A child’s sense of individual worth, social and educational values may all be placed under the broad topic of special education inclusion. It is a very controversial subject as it seeks to address issues in relation to whether or not we seek to value all children equally in the classroom setting. A child is not the only individual that the issue of inclusion affects, in fact, inclusion is a political arena with multiple participants; parents, teachers, the Government, and disability groups policymakers that may oppose each other (Vaughan, 2004). All these groups have a different vision of what Inclusion means. Therefore it is almost impossible to judge whether the policy of inclusion is effective or not. This issue is problematic because, individuals have different views as to what the term inclusion mean. This however, creates an erroneous perception of the true meaning of inclusion; inclusion now becomes a false conception that is resistant to any reasoning or confrontation. The true concept of inclusion as it relates to special education is now widely mistaken with a concept that is delusively believed.
According to The SENCO Handbook, policy makers and practitioners are now at a disadvantage being that there is the lack of an agreed definition and of the few definitions that are there, they are mostly based upon differing combinations of educational, social, moral and human rights grounds (Cowne, 2010). This delusion brings forth confusion and concerns as Evans and Lunt (2002) stated, “But what does inclusion mean in practice, does it mean that the local school should provide for 100 per cent of its local pupils, for 99 or 98 per cent, or some other proportion? Does it mean that all pupils should be educated together in the same class or in the same school, and with the same teacher? Should particular schools include particular pupils, thus enabling pupils to attend mainstream though not their local school? Does it include on-site or off-site units” (www.nausuwt.org.uk)cited 04/04/11).
Misconception as it relates to inclusion in the classroom however will cause conflict towards the very decision of how we determine which child inclusion is suitable for. This poses the question as to whether or not there are some children for whom “inclusion” is inappropriate. James Kauffman of the university of Virginia views inclusion as a “policy driven by an unrealistic expectation that money will be saved”. Furthermore, he argues that trying to force all students in the inclusion mould is just as coercive and discriminatory as trying to force all students into the mould of a special education class or residential institution. Kauffman states that “democratic ideals make it seem inappropriate to remove an individual from established places, such as regular classrooms” (www.weac.org/issues, 2007) cited 04/04/2011. He believes that there is one reason educators and parents often suggest bringing special-education services to students in regular classroom rather than students receiving services at other locales. There are advocates who argue that inclusive schools are not as cost effective response when compared to cheaper or more effective intervention, such as special education. They argue that special education helps ‘fix’ the special needs students by providing individualized and personalized instruction to meet their unique needs. Proponents counter that students with special needs are not fully into the mainstream of student life because they are secluded to special education (www.weac.org/issues, 2007).
Armstrong (1996) put forward the idea that “inclusion is a system of education which recognises the right of all children and young people to share a common educational environment in which all are valued equally, regardless of differences in perceived ability, gender, class, ethnicity or learning styles”. In addition, Cigman (2007) defines Inclusion as “a process that includes policies and practices that is applicable to all children from diverse background and cultures. It is also known to be a fundamental framework supported through the government’s agenda, with the aim to ensure that all children are included in both educational and social settings”.
Mainstreaming however influences a slightly different perception from inclusive education. Schools that practice mainstreaming believe that special needs students who cannot function in a regular classroom to certain extent belong to the special education settings, whilst inclusion rejects the idea of separating students with disabilities from students without disabilities. Both concepts tend to be concerned mainly with disability and special educational needs, as the Warnock Report clearly put forward the idea that “Integration for the disabled means a thousand things. For example, the absence of segregation, social acceptance, being able to be treated like everybody else, the right to work, to go to cinemas, to enjoy outdoor sport, to have a family life and a social life, to contribute materially to the community, to have the usual choices of association, movement and activity, to go on holiday to the usual places, to be educated up to university level with normal peers, to travel without fuss on public transportâ€¦” (Warnock, 1978). However inclusive education for disabled children is mainly about the child’s right to participate and the school’s duty to accept the pupil (Cigman, 2007). According to the book, Removing Barriers to Achievement “Inclusion is about much more than the type of school that children attend: it is about the quality of their experience; how they are helped to learn, achieve and participate fully in the life of the school” (DfES, 2003).
Inclusion is further subdivided into two other concepts, regular inclusion or partial inclusion and the other is full inclusion. Regular inclusion differs from full inclusion in the sense that the main objective of full inclusion is to integrate all students in the classroom setting, even those that require the most severe educational and behavioural supports and services to be successful in regular classes and the elimination of special segregated classes. In terms of regular inclusion students with special needs are placed in regular classes for either the entire school period or for at least more than half the day. However, specialized services such as speech therapy or services that utilize equipment that might be disruptive to the rest of the class, provisions are usually made outside a regular classroom for student to receive these special instructions (www.wikipedia.org).
Sims (1995) stated that “effective teachers are those who understand the importance of involving all students in learning how to learn”. Effective learning occurs when the teacher affirm the presence and validity of diverse learning styles and maximize the climate or conditions for learning in and out of the classroom through the deliberate use of instructional design principles that take account of learning differences and increase the possibilities of success for all learners.
Most theorist are of the view that inclusion is a “practice philosophically attractive yet impractical, and that studies have not corroborated that proposed advantages of full or partial inclusion” (www.wikipedia.org). On the other hand there are advocates who believed that inclusion promotes the adoption of progressive education which is based on the principle that humans are social animals who learn best in real-life activities with other people (Vaughan, 2004). John Dewey’s model of learning however facilitates this idea (Mooney, 2000). In addition, he stated that “the student should become aware of the problem, define the problem, propose hypotheses to solve it evaluate the consequences of the hypotheses from one’s past experience and test the likeliest solution”. This theory gives schools that practice inclusion the advantage to incorporate learning activities in the classroom that will give each student in the classroom student who require special education or not the opportunity to participate more in the classroom (Mooney, 2000). Facilitators can now incorporate teaching methods that will encourage student’s participation and motivation. In the progressive education or inclusive classroom, every child is exposed to a rich set of activities and each student does what he or she can do, or what he or she wishes to do and learns whatever comes from that experience (Jones, 2004).
In order for inclusive education to become effective teachers have to change their whole approach towards teaching; inclusion mainly relies on active learning rather than passive (Susanne, 2005). According to International Special Education (2000) Major findings revealed that inclusion was practiced in all the schools, however not all teachers felt that they were actively involved in it, despite the fact that students with disabilities were mainstreamed into their classrooms. Several educational models of inclusion were identified, yet each school seemed to have used its own variation and interpretation of inclusion. Teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion were favourable, yet they identified several difficulties and issues related to inclusion. These included teacher knowledge in remedial practices, lack of professional support, class size, behaviour problems and school climate (ISEC, 2000).
In England and Wales the National Curriculum statement have established inclusive teaching as a “general teaching requirement and subsequent guidance has consistently presented the view that all teachers are teachers of children with special educational needs” (House of Commons, 2009). In Scotland, guidance on the curriculum The Structure and Balance of the Curriculum: 5-14 National Guidelines makes reference to the need for the curriculum to be “inclusive and promote equality of opportunity for all” (DfES, 2003). As it relates to Initial Teacher Education, there is the perception that more training is necessary in relation to special educational needs. The provision of training needs be planned to build confidence as well as competence as there are important links between classroom experiences, a sense of preparedness and teacher self-efficacy (Cigman, 2007).
There is widespread view that the main purpose of inclusion is about the closure of special schools, but in fact there are policies still in place to recognize the need for some children to be educated in special need schools. The aim however is to modify the role of special schools with increasing emphasis on supporting mainstream inclusion and building capacity within the wider workforce. Every year the Department for Education (DfES) publishes information on the performance of pupils in all schools. These tables are a guide to how well a school is performing. Ofsted list National Curriculum test results for primary schools and examination results for all secondary schools in England. Ofsted inspects all state schools in England at least every three years. After the inspection is done, Ofsted publishes a report which is available to the public. The assessment takes into consideration performance data, pupils work. The inspection report also includes an overall assessment of the school’s performance along with specific judgment on pupils’ personal development and wellbeing, the quality of teaching and learning, the care guidance and support provided by the school. These factors however militate against Inclusion ( House of Commons, 2009).
Because Ofsted only does inspection every three year many schools make the initiative to do annual report of their schools’ performance assessing the same areas identified by Ofsted, every year to the general public. Within the school setting, their main goal should at all times be to perform at their very best in order to be recognised as the most outstanding school. In order to ensure that the school profile is always kept at a high standard, provisions are made to keep students with special educational needs outside of the regular classes or sometimes even outside of the school being that there is the notion that students with special educational needs may not perform well on exams and assessments thereby lowering the overall score of the school. Since 1997 in England and Wales the language of individual pupil needs has increasingly been replaced by a policy grounded in a school effectiveness/school improvement paradigm which seeks to improve pupil achievement by transforming schools (Armstrong 2005). Throughout the history of special educational needs the principal focus was to cater for the individual, this however impose the potential of confusion the education systems tries to adopt to the whole concept of inclusion.
In conclusion, education is the key to success; it prepares individuals for a better future. However, there are too many barriers that are hindering them from obtaining enough support and the right education. It might be the case that the limitation on the support that SEN children obtain depends on where they live rather than focusing on their own needs (DfES 2003).
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