my MA Thesis. It seems a lifetime ago that I first began to walk, two or three times a week, over the fields to Woodford Lodge and back, my head full of wonderful new ideas and imaginings, little realising that I was becoming me. It now seems so distant, yet I still remember the breeze on my face and the singing of the birds in that quiet corner of cheshire.

Comments

So why the hell are you not campaigning, along with Allfie, for an end to segregated education?

Because, as he has written previously, he volunteers at a school where the pupils need education outside the mainstream.

The campaign against segregated education has a long history, and has in the past been looked on with more favour by senior politicians when reform of the education system was in greater focus. Currently the problems with funding even mainstream education are such that the integration of children with special needs is unlikely to progress quickly. In fact it is likely to become more difficult, in my opinion. Time is better spent on changing the government to one more sensitive and sympathetic to people with disabilities.

It is clear to me that this is a long way from being a clear-cut issue. I've helped out at charlton park academy for seven years now, and it's obvious to me that trying to educate some of the kids there at mainstream schools would be damaging, if not downright cruel. Kids there need highly specialised teaching and care: something just not practically possible in a one size fits all environment.

People like those in Alfie seem to have a wonderful fantasy where every school is able to educate every kind of pupil, whatever their need; but that simply isn't possible. I may have benefitted from being included for my GCSE English classes, but I also realise that there is a necessity for special schools. Frankly I resent the accusatory tone in your comment, 'someone'; ending special education would cause far more problems than it solves. Your implicit assumption that if I benefitted from inclusion I must therefore campaign to end segregation is a black-and-white view, when far more nuance is called for.

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