chapter  2
15 Pages

England: social problems and special needs

Who gets defi ned as a lower attainer depends on current defi nitions and expectations of what constitutes adequate attainment in education, which will vary at different historical times, between different countries and between different professions. This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the historical, comparative and current confusion over how to defi ne lower attainers and those with special educational needs, and the explanations for their inability to gain educational credentials. It is certainly the case that as ever-longer education careers and expectations for a majority have developed, the visibility and marginality of those who attain less in education has increased (Richardson and Powell 2011). However, the issue highlighted in this and the following chapter is that almost all young lower attainers, whether acquiring Special Educational Needs (SEN) labels or not, and whether included in mainstream institutions or not, are required to orient themselves to a future of qualifi cations and work. The chapter notes that in the English education system lower attainers occupy less positive and more punitive attention than higher attainers. A section on the education of the working classes is included, as the one constant, repeated over and over again in research, policy documents and practitioner opinion, is that lower attainers, especially those regarded as having special educational needs, are more generally from workingclass backgrounds, and also disproportionately from racial minorities.. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the reasons for the expansion of a special education needs industry, as parents from all social classes become more anxious about their children’s future in competitive school and college environments.