Inclusion the dilemmas facing schools in identifying and implementing good practice

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Since 1997 there has been rapid acceleration of inclusion through Government policy; the Green Paper (Department for Education and Employment, 1997) and Special Education Needs Action Programme (Department for Education and Employment, 1998), leading up to the revised Code of Practice and the guidance which explains the policy of inclusion and how it might be implemented (Department for Education and Skills, 2001a; 2001b). The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 have taken these developments a step further. Education is clearly moving towards an increasing emphasis on inclusion. With this increased emphasis on inclusion come greater pressures for schools to endorse and implement good inclusive practice in their school environment. This paper will highlight some of the problems implementing inclusion can cause, but as inclusion incorporates such a large population of a school, it is not possible to discuss every problematic aspect of implementing inclusion.

One of the first barriers to inclusive education is to first of all understanding what it means. Since the Salamanca conference, the term inclusive education has taken on many different meanings around the world (Miles and Singal 2008: 9). Ainscow et al (2006:15) have developed a typology of six ways of thinking about inclusion; as a concern with disabled students and others categorised as having a special educational need, as a response to disciplinary exclusion, in relation to all groups being vulnerable to exclusion, as developing the school for all, as Education for All and as a principled approach to education and society. These different interpretations of inclusive education indicate that this is a conceptual confusion surrounding this issue, but perhaps also that it necessarily takes different forms, depending on contextual concerns (Miles and Singal 2008: 10). Essentially it is a process of challenging exclusion in schools and communities and of being vigilant about whatever threats to equity arise (Dyson, 2004: 615). Due to the ambiguity and lack of guidelines on implementing inclusion an OFSTED report (2002: 5) describes how LEAs found it hard to; arrive at realistic medium-term projections, achieve a satisfactory resolution to conflicts of interest, articulate and manage the implications of inclusion for the transfer of resources, provide adequately for pupils who present behaviour difficulties and defining a clear and appropriate role for special schools. It found often not achieving a satisfactory resolution to conflicts led to over lengthy discussions and frequently led to indecision. This exhausted relationships between LEAs and schools as well as LEAs and parents. Where a pupil is in possession of a statement, the LEA has a duty to ensure that the provision specified in the statement is made, and the LEA must make available the resources needed to meet the cost of the provision. It follows, therefore that the statement may be seen, not as an educational assessment and a prescription, but as a key to unlocking resources. Where this occurs, the effect on the LEA may be considerable. The budgetary implications are self-evident, but the impact may be broader, in that a culture may be created in which the main focus of SEN-related activity is the production of statements, not the alignment of resources to needs. The statement becomes an end to itself and not the means to an end, which is to improve the standards achieved by the pupils concerned and to extend the range of opportunities open to them. Such a development is likely to be productive only of bureaucracy and litigation. This is not a climate conducive to inclusion (OFSTED 2002: 18).

Schools that work particularly close with their feeder primary schools are able to identify those pupils in need or at risk of disengagement, and to give them a fresh start as they move into Year 7. Early identification of a pupils needs gives the opportunity for a learning mentor and parent-support advisor to work with the pupil and their family before and after the transfer to get to know them and gain their confidence. This helps ensure that the teachers in the secondary school are quickly able adapt to meet the needs of the pupil and help them settle in quickly (OFSTED, 2008: 9). Early identification can also help match pupils to staff with the most appropriate skills to meet their individual needs or provide the opportunity for Year 6 pupils to spend some time in the schools learning support centre before they moved so that they know what support would be available in their new school. (OFSTED, 2008:10). Mrs Kathleen Solisbury an experienced SENCO explained in an interview on 4th December some of the problems encountered with early identification of pupils needs. Most importantly the secondary school has to be aware that some pupils will have slipped thought the system and have not being identified as having an individual educational need that requires some kind of support before arriving at a secondary school. There are many reasons why this could quite easily happen; staff in the primary school might not want to label pupils at such a young age, the school may only have limited access to outside agencies or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) may just be the head of the school and not fully trained. To combat this problem the secondary school needs to make sure it has qualified teachers with the training required to help identify pupils that may have an individual education need.

In a study by Law (1993) he used focus groups and interviews with parents of 22 children with disabilities to explore cultural, institutional, physical and social environment factors associated with home, neighbourhood, school and community environments. He concluded the most frequent occurring barrier to activity and participation limitations for children with disabilities were institutional and attitudinal.

Parents felt frustrated with the regard to the lack of information and feeling of helplessness toward having their childrens needs addressed. To overcome these barriers parents expressed the necessity for better communication methods between the schools and parents, the opportunity to educate service providers about their childs needs and the provision of more coordinated and understandable information about programs and policies (Law. 1993).

Parents singled out the attitudinal and social barriers as the biggest difficulty for their children, including inappropriate comments, lack of knowledge, or rude behaviour by both adults and children. The main suggestion for improvement was to integrate and include individuals with disabilities within all aspects of society (Pivik et al. 2002: 99). Hanson et al. (2001) interviewed parents to determine their perspective of their childrens school experiences in order to identify those factors that influenced their inclusive placement decisions.

Although the majority of parents valued inclusive placements for their children with disabilities concerns about class size, availability of therapeutic services, acceptance by other children, attitudes about the childs disability, as well as teachers level of training and experience were expressed (Hanson et al. 2001).

These concerns could be assured by keeping close communication links with parents and informed of their childs progression and this will help to build a relationship between the schools and parents as well reducing the parents concerns for their child (Pivik et al. 2002: 105).

In order to successfully re-engaging disaffected or reluctant children, good systems for internal communication need to be in place. This ensures that all the relevant staff can receive essential information about disaffected students, including details of any planned interventions. This fosters a continuity approach which can help convince students and their families that the staff cared about them and wanted to meet their needs. While not shying away from giving difficult messages, a method of good practice is to convey positive information to parents and carers to help them see that their child is valued in the school (OFSTED 2008: 17). A key issue also reiterated in the interview with Kathleen Solisbury and noted in the OFSTED (2008: 21) report is communication and involvement with parents. A close partnership with parents or carers is fundamental to re-engaging and keeping students on track. Problems can arise from this as some parents/carers feel intimidated or embarrassed by visiting the school and therefore the school needs to address these apprehensions. Methods used were providing parents/carers with the telephone number of one particular member of staff to allow a relationship and consistency to develop. Once this bond has been created and any barriers removed it becomes allows effective communication of both difficult and positive messages to be exchanged. A harder barrier to overcome (Solisbury 2009), although it is very rare is when the parents/carers will not acknowledge that their child has an educational need that requires further support. This can put the school in a difficult position as the work the school provides for the student is often easily undone once the child returns to their parents/carers. This problem was also noted in the OFSTED (2008: 4-5) report along with two other factors working against the re-engagement of disaffected students: unwillingness on the part of the parents to work with the school and, in some cases, collusion with the students against the school; external influences and attractions that were mere compelling for the students than school, such as gangs, criminal activity an drug-use; and weaknesses in the provision made by the schools and other services for their students.

In mathematics teachers needs to consider the full requirements of the inclusion statement when planning for individuals or groups of pupils. Teachers will have to incorporate into their plans strategies on how to deal with potential barriers faced by the pupils in mathematics. Such circumstance may be to provide specific help with number recall or the interpretation of data in graphs, this will compensate for difficulties in the long- or short-term memory or visual discrimination. Other incidences may require help in interpreting or responding to oral directions when making mental calculations, to compensate for difficulties in hearing or with auditory discrimination (National Curriculum, n.d.). The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (2008) (QCA) have developed four documents to support inclusive teaching in mathematics; identifying gifted and talented (GAT) learners, planning, teaching and assessing the curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties, pathway to learning for new arrivals and respect for all. The first document gives guidance on identifying GAT learners, but also gives problems that can occur and prevent identification. A pupils inability to communicate their understanding will at first appear to be struggling with the work when their understanding is correct and sometimes exceptionally mathematically gifted pupils will reject obvious methods and answers as too easy, and then try to over-complicate the question. Therefore in order to identify GAT pupils in mathematics formal assessment is insufficient and enrichment and extension exercises should be provided and observed to see how the pupil accepts and challenges the work. The QCA (2001) published a document on planning, teaching and assessing the curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties for mathematics, which provides support for all adults who are concerned with meeting the needs of pupils with learning difficulties. They help overcome the barriers created by the learning difficulty and give advice on modifying the mathematics programme of study, improving access to the curriculum and assessing performance.

What is proving to be a common issue is the interpretation and implementation of inclusion in to practice. Far too often too much time is been spent over concerns about inputs and settings that needs to be spent on developing experiences and outcomes for the pupils. It is crucial that the school and LEA provide an approach focusing on both the rights of children and the effectiveness of their education. Clear guidelines need to be researched and produced to help inform LEAs and schools how to implement policy on inclusion into practice. When researching these guidelines careful consideration needs to be taken when determining what is good practice, Linday (2003: 10) describes the need for more highly developed, substantial studies using quasi-experimental approaches to examine the strengths, and relative impacts, of a range of factors, together with qualitative examination of the experiences of key participants in order to help determine good practice.