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Special schools

Summary of key legislation

This is a very brief outline of relevant legislation. 

For further details see A Morton, Education and the State from 1833 (Public Record Office, 1997), particularly Chapter 8, Special Services.

Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act 1893

School authorities had to provide education for blind and deaf children aged seven to 16 and resident in their area.

Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act 1899

This allowed local authorities to provide education for physically and mentally disabled children. Provision was made compulsory for mentally disabled and epileptic children in 1914 and for physically disabled children by The Education Act 1918.

The Education Act 1944

This reenacted and extended provisions in earlier legislation and was further modified by Acts in 1948 and 1953. Services, usually in the form of special schools separate from mainstream education, were further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Education Act 1970

LEAs took responsibility for educating all children with disabilities and there was a move to educate pupils with special needs in mainstream schools.

The Norfolk education committee’s report, Education in Norfolk, 1950-1960, shows this process had already begun. 

The committee provided residential instruction for more than 246 pupils with special needs, but there were also about 1,133 children classified as ‘handicapped’ who were educated in day schools.

The Norfolk education committee stated its policy was to provide special services in the normal environment of homes and schools, rather than in special institutions.

The Education Act 1981

This Act was influenced by the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, 1978 (known as the Warnock report).

The main points of the act were that pupils previously referred to as ‘handicapped’ were instead to be termed ‘pupils with special educational needs’, a written statement of those needs was to be made for each child and there was increased emphasis on integrated provision in their education.

The Education Act 1993

A special educational needs tribunal was established under this act for parents to appeal against decisions made by their LEA.