I’m back on the road again for fieldwork, spending several hours a day commuting to schools across southern England, travelling across both motorways and single lane dirt tracks in order to reach sites participating in the project. Fortunately, it’s the summer term so when my alarm goes off at 5:30am the sun is already up and the birds are singing!
This term I’m based in an integrated nursery, a co-located primary school, and a secondary school with a PMLD unit. I’m immensely grateful to the children, parents, and school staff for supporting the project. The sample is the epitome of the diversity of provision for children with PMLD in England. According to the Salt Report (2010), 82% of children with PMLD attend special school, 15% attend mainstream primary school, and 3% attend mainstream secondary school. Despite 18% of children with PMLD attending mainstream school, there has been very little written about what mainstream education looks like for children with PMLD, and the research literature is so sparse that publications on the topic are sometimes decades apart. In fact, even the Salt Report (2010) is thin on the ground when it comes to detail – the report fails to make it clear whether children are in mainstream schools part-time or full-time. The report also overlooks the kinds of provision that children attend (e.g. single site vs. co-located sites). It is this lack of information that partly makes the current project fascinating. There are strong feelings for and against mainstream education for children with PMLD but there are so few studies on the topic that arguments are ideological, or based on anecdotal evidence rather than sound research. My current research is suggesting a more complex picture on the subject than I previously anticipated (e.g. I’ve seen wonderful social interaction opportunities in mainstream school and special school, though for potentially for different reasons). Hopefully the fieldwork will continue to provide rich data to inform passionate debates about “inclusion” and I look forward to sharing the findings in due course.