Special Mainstream Schools Linking

As with any type of linking, making connections, building confidence in meeting others, overcoming potential prejudice and learning together are just some of the reasons why Special School linking is important. Click here to view a film of an example of special school – mainstream linking.

Different kinds of links involving special schools

Mainstream – Special School
Special School – Special School
Special School After-School/Extra-Curricular Club – Mainstream After-School/Extra Curricular Club

Each type of link will of course have implications for the linking activities which are planned.

The Linking Process

The lead class teachers from each linking school attend CPD at which they plan out the activities their pupils will engage in. If possible, it helps if this CPD can be hosted by the Special School to allow their linking partners to begin to understand their context and needs. A preparation phase is valuable followed by carefully planned meetings appropriate to the pupils’ needs.


As with all school linking, the principle of equity is crucial to the partnership being effective and sustainable. It is really important therefore for each partner school to think carefully about their reasons for linking – what they want out of it – and to share these with each other.


Where Special School pupils are accessing the National Curriculum, the process of mainstream school linking may well be appropriate with some adaptations. Click here to read more about this. However, with more profound needs, it may be that the introductory stage is too abstract and that after some brief preparation and introductions, meeting up is more appropriate as the approach needs to be more ‘real’. Whilst making sure the needs of the Special School are being considered, it is of course also important to keep in mind those in the mainstream school. They may well need more of a preparation stage prior to meeting so that any anxiety or fear is reduced.


There are many resources, developed by Inclusion specialists on our website which can be adapted and used for special school linking. All of the activities aim to be fun, engaging but importantly accessible.


Whatever approach is chosen as long as both partners spend time sharing their aims for the link, their expertise and keep communicating, the rewards can be profound. Helping children in Special Schools to understand that they are not alone, that they can connect with others and develop relationships can be very powerful. Meanwhile supporting mainstream children to make connections with pupils from Special Schools can help them see beyond the disability, develop their confidence at meeting and communicating with others with needs. Linking can support their understanding of inclusion in practice and potentially reduce potential prejudice whilst developing a more empathetic attitude towards others.

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