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This essay will discuss the principles of inclusive practice and explore how this is embedded in the early years setting, including Setting X. In addition, it will examine the importance of collaborative work and the skills needed for multi-disciplinary teamwork. This includes exploring the values and beliefs that impact on inclusive practice and consequently, how this impacts on provision that incorporates reasonable adjustments. In order to do this, a critical analysis of a peer review journal article will be undertaken to examine an aspect of inclusion. The chosen article is “A framework for understanding multi-agency working and engaging service users in change” (Greenhouse, 2013)but itwill also make reference to ‘”Improving families who have deaf children using family needs survey: a multi-agency perspective” (Dalzell et al., 2007), as well as other readings. The essay will attempt to identify potential key issues with inter-professional and multi-disciplinary working that may impact upon inclusion.
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As a foundation for this essay a formative assessment was carried out which involved a group presentation that illustrated inclusion and inclusive practice. This also helped shape an understanding of different professional roles and how they work together. By exploring the legal, policy and procedural frameworks that govern inclusive practice it helped develop the recommendations on how to improve inclusivity in Setting X, through inter-professional and multi-professional working. This knowledge and understanding was also influenced by Tuckman’s Theory (1965) (cited in Bonebright, 2010) and De Bono’s Six Hats Thinking Exercise (Bono, 2000). Theoretical models have also been used to help in the analysis and understanding of this area, which include the Social and Medical Models.
According to Nutbrown (2019) inclusion in early years settings should be about implementing practices that ensure everybody feels they belongs. Nutbrown (2019), highlights that inclusion in mainstream settings is predominantly applicable to children recognised as having special educational needs (SEN). Nutbrown (2019), states that inclusion also applies to the practices, attitudes as well as the values that help shape early childhood groups, so that everyone feels comfortable, have a sense of belonging and can contribute to that group. When considering inclusion in any setting it is important to use theoretical models to assist our understanding of this and to help us create this type of inclusive environment.
There are two models of inclusion which are extremely different. The first is the Medical Model of Disability, which infers that people are disabled by their impairments (Marks, 2009), which according to Marks (2009) subsequently leads to low expectations and individuals losing their freedom, options and control in their lives. In contrast, the Social Model of Disability was developed from the perspective of disabled people (Davis, 2017).The Social Model of Disability proposes that disability is caused by the way society is structured, rather than by the individuals impairment/disability (Davis, 2017). The latter is deemed by many academics as more valuable because it provides an understanding from the perspective of the individual.
Within Setting X there is evidence of both models, for example in adaptation for accessibility that have been made, availability of disabled toilets and level floor access to enable independence but there are also aspects where they cannot participate, such as there is some equipment that may not be used by all which excludes individuals. At Setting X the legislation with which the inclusion policy complies with includes the SEN Code of Practice (January, 2015) the Ofsted Inspection Framework (2016), The Equality Act (2010) and the Children and Families Act (2014).
Abiding by The Equality Act (2010), Setting X strives to ensure that they safeguard from any discrimination or inequality of opportunity (Goepel et al., 2015). Correspondingly, it is influenced by the largest part of the Children’s & Families Act (2014), which focuses with the laws and provisions that relate to children with SEN or disabilities (Goepel et al., 2015). The Act also inspired the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which is based on a single assessment procedure that replaced special education statements. These plans support children, young people and their families from birth to 25 and are employed at Setting X (Goepel et al., 2015). The Children’s & Families Act (2014) also stresses that local authorities should involve families and children in considerations relating to their care and education; whilst also providing them with impartial support services. This is evident at Setting X where regular meetings take place with parents and other professionals to discuss their children’s needs.
The SEND Code of Practice (2015) provided legal guidance on responsibilities, policies and measures relating to the Children and Families Act (2014). It came into force in September 2014 and was last revised in January 2015. The Act requires that all schools support pupils with a wide range of SEN (Department for Education, 2015). Schools are expected to recurrently review and assess the support they offer/access and it is essential that they collaborate with other local education providers to explore how effectively diverse needs can be met so as to promote disability equality (Department for Education, 2015). The code stipulates that all pupils are entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum. Similarly, The National Curriculum Inclusion Statement states that teachers should have high expectations of every pupil, regardless of prior attainment (Department for Education, 2015).
Influenced by the above acts Setting X strives to achieve maximum inclusion of all children (including vulnerable learners) whilst meeting their individual needs (Setting X Policy, 2014). It expects staff to provide differentiated learning opportunities for all children within their setting and to provide materials suitable to children’s interests and abilities (Setting X Policy, 2014). This attempts to provide them with full access to the school curriculum. Setting X focuses on individual progress to gauge success. It endeavours to make a clear distinction between “underachievement” and SEN (Setting X, 2014). Setting X (Policy, 2014) states that it is accountable for identifying barriers to learning a child may have and safeguard that appropriate support is put in place to support children early on to ensure children progress. Setting X (Policy, 2014) asserts that they try to ensure that children with SEN have the best opportunities to attain and achieve. Their inclusion policy states that accurate assessment of needs and carefully planned programmes, are essential to the success of all children including those with SEN (Setting X, 2014).
Prior to this essay, a class based formative assessment was carried out which involved a group presentation that illustrated inclusion and inclusive practice. This involved two groups of three. However, preceding this there was a whole class activity where students were all placed in a line and the lecturer asked personal questions to establish what things the class had in common. Each time a similarity was established within the group we were allowed to move forward, which gave a sense of achievement for the group, whereas when we had nothing in common it felt like we were letting the group down. This type of activity according to Peteiro (2015) aims to help us understand how working together as part of team can encourage positive outcomes.
The second activity of the formative assessment involved splitting the class into two groups of three, each group had to look at a model of Lego and then each had to build their own Lego model based on the team’s recollection. Although the group I was in did not win this activity there was still a sense of achievement because we demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively and achieve our goals together. This activity was followed by the presentation, which further assessed us on our team work abilities, we applied the De Bono theory whereby we used the six hats (cited in Bono, 2000) to play a role of the teacher, SENCO and Senior Leadership Team. This activity allowed us to share our knowledge and different practices from our various settings. Nevertheless, this was also problematic because everyone had different views on what works best and this highlighted some of the issues of multi-team working, which may be due to people feeling their specialism is more knowledgeable. According to Percy-Smith (2005) and (Atkinson et al., 2007) this is where information exchange comes into play, in other words involving the mutual learning/knowledge of what each person does and could do.
An aspect of inclusion examined by Greenhouse’s (2013) research wasan investigation into the quality of professional relationships between educational psychologists and the other professionals who work with children, young people and their families as part of a multi-agency team. The research looked at some of the barriers as well as the facilitators to effective multi-agency working. This was looked at from the perspective of how this could engage service users in change and the implications this has for professional practice (cited in Greenhouse, 2013). This is important in light of Lord Laming’s Review (2003) of Victoria Climbie’s death which recommended increasing joint working practices and data sharing amongst all those involved in the care of vulnerable young children (cited in Wilson and James, 2007).
One of the main areas of inclusion that Greenhouse (2013) highlighted was the importance of effective communication with other professionals. The research stated that as a result of Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda (2003), local authorities recognised the significance of a “joined up” multi-agency approach to providing Children’s Services and in solving problems collaboratively (Greenhouse, 2013). This stance to supporting young people, stems from the view that problems related to behaviour are not restricted to “within the child”, but comprise of the wider context and other considerations around the child (Greenhouse, 2013, p.408). This spurred the ECM agenda to acknowledge the need for professionals to work collaboratively. Subsequently, they recommended that professionals could collaborate more by joining their working practices, tools (for instance, the Common Assessment Framework) and their professional skills (Greenhouse, 2013, p.408).
Greenhouse’s (2013) article stated that efficient multi-agency working would enhance the skills and knowledge of multi-agency teams but that they must contemplate school-wide factors (such as the dynamic within the classroom), family factors such as ways of involving the family, as well as within-child factors, for example the child’s personality and their background, this would result in long-term positive changes in behaviour (Greenhouse, 2013). Nonetheless, Greenhouse (2013) asserted that these interventions would necessitate a wide range of professional skills and would require supporting teachers with behaviour management for some children. Subsequently, a group of professionals from diverse backgrounds with different skills and proficiencies would be required to achieve overall positive outcomes (Greenhouse, 2013, p.407).
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In line with this, Setting X, works with numerous multi-agency professionals for the best outcome for children in their setting. In addition, it has a positive partnership with children’s classroom teachers and parents/carers. For example, they have termly meetings called annual reviews where the child’s one to one support assistant, the classroom teacher and other appropriate multi-agency members (Early Years teams, speech and language therapists, educational psychologists etc.) also attend. This is where a decision is made on the progress of that child and suggestions are made that will be paramount for the child’s future. In the last annual meeting for every child, the setting has to present a documented book and a video of the child’s progress that has taken place over the course of the year. This is a good thing because it demonstrates the child’s improvement and development. However, whilst highlighting areas of improvement it may highlight the child’s differences and challenges, which may not always be received positively by parents. Nevertheless, effective communication can encourage working in partnership with the family and other professionals. Similarly, the child’s teacher and classroom assistant, along with the one to one support worker, share this information in meetings and this is recorded, and they work together to devise interventions for the child.
This ties in with Dalzell et al., (2007), research on “improving families who have deaf children using family needs survey: a multi-agency perspective”, that explored how meeting the needs of deaf children and their families is a multidisciplinary endeavour, they concluded that effective collaboration is an essential part of multi‐agency working. However, it has been argued that it is important to remember that effective multi-agency collaboration is more than an exercise in information gathering, which many serious case reviews have highlighted (HM Government, 2018).
Marks et al. (1995), described the principle of multi-agency working as offering “participants a forum to debate issues, by giving professionals from different backgrounds the opportunity for inter-disciplinary discussion and by establishing a collaborative relationship between professionals and carers” (cited in Greenhouse, 2013, p.408). Differences between these professionals may lead to improved outcomes however, there may also be challenges as different professionals may have different expectations, approaches, and roles (Greenhouse, 2013). Therefore, it is useful to consider a theoretical framework whereby things can be mapped out, explored and understood.
One such theoretical framework was outlined by Greenhouse (2013), and is the Sociocultural Activity Theory which provides an outline for understanding how activities are restructured within a multi-agency team, whilst also consiidering the historical and cultural contexts in which changes to practice have taken place. Therefore, this framework can help influence current practices (Greenhouse, 2013). Sociocultural Activity Theory is associated with the work of Vygotsky (1920), who placed emphasis on the cultural and social factors that affect cognitive development (cited in Mcleod, 2018). Vygotsky introduced the idea that language plays a pivotal role in cognitive development (Mcleod, 2018). Similarly, Piaget (1936) also believed that sociocultural influences impact on children (MacLeod-Brudenell, 2008). Both theorists have influenced the curriculum in the UK as both help us understand how children’s interactions with their peers, teachers, parents and anyone else they come into contact with, impacts on their development.
In conclusion, this essay showed the principles of inclusive practice governed by legislation and expected of all settings including in Setting X’s policies. It has attempted to demonstrate the importance of collaborative work and the skills needed for multi-disciplinary teamwork, which requires training and regular discussions. In relation to the journals, the essay identified the potential key issues within inter-professional and multi-disciplinary working that impact upon inclusion and which all settings must consider in order to ensure that all children are included in their everyday practices. Conversely, the journals as well as the formative assessment also highlighted some of the problems with multiagency teamwork that must be considered when implementing policies and procedures. Nonetheless, all professionals have key knowledge and experience they can contribute but above everything it must be remembered that every child must be treated as unique and this must be reflected in their EHC plans and a collaborative, multi-agency approach must ensure all aspects of the child’s needs are addressed. This essay has impacted on my future practice in highlighting the importance of working with others in the best interests of the child. At Setting X, collaboration and teamwork is focal to our work. Similarly, the formative assessment which we undertook prior to this essay also emphasised the importance of how working together as part of team can boost positive outcomes.
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