Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice

by Trish McMenamin (Author)
©2018 Monographs XII, 150 Pages
Series: Complicated Conversation, Volume 50


Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice discusses special school provision in an education policy climate in which inclusion is the dominant motif. In this context, the special school sector is an anomaly and special schools inevitably occupy an uncertain and somewhat invidious position. This situation raises a number of questions concerning matters of justice and fairness with respect to special schools and their communities. It also raises questions about the validity of the view that only inclusion can represent justice in education for disabled children and young people. Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice explores these matters from a philosophical perspective that centres on the broader question of what, in regard to where they go to school, might constitute a just state of affairs in education provision for disabled children. The New Zealand education context provides the case in point in the book, but the matters it examines and the broader argument and philosophical analysis that it pursues have a much wider international significance and application given the pervasive and dominant influence of inclusion in education policy across the world. Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice offers a new perspective to international debates and conversations about matters to do with inclusion, justice, and the education of disabled children. It will be of particular interest to scholars working in the field of education in areas such as inclusive and special education, philosophy of education, sociology, and policy studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Acronyms
  • Acknowledgements
  • Credits
  • Chapter 1. Special Schools and Inclusion: A Complicated Conversation
  • Chapter 2. Inclusion
  • Chapter 3. Theoretical and Philosophical Perspectives
  • Chapter 4. The Turn to Inclusion in New Zealand Education Policy 1987–1996
  • Chapter 5. Special Education 2000: New Zealand’s First “Inclusive Education” Policy
  • Chapter 6. The Experiences of Special Schools
  • Chapter 7. A Just State of Affairs
  • Chapter 8. Epilogue
  • Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →


ASESPAccredited Special Education Service Provider
DPADisabled Persons Assembly
ERO Education Review Office
GSEGroup Special Education
MOEMinistry of Education
ORRSOngoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme
SE2000Special Education 2000
SEPITSpecial Education Policy Implementation Team
SESSpecial Education Service

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← viii | ix →


First and foremost I must acknowledge Harry and Jack and their parents to whom I owe a heartfelt debt of gratitude. When Harry came into my class many years ago, I little realised the influence and impact meeting him and his family would have on me, and how the experience would shape the rest of my professional life. It is their story that is the very heart of this book and I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to Harry’s parents for allowing me to share it. As I wrote the book, Harry and his family were always there in my mind’s eye, guiding my thoughts and perceptions and encouraging me; I dedicate the book to them.

Warm thanks are due to my colleagues and friends, Peter Roberts and John Freeman-Moir for their interest in and unstinting support for my work. This book would not have come to fruition without their thoughtful, insightful, kind, wise, and rigorous guidance. My sincere thanks to them for sharing the wealth of their knowledge, understanding and experience with me, and giving me the confidence to pursue the ideas I set out here. I owe particular thanks to Peter for helping me to bring the book to publication and guiding me on the steps along the way. ← ix | x →

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Some of the material in this book has been published in other sources. The author and publisher gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce material from the following articles:

McMenamin, T. (2009). New Zealand Day-Special Schools: Changes and challenges under Special Education 2000. New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 18, 183–200. This article is available online at https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/nzaroe/article/view/1553. doi:10.26686/nzaroe.v0i18.1553

McMenamin, T. (2011). The tenacity of special schools in an inclusive policy environment. Support for Learning, 26(3), 97–102. Published on behalf of NASEN, copyright John Wiley and Sons. This article is available online at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9604.2011.01486.x

McMenamin, T. (2013). Justice for all? Special Education 2000 and the politics of difference. Policy Futures in Education, 11(6), 769–778. Copyright 2013. This article is available online at https://journals.sagepub. doi:10.2304/pfie.2013.11.6.769

McMenamin, T. (2014). Neither confirmed nor denied: Special school provision in New Zealand’s Special Education 2000 Policy. British Journal of Special Education, 41(1), 25–41. Published on behalf of NASEN, copyright John Wiley and Sons. This article is available online at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com. doi:10.1111/1467-8578.12053

McMenamin, T. (2017). A just state of affairs: philosophical reflections on justice, inclusion and the education of disabled children. Cambridge Journal of Education, 14 p. Copyright ← xi | xii → the Society. This article is available online at https//www.tandfonline. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2017.1394981

McMenamin, T. (2017). An idea whose time had come: The turn to inclusion in New Zealand’s Education Policy. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 52(1), 109–121. Reprinted by permission from SpringerNature. Copyright 2014. Available online at https://link.springer.com. doi:10.1007/s40841-017-0077-0

← xii | 1 →

· 1 ·


A Complicated Conversation


This book examines matters to do with special schools, inclusion, and the education of disabled children and young people from a philosophical perspective that centres on the broader question of what, with respect to where they go to school, might constitute a just state of affairs in education provision for these children. As described these are matters that could be seen as abstract and academic in nature but the concerns that prompt them are anything but abstract or academic, they relate to the material impact of policy on the real lives of people. Nussbaum (2011) speaking of approaches to the measurement of social development argues that to give a true picture of any achievements, an approach is needed that begins “…close to the ground, looking at life stories and the human meaning of policy changes for real people” (p. 14). Similarly, it seems to me that in order to get a true picture of the justness or otherwise of particular educational arrangements and the policies that sustain them we need to consider how these arrangements and policies impact on the real lives of real people and communities. My aim in this book is to examine “the human meaning of policy changes for real people”, the real people in this case being special school communities in New Zealand, and through ← 1 | 2 → this examination to explore and illuminate deeper philosophical and ethical matters with respect to just educational provision that have a much wider significance than to the New Zealand context alone. But firstly, following Nussbaum, I want to begin “close to the ground” with a story that not only explains my interest in this topic but also, and more importantly, brings to life the real children and families who are at the heart of the concerns of this book.

A Little Story


XII, 150
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XII, 150 pp.

Biographical notes

Trish McMenamin (Author)

Trish McMenamin (PhD in education, University of Canterbury) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury. Her research interests include philosophy of education, inclusive education, and education policy. She has published articles in these areas in scholarly journals including the Cambridge Journal of Education and Policy Futures in Education.


Title: Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice
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