In recent times, places available in special schools are declining as more children with special needs are educated in mainstream schools. There will always be some children, however, whose learning needs are not appropriately met in a regular classroom setting and will require specialised education and resources to provide the level of support they require.
An example of a special need that may require the intensive services a special school provides is mental retardation. An alternative is a special classroom, also called a self-contained classroom, which is a separate room dedicated solely to the education of students with special needs within a larger school that also provides general education. These classrooms are typically staffed by specially trained teachers, who provide specific, individualized instruction to individuals and small groups of students with special needs. Self-contained classrooms, because they are located in a general education school, may have students who remain in the self-contained classroom full time, or students who are included in certain general education classes.