Students with special educational needs : the attainment gap

Dimitriadis, Christos (2022) Students with special educational needs : the attainment gap. In: Done, E.J. and Knowler, H., (eds.) International perspectives on exclusionary pressures in education : how inclusion became exclusion. London, U.K. : Palgrave Macmillan. (In Press)


The gap in pupils’ attainment has been a central educational issue in England in recent years. Schools try to address the problem by developing strategies to provide support specifically for low-achieving pupils, mainly from disadvantaged or cultural or ethnic-minority backgrounds. The author argues that this conceptualization of the attainment issue is problematic. It encourages schools to exclude pupils who are more advanced from their attention. As a result, they do not receive specialized support that could help them actualize their full potential. If we seek inclusive education, the question should shift from closing the attainment gap for a narrow range of pupils to raising achievement for everyone. This includes pupils who already perform well and could excel if they had additional support, even if this makes the attainment gap bigger. The author links this problem with how we conceptualize and define ability, special need, underachievement, equity, and “gap” in education.

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