The suggestion that a theory of special education is ‘needed’ should not strike us as all that surprising. If nothing else, it does give us academics some selflegitimating acts to indulge ourselves in. Of course, it might also be argued that there is a pressing need for a theory of special education, because in recent years the education system of the UK has changed dramatically. In addition, there is evidence that increasing numbers of children are being excluded from schools, either because of ‘troublesome behaviour’ (Bourne et al., 1994; Hayden, 1996; Parsons et al., 1995) or because they have been identified as having special educational needs and consequently ‘in need’ of specialised provision, often outside the mainstream sector (Norwich, 1994). In this context ‘theory’ may have some explanatory value, yet, as the editors of this volume acknowledge, it is far from clear what a theory of special education should look like, or why it should make any difference to anything if one was developed.