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Education Scotland makes certain inclusion is a key priority within Scottish education. The purpose of the writing is to discuss in detail why inclusion takes precedence and what the significant change in meaning proposes for schools and teachers today. In order to do this effectively, the writing will demonstrate an understanding of the concept of an ‘inclusive school’ and what exactly it entails. Particular aspects of an ‘inclusive school’ will be considered, such as, the curriculum, disability, behaviour management and lifestyle of gypsy and travelling families. These aspects will be examined thoroughly to suggest implications for me as an individual teacher. It is necessary to analyse the professional impact of inclusion policies and draw on placement experience, offering exemplification of how inclusion was reflected. Throughout, findings from literature and other sources will be referred to in order to justify the piece of writing, informing discussion and argument.
In previous years there has been a growing debate regarding the meaning of ‘inclusion’. The original meaning was solely based on children who a disability or learning need. The term ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) was established by the 1978 Warnock Report (Department for Education and Science (DES), 1978) and was seen as a more acceptable way of viewing children, than the earlier definition of ‘handicaps’ which derived from the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974.
The expressions ‘integration’ or ‘mainstreaming’ were used to direct the attention to children with SEN who were placed in mainstream schools. Thus, came the idea from Warnock (DES, 1978) who believed there were three key types of integration. These were, locational, social and functional (DES, 1978). ‘Locational’ was when children with SEN were placed in a unit/base within a mainstream school, however were distanced from the mainstream children. ‘Social’ was seen to be when children with SEN were integrated with mainstream children for social events, but were separated for the rest of the time. Lastly, ‘functional’ was where children, regardless of disability, were located in their local mainstream school and placed in the same classroom as their mainstream peers.
Shortly afterwards, advances meant that the term ‘integration’ was used more widely to describe provision rather than the three key types defined in the Warnock Report (DES, 1978). This stemmed further controversy concerning the exact meaning of ‘integration’. The term was criticised and was later claimed that integration was not anxious with the worth of children’s experiences in mainstream schools but much rather the inclusive pedagogy (Farrell and Ainscow 2002). While children were included in the school environment, the principles of an ‘inclusive school’ were not meeting their purpose. Allan (2008), as cited by Bryce and Humes (2008) argued that even children in mainstream schools could be ‘segregated’ (feel isolated) within a classroom, which posed the question, ‘how were teachers to know if children’s needs were met adequately?’
For several reasons, the term SEN was emphasised which lead to a more common way in describing the degree to which a child who had SEN, was truly ‘integrated’ within mainstream schools (Farrell and Ainscow, 2002). In this sense, the term signified the degree to which a school was welcoming and valued individual contributions. Inclusion, therefore, had to more effective in allowing all children to be included and participate fully in the learning environment in order for individual learning needs to be met. Within my placement school there were three supported classes where all experiences were catered for individual children’s needs. Staff worked effectively to ensure all children from the supported classes attended appropriate mainstream classes. For example, one boy in the supported class 7/6/5 attended Primary 4 on a Wednesday morning for Maths. Unfortunately, several schools have not yet moved with the times and still believe children with a disability or who have severe learning difficulties must be segregated from their mainstream peers (Ekens and Grimes, 2009). I will ensure my positive attitude to this shines through and everything possible is done to include and meet children’s needs.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was established in 1989 and was the first legislative document to deal with the rights of the child globally. The agreement has 54 articles which highlight the importance of human rights. Many of the rights are centred on inclusion, particular within education. Two articles that emphasise this are article 28 and 29 which give children the entitlement to an education and affirm that education ought to increase children’s talents in enabling them to reach their full potential. It is evident from placement experience how difficult it is for teachers to progress all children to allow them to reach their full potential. This is due to the wide range of abilities there is within any one classroom. Although this is the aim for all teachers, it is a compound matter that requires great skill in achieving (Loreman, Deppeler and Harvey, 2009).
Coinciding with the UNCRC (1989), the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 made clear all children go to mainstream schools unless factors, such as unsuitability, harmfulness to other children or cost prohibited children in doing so. The Act had many similarities with the UNCRC (1989); however the main change was that it passed on the right to children to have a say in their education rather than it solely being down to their parents/carers having the decision. Unlike the Warnock Report (DES, 1978) these two pieces of legislation moved away from ‘integration’ and concentrated more on ‘inclusion’. It was clear from this that forthcoming legislation was considering the concept of ‘inclusion’ much wider than just disability.
Count Us In: Achieving Inclusion in Scottish Schools (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE), 2003) was one of the forthcoming documents to have a different perspective. The report stressed the prominence of inclusion being a ‘key priority’ within Scottish education. Throughout the report, suggestions are given to teachers on how to approach inclusion and features of what makes an ‘inclusive school’ are stated. One feature focuses on providing an inclusive curriculum for all children using the support from services and outer agencies to help enhance learning. Both Cline and Frederickson (2009) also believe this is a significant factor in developing an inclusive school. The Scottish curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) (Scottish Government, 2007) caters for children aged from three to eighteen and provides a smooth and seamless transition from sector to sector. Every sector use the same curriculum which not only is inclusive for children but also for staff as this is maintained right through to secondary school. Those who are involved in children’s learning collaborate effectively ensuring previous learning is built upon, making transition and learning as inclusive as possible (Scottish Government, 2007). This links with the principle ‘coherence’ of CfE (Scottish Government, 2007) which stresses the importance of learning being clearly connected and developed from previous experiences. Reeves and Fox (2008) however, disagree with the curriculum being inclusive in this sense as they say that it is school practices that influence teacher’s attitudes. If schools disregard collaborative approaches as an effective step to successful transition then they will take no pride in doing so, which results in the curriculum being far from inclusive. Having awareness of the benefits, I will endeavour to cooperate with other professionals to make children’s transitions as efficient as possible.
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