Critical reflection on principles and significance of inclusion

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The notion of inclusion was first advocated following the publication of the Warnock report (1978) which suggested that children with Special Educational Needs (henceforth SEN) should be educated in mainstream, rather than special, schools. In essence the suggested approach aimed to prevent separation and isolation of those pupils with special educational needs from those who fall into the 'normal' category.

The Warnock report formed the basis of the Education Act 1981 which also aimed to provide for special educational needs. The Act defines a child with a special educational need "if s/he has a learning difficulty requiring special educational provision. The 'learning difficulty' includes not only physical and mental disabilities, but also any kind of learning difficulty experienced by a child, provided that it is significantly greater than that of the majority of children of the same age."

Inclusion in today's schools should ensure that all educational needs are catered for, for all pupils, including those needs which are not defined as Special educational needs (such as by the definition above) but are educational needs.

In order to evaluate the value and impact of inclusion, it is first necessary to define 'inclusion', especially as it is often confused with 'integration'. However integration is a necessary component of an effective policy for inclusion.

Integration implies that the child must meet certain criteria for admission to mainstream schooling and thus there is an assumption that the pupil must adapt to school rather than the school inviting a greater diversity of pupils. Integration therefore is not designed to adapt to and provide for increased attainment i.e. it does not adapt to a diverse pupil range (Mittler, 2000). Whereas inclusion has been defined as the need for establishments to adapt and be flexible to accommodate each and every child e.g. Sebba and Sachdev 1997, Tassoni 2003. In this way inclusion addresses the child's right to be educated and expects that the school will adapt the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy (relating to Q1)in line with the fundamental concepts identified by the Salamanca Statement:

Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve,

Every child has unique characteristics and learning needs,

Educational systems should be designed and implemented to cater for the wide diversity of these needs,

Those with SEN must have access to regular schools which have a child-centred pedagogy.

(UNESCO, 1994 referenced in Arthur & Cremin, 2010)

 

Inclusion in education involves valuing all staff members (relates to Q20) and students and provides a range of experiences evocative of the diverse social and cultural make-up of its students. Effective inclusion will ensure that children get more opportunities to participate in curricula, are exposed to local cultures and communities local to the school (relates to Q18). In order to offer an effective inclusive approach, knowledge, understanding and skills, resources and the correct positive attitudes are absolutely essential from the school where peers are stimulated to adopt inclusive attitudes also. It is important to understand each child in the class, his/her requirements and achievements in order to cater for changing needs. The teacher must understand barriers to learning with a repertoire of coping strategies to prevent exclusion from the learning goals (relates to Q25). A collaborative working relationship with outside agencies is essential as they provide expert specialist knowledge through greater experience and extensive resources to aid with educational and social needs. Such links would mean that resources and experiences are available to staff to ensure the correct attitudes, experiences and resources to be able to exceed the needs of any child (relates to Q6).

It is important to adopt and apply inclusive teaching methods as early as possible in the educational lifecycle; satisfying the needs of a child at a young age is essential to establish the foundations of education and aid with development. Thus children must be afforded the required teaching as soon as possible/as soon as a need is identified. Developing an effective relationship with parents will aid enormously in education as they are able to continue learning at home as well as provide vital information about their child that will help in their education (relates to Q4 and Q5). This has increased importance for children where learning does not come easily. By encouraging a collaborative approach between staff and provision of feedback it becomes possible to ensure that a child has a consistent approach to their needs with smooth transitions between the different phases of their education (relates to Q6). This will aid the child's ability to progress well and focus on learning without the upheaval of change.

Planning for a wide ability range and range of needs is clearly important for all children (relates to Q22), again with an increased significance for those with extreme educational needs. Thus it is important to develop a curriculum which is not exclusive but sets suitable learning challenges by:

Teaching knowledge, understanding and skills in ways that uphold high expectations (relates to Q1).

Choosing knowledge, skills and understanding from later key stages (relates to Q2, 5, 6).

Satisfying the abilities and learning needs of pupils.

Gifted and talented exceed the expected level of attainment.

Modifying the curriculum to meet the needs of the learners.

The school needs to respond to all the pupils' diverse learning needs:

Creating effective learning environments - A varied but balanced range of strategies will normally include teaching knowledge, concepts and skills in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic ways (relates to Q25a).  

Securing motivation and concentration - allowing the pupils to feel secure in their learning and abilities and surroundings.

By setting manageable and achievable targets; Differentiation satisfies the needs of a range of children and is appropriate even if no student has SEN (relates to Q19) , the children's attainment range could spread across several National Curriculum (NC) levels. It is usually adequate to differentiated at three levels.

Use appropriate assessment methods to provide opportunities for all pupils and allow planning for future lessons (relates to Q28).

By recognising the value of different cultural and social experiences which influence learning.

Providing equality of opportunity through teaching approaches for every child to have the opportunity to learn and at a high level (relates to Q25a). Promoting creativity as a powerful way to engage all pupils with their learning. By actively planning for and responding to pupils' creative ideas and actions, teachers can improve motivation and engagement, enhance literacy and numeracy skills, and develop wider learning skills for adult life.

To facilitate learning, assessment with a view to planning and overcome potential barriers requires:

An understanding of the pupils cultural background

Communication skills in English of pupil

Information about prior learning experiences

Experiences that may affect their emotional well-being

Need to plan learning opportunities that will help remove any barriers to learning a pupil might have.

I.E.Ps showing relevant teaching strategies

Provision mapping to show the type of additional provision an individual student receives as part of the overall additional provision

All these areas are linked and are important to each other for the inclusive curriculum to work. Responding to pupils' diverse needs means they need to be able to be taught with a range of teaching styles, with access to a range of resources which are appropriate for all needs. Learning objectives must be set at suitable levels to encourage challenging learning which is progressive (relates to Q25).

I have witnessed a number of effective inclusive environments which have had a clear positive effect on pupils. In one of the schools I have been in I have seen that the classes are differentiated by activity and ability which allows all the children to take part, one child who has SEN in the class is encouraged to join in the lowest group's activities until the activity would become impossible for him to achieve because of his abilities, whilst still achieving goals of his personalised IEP.

I have also seen deaf children being taught in the same classes as hearing children with the teacher and assistants signing and speaking the lessons. The work is all the same the only differentiated is by ability as normal; nobody is treated differently. This experience provided a number of strategies for future planning to make sure that everyone is included e.g. signs and symbols were on all the displays to help all children learn sign language and thus include those who are deaf.

Inclusion will ensure that all children will have gained valuable experiences that will shape them into being well rounded adults without prejudice to others. Through a rounded curriculum and effective pedagogy, inclusion brings about the desired outcomes of ECM for a bigger number of young adults. Inclusion will help the local community by nurturing accepting and caring children whilst helping children to grow and become adults who are able to make a positive contribution to their local community. This extends to gaining valuable employment which allows them to enjoy economic well-being and the access to resources/services employment brings, including further education opportunities and continual professional development.

There can be some negative effects on other children if those children with SEN draw all the attention. Alternatively if the work is simplified to accommodate the SEN child without the correct differentiation to push the more able child, inclusion develops a negative influence.

As demonstrated, inclusion has a major impact on all pupils. With the correct balance of resources, staff and their pedagogy to the range of abilities admitted to the school inclusion can be beneficial. However, the inclusive approach must not be detrimental to any other pupil.

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