The new government policy of allocating children with mild disabilities to mainstream schools alongside normal children could undermine the interests of both groups, parents and educators claim. They are calling for the Education Department either to release the list of 60 schools adopting the integrated education approach for special needs children, or revert to matching those children with schools suited to help. The new practice, introduced this term, sees special needs children allocated randomly to schools, including ones that have not adopted integrated education and do not cater for such pupils. This could mean that schools willing to help disabled children, including those among the 60 on the Education Department's list, fail to receive the minimum five children required to qualify for an additional resource teacher with the skills to offer the extra support the special needs pupils need, warned Angie Chung, of the Parents' Association of Pre-School Handicapped Children. Disabled children could be allocated to schools that would not welcome them, she said. Schools might also find it difficult to cater for children with different types of disabilities, said Ms Chung, who is convenor of the parents with children in mainstream schools at the association. The fact that parents were kept in the dark about which school to turn to had robbed them of choice, she said. This lack of information had already resulted in cases where students were poorly matched with specialist schools, said Bessie Pang Lau Seung-man, director of Suen Mei Speech and Hearing Centre. 'These children are suffering from lack of assistance, low achievement and self-esteem. They and their parents have the right to choose what's best for them,' she said. However, the ED refused to release its list of special schools, saying that it would hamper efforts to promote integration. 'I understand that parents are eager to provide what is best for their children, but our society must be educated to accept disabled people,' said Judy Wong, senior inspector of integrated education. 'We do not want parents to swamp the schools on the list. If they are confined to a few schools, how can we achieve full integration?' The school-matching process was scrapped because a number were opting for children with certain types of disabilities and discriminating against the others, she said. She believed the new allocation system would allow more schools to understand children with special needs, further promoting integration. All such children should be regarded as an integral part of the student body, she stressed. 'There are all sorts of disabled people in this society. Schools are mini-societies, and in that sense we should not limit the type of disabled children in any school,' she said. Despite agreeing it would be possible for a school to enrol fewer than five disabled children a year, Ms Wong said that schools should have enough disabled students to recruit a resource teacher after two or three years. Children entering schools without resource teachers would be monitored and supported by the Education Department, she added. The new policy replaces a system under which a mainstream school enrolling between five and eight disabled children, with up to two kinds of disability and in no more than two class levels, would receive a resource teacher who would help all students and teachers understand the special needs of disabled children. The system catered for children with mild mental disability, hearing impairment, visual impairment, physical handicap and autism. Education Department figures show that 1,000 disabled children now attend mainstream schools, but only 60 primary and secondary schools have adopted the integrated education approach.