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Warnock 40 Years On

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This year, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Warnock Report in England on special educational needs (SEN). In recognition of this anniversary we called for submissions to a new Research Topic, Warnock 40 Years On. This Research Topic is dedicated to Baroness Mary Warnock who chaired the UK ...

This year, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Warnock Report in England on special educational needs (SEN). In recognition of this anniversary we called for submissions to a new Research Topic, Warnock 40 Years On. This Research Topic is dedicated to Baroness Mary Warnock who chaired the UK government's committee whose seminal report in 1978 bears her name, and whose death was announced on 20th March 2019, as the Research Topic was being completed.

Although there had been reports on some disabilities before then, the Warnock Report was the result of the first comprehensive review of the whole range of children with special educational needs. Despite its subtitle echoing previous history, namely Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, its main title proposed a new dawn: Special Educational Needs. Chaired by Mary Warnock, the Committee produced a review and made a wide range of recommendations that were truly ground breaking.

This was not just about terminology. Rather, the Warnock Report was responsible for changing the conceptualisation and legislative framework in England, and the Education Act 1981 that followed the report had a totally new system for assessment and determining provision. Also, the Warnock Report recommended elements that in many countries we now take for granted – but at that time were highly original. For example, the meaningful engagement of parents, including their being central partners in the assessment of SEN and in making decisions on the appropriate needs, including SEN, of individual children and young people: a greatly updated process of assessment; the inclusion of a chapter on children under five years; the role of special schools; the curriculum; the transition from school to adult life; teacher education; the roles of professionals; the health and social services and voluntary organisations; and last but not least – research.

The impact of the Warnock Report 1978 for England in particular was substantial. Impact has also been seen internationally, as professional practice and state legislation have developed, not least the policy development towards integration, or as we now generally refer, inclusion.

We are producing a Research Topic to celebrate this 40th anniversary of the Warnock Report. This will be edited by Geoff Lindsay (Chief Editor of Frontiers in Education – Special Educational Needs specialty section and University of Warwick), together with Julie Dockrell (University College London (UCL): Institute of Education) and Klaus Wedell (Professor Emeritus at UCL-IOE). In keeping with the context of the Warnock Report, we welcome papers addressing a wide range of topics across the coverage of the Special Educational Needs specialist section.


Keywords: Warnock Report, Disabilities, Assessment, Engagement, teaching


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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