While education systems in developed countries were expanding during the later-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, from the mid-twentieth century there was a rapid expansion as groups previously excluded or given only a minimal education were drawn into lengthened formal systems, usually at lower levels of schooling. This was particularly true of those who were regarded as having difﬁ culties in learning to minimal levels of numeracy and literacy, being low attainers in formal testing, failing to achieve to constantly raised qualiﬁ cation levels or acquiring one or more of a variety of expanding descriptions eventually bundled from the 1980s into a shorthand of special educational needs. Characteristics of those drawn into expanding systems at lower levels were that they were predominantly from lower social classes, with more males than females and with an over-representation of racial and ethnic minorities. Rationalisation for this educational expansion for all groups has centred round the political, commercial and social interests that all young people should be economically productive, and
not reliant on unemployment or other welfare beneﬁ ts. While policy, practice and literature on the provision and expansion of vocational education and training and special education has largely remained separate, here they are brought together. Educational expansion has included an expansion of education for the working classes, and worldwide moves towards inclusive education have meant that mainstream schools and colleges now incorporate a range of students regarded as having learning difﬁ culties and disabilities. They are all now expected to participate post-14 or 16 in some kind of education and training for a potential working future, or failing that, be prepared for independent living. In addition there has been an expansion of middle-class demands for recognition and resources for their children who have difﬁ culty in learning in competitive school environments, which has helped fuel an expanding and expensive ‘SEN industry’ (Tomlinson 2012a). Parents are driven by anxieties that in competitive education and training systems their less-able children will not ﬁ nd or keep work, although middle-class parents are still likely to avoid placement of their young on lower-level vocational courses. The expansion of education systems has led to an expansion of institutional arrangements, resources and funding for all these lower attaining young people, and the whole ediﬁ ce of mass education in a global economy is now underpinned by expanded provision for lower achievers and those with learning difﬁ culties or disengagement.