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Critically discuss the implications of this for your work in school and consider strategies for meeting the needs of learners from a diverse range of backgrounds, making specific reference to supporting learners who have English as an Additional Language. (2000 words)
Since the 1970s legislation and policy has come into effect which has prompted a change within the educational debate, towards the issues of equal opportunities. A move towards inclusion, minimising occurrences of exclusion, has occurred within schools (Cohen, Manion, Morrison and Wyse 2010) and consequently inclusive education has been 'one of the most important concepts to emerge in the UK and internationally in recent years '(Armstrong 2011, p7).
This essay will focus on this term inclusion, however in defining and understanding this notion of inclusion we will first look at diversity and equality and what these terms involve. It will go on to consider the key statutory and non statutory curricula and initiatives relating to equality, diversity and inclusion. The essay will then move on to focus upon learning and teaching strategies that can be utilised to promote effective learning for all, before making specific reference to supporting learners who have English as an Additional Language (EAL).
The word diverse is simply defined in the oxford dictionary as 'showing a great deal of variety; very different' (Oxford Dictionary Online) however this is not a universal definition. Diversity is very difficult to define; this is because the term very much depends on what you are looking at and also what you are thinking about, diversity therefore has come to mean different things in different contexts. (Armstrong, 2010 and Cline and Frederickson 2009, Clough and Corbett 2000)
Knowles and Lander (2011) believe that people have an individual definition of diversity. They acknowledge the importance of identity when it comes to our interpretations of the term as they believe that our understandings about ourselves, for example our values and attitudes, will impact on how we approach this notion of diversity, and that we can indirectly create barriers to achievement for children unless we have had the opportunity to reflect on these personal understandings.
Equality is a very important aspect of education as it links to the idea that all children are entitled to the same opportunities in life and therefore race, gender and culture should not affect this. Alexander has stated that some of the Cambridge Primary Review witnesses have suggested that inequality can in fact be a product of parents attitudes and culture whom lack interest for their children in school, and therefore suggested that this inequality is 'born at home' (2010, p119). Nevertheless within education it has been understood that equality is an integral part of quality early years provision (Burgess-Macey and Crichlow).
Inclusion is a term that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late eighties to early nineties and was endorsed by The UNESCO Salamanca Statement (Allan and Slee, 2008). The notion of inclusive education 'rests on the belief that all members of the community have a right to participate in, and have access to, education on an equal basis' (Armstrong 2011 pg 7). Inclusion is therefore a concept that encompasses the beliefs of equality and educational diversity. Cohen, Manion, Morrison and Wyse (2010) state that inclusion concerns being educated in an ordinary school, having access to the same curriculum, and being accepted by all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or special needs.
It is important to note here that inclusion is not the same thing as integration. Previous to the term inclusion, integration was implanted within the 1981 Education Act and the term was reluctantly written into legislation (Allan and Slee, 2008). Integration focuses on how the individual fits in to the school or the class, therefore looking at the deficits of the child, rather than the deficits of the school to include all pupils (Armstrong 2011). It has been argued by Norwich that 'inclusion has come to replace integration, the latter being seen simply as physical placement in the mainstream school but having to assimilate the 'unchanged mainstream system', the former implying that the mainstream system has to change to accommodate the learners needs, restructuring itself in order to accomplish this.' (Cohen, Manion, Morrison and Wyse, 2010, p292)
Unlike integration, inclusion is concerned with reducing all exclusionary pressures in education and society. Inclusion within education concerns increasing participation and reducing exclusion in learning opportunities, and is a cyclical process which is therefore never-ending (Booth 2003). In order to understand the emergence of inclusive education we need to look at the development of the key statutory and non statutory curricula surrounding it and the affects this has on inclusion.
'Educational policy-making and change affect diverse groups of learners, even when a particular policy or Act of Parliament appears o be focused on just one group or one area of education' (F, Armstrong, 1998).
It must be first noted that there is an inconsistency with the way in which policy documents utilise the term inclusion and therefore it has often been linked to students with special educational needs rather than as a term for all learners.
As stated earlier, a change in government legislation towards a view of the idea of equal opportunities was in the 1970's. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 focused on the issues of discrimination in terms of gender and race, and following this the Warnock Committee was set up. This committee then lead on to the production of the Warnock Report of 1978 which focused on special educational needs (SEN). The Warnock Report concluded that 20% of children in the school population could have SEN however only 2% may need support further to that a mainstream school could provide. The Warnock Report therefore recommended that a specialist provision should be for these children (Douglas Silas Solicitors). Among other things the Warnock Report implied that the educational needs of a child may vary according to the factors occurring within the school attended, this report therefore had a widespread influence upon subsequent SEN policy and practice (D, Armstrong 1998).
The Warnock Report gave rise to the Education Act 1981 which established a new framework for managing SEN. An integrative approach was introduced which was based on common educational goals for all regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This integrative approach as discussed earlier has been replaced now by the inclusive approach. Following on from this during the 1980's and 1990's a considerable decline was witnessed in the number of children in 'special schools'. Legislation following the 1981 Act has demonstrated a development in attitude that has taken place since the Warnock Report towards the aim of trying to include all children in a common education framework (House of Commons, 2006).
The Education Reform Act 1988 introduced the National Curriculum in which the majority of power in decisions of what was taught in schools from the age of 5 to 16 was taken away from Local Education Authorities and instead became the power of central government (F, Armstrong, 1998). The Act also introduced a system of league tables in which schools were competing for academic attainment. When relating to SEN and inclusion this was not the most popular introduction, as demonstrated in the statement by Baroness Warnock who 'described things as getting "far worse from 1988 onwards...for children with SEN...who...were not going to help the league tables".' (House of Commons 2006) The act was also seen to emphasise a difference between schools, and thus increased competition between schools (Harris, 1994).
The Green Paper, Excellence for All Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs was produced in 1997, and has been developed through subsequent legislation. This paper identities the government's vision for the education of children with special education needs and disabilities (DfE, 2012) and gives support to the UN statement on Special Needs Education 1994 which called on the adoption of the principle of inclusive education and implied that mainstream schools should moving in the direction to be able to provide for children with a wide range of needs. The education system was therefore for the first time aligned to the international movement towards inclusive education (House of Commons, 2006)
Every child matters is another green paper which has been produced
The Equality Act 2010
The current inclusion statement from the Department of Education is 'Inclusion: Providing effective learning opportunities for all children, emphasises the importance of providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils and offers three key principles for inclusion: setting suitable learning challenges, responding to pupil's diverse needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.' (DFE, 2012)
Index for Inclusion