At the time of original publication, special education in Britain was permeated by an ideology of benevolent humanitarianism and this is ostensibly the moral framework within which the professionals – teachers, educational psychologists, medical officers – operate. The author widens the debate about special education by introducing sociological perspectives and considering the structural relationships that are produced both within the system and in the wider society when part of a mass education system develops separately, as ‘special’ rather than normal. She outlines the origin and development of special education, stressing the conflicts involved and the role played by vested interests, and criticizes the current rhetoric of ‘special needs’. Among the issues and dilemmas that she identifies, the problems of selection, assessment, integration and the curriculum for special schools are discussed in details, and the position of parents, pupils and teachers within the system is examined. The author gives particular attention in a separate chapter to the problems and position of ethnic minorities.