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This essay will identify one UK initiative within Early Years that aims to address issues relating to inequality and inclusion. It will discuss the inequalities and the subsequent negative effects that this initiative aims to address. It will analyse the potential impact of the initiative. 'Removing barriers to achievement' was a Government initiative in 2004 to enable children with additional needs to reach their full potential, by giving opportunities to play, learn and develop. It promoted the importance of involving children with SEN in making decisions about their own learning through communication with them. It had a vision to support early years' settings, schools and local authorities in making improvements in provisions. It built on the Every Child Matters outcomes and using integrated services to improve inclusive practice.
It covered four key areas; early intervention through providing access to suitable childcare for children and families; removing barriers to learning through inclusive practice in every setting; raising expectations and achievements, through improving teaching skills and strategies for meeting the needs of children with SEN; and delivering the importance of partnership through an integral approach so parents can be confident that their children will get the education they need. (Lloyd ) Dewey described how a balanced curriculum of children's active learning and high quality teaching of knowledge was needed for experimental education.
It is necessary to understand what is meant by equality and inclusion and this essay will aim to clarify this.
With regard to inclusion the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework (9:1.13) suggests:
"providers should deliver individualised learning, development and care that enhances the development of the children in their care and gives those children the best possible start in life"
Through the EYFS practitioners use the four themes of unique child, Positive relationships, enabling environment and learning and development to enable inclusive practice. It is each provisions responsibility to remove barriers to inclusion, be a positive role model for valuing diversity, challenge children and be alert to signs of exclusion. The National Children's Bureau and Early Years Equality Organisation have proposed a sixth outcome, namely to be equal- feel you belong. The benefits of inclusion for children in Early Years are immense. Children learn to value others and in turn they too are valued. Their individual needs are catered for and they are able to play in enriched environments, where they can learn about others backgrounds and cultures. Early Years settings need to have commitment to inclusive practice to enable children to achieve.
Inclusive practice takes into account the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, which stated that all children and young people have the right to say what they think about matters that affect them and that they are taken seriously. ( )
Equality in Early Years is concerned with meeting the needs of individual children. It includes everyone regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, family background, home language, learning difficulties, disabilities, gender or ability. (MacLeod-Brudenell 2004:257) Children are influenced by their home environment, family values and social factors. Vygotsky described that a child's development is embedded in society and that they are a meaningful member from birth. (Fawcett 2009:49) Bruner developed a scaffolding approach based on Vygotsky's zones of proximal development, he believed children learnt within their cultural environment. It is important therefore to value children's culture so that they develop. Bronfenbrenner's 'systems' suggested that not only was the child influenced by immediate family (micro), the wider social context of school (meso) and parents work places and Government (exo) also had an effect on them.
Research into the benefits for children attending a high quality preschool provision was completed by the 2004 Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) Government project which stated the importance of inclusion and recognised the significance of the Early Years. It stated that with regard to SEN settings should provide different learning opportunities to meet the needs of individual children. (Fawcett 2009:93) EPPE concluded that early intervention was a key factor in improving children's cognitive development.
This essay will highlight learning difficulties and disabilities and the Governments strategy to address inequality and inclusion. Children who need extra support in areas such as behavioural or emotional, physical or sensory, speech and language are said to have a Special Educational Need (SEN).
The SEN Code of practice (Dfes 2001) is used by providers to ensure children with SEN are given support that is required to meet their specific needs. Guidance on how to identify, assess and ) provide help is contained in the code which should be used in conjunction with the provisions policy for SEN. If a child had been identified within a setting as having SEN they are entitled to having additional programme of support described as Early Years Action. Parents are informed throughout and if it becomes necessary to involve professionals, such a speech and language therapists or child psychologists the child is then entitled to a programme described as Early Years Action Plus.
Individual Education Plans (IEP) are devised for children with SEN in settings to support and develop individual learning. These often highlight specific areas of concern or developmental need. Close partnership with parents and professionals impact on children's learning and development often resulting in better transitions to other settings or school entry. Observations and assessments are valuable in early intervention. However, would it be more valuable for IEP's to become integral to planning for all children, having regard for Every Child Matters outcomes and the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, which valued individualised learning and development.
Funding for SEN has increased from £2.8 billion to £4.1 billion in the last four years, a Parliament publication described, however there are still children being let down by the system which causes frustration to parents, children schools and local authorities. The Education and Skills Act of 2008 stated it was the duty of local authorities to promote young peoples' participation in education and training.
The Warnock report in 1978 introduced the integrated approach, now known as inclusive approach and statements of SEN. This report was similar to 'removing barriers to achievement' and Every Child Matters because it put the child at the centre of its agenda and used a team work approach. However, Warnock suggested in 2005 that unless there was a change in priority given to children with SEN the initiative would not achieve its aim. Warnock was described by the Disability Rights Commission as stating section 8 of the Human Rights Act which announced children have
"the right to personal development and right to establish relationships with other human beings and the outside world"
She suggested that the importance for the child was that they were able to achieve this, not particularly where they achieved it, she believed special schools were the way forward for some children with SEN and not others.
Inequalities and neg effects this initiative aims to address........
The challenges facing children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) are that too many children are waiting too long to have their needs met. Early intervention is hindered by lack of funding or poor coordination between professionals.
Mainstream settings are unsure how they will manage, they may feel ill equipped, so children may be turned away. Developing staff skills needs to be a priority.
Special schools feel they may have an uncertain future.
Families face variations in levels of support that is available to them within their Local Authority. The 'postcode lottery' that exists needs careful consideration and change.
The 'removing barriers to achievement' initiative aims to raise expectations and achievement through personalised education, building on what children already know and can do. It understands the need for children to be active learners.
Every Child Matters believed that early intervention was the key to supporting children with SEN. Using an integrated approach such as Common Assessment Framework (CAF) the team of preschool, health service, parents and professionals assess the needs of individual children through careful observations. Because it is important to note that children behave differently in different situations the CAF would prove useful for putting all relevant observations together to produce an assessment.
Potential impact of initiative...
The inclusive approach to promoting the potential and welfare of children with SEN will provide better outcomes for children. High quality, flexible provisions who value parental involvement would lead to early identification and intervention. It was hoped that the 'removing barriers to achievement' initiative would provide training and academic support for staff.
The 'removing barriers to achievement' initiative believed that over time the number of children attending special schools would fall. Increased knowledge and capabilities in mainstream settings would enable this to happen, however the Government still accepted some children needed the education provided by special schools.
The University of Cambridge reported in a Parliament publication that there was evidence that children who would have previously attended special schools were thriving in mainstream education. However it also reported that some teachers and schools felt ill equipped to cope with children with SEN.
OFSTED, 2004 described there to be a significant lack of progress in provisions concerning SEN. A Parliament publication suggested OFSTED had commented
"progress in learning remains slower than it should be for a significant number of pupils"
Although OFSTED stated the programme raised awareness of the benefits for inclusion and had made some improvements to practice, it also suggested this was only in a minority of schools it visited.
A Parliament publication described how Lord Adonis, the Under Secretary of State for schools and Minister with responsibility for SEN commented "the current system is not working perfectly" he suggested that some families were still not receiving adequate support, causing frustration.
Research into how the programme has progressed is still only on a small scale, little has been produced to consider the social impact of inclusion on SEN children and their peers in mainstream schools. A study by Education Exeter in 2010 will look at friendships and social interactions with regard to inclusion. This will prove useful in understanding how much children are affected by the programme aimed at removing barriers to achievement.
A key priority is training of the Early Years workforce in recognising SEN and intervening early, however is increasing funding enough to make this happen. According to Dyson (cited Lloyd ) is the programme more concerned with improving National Standards rather than the participation and inclusion of children with SEN? Would a change in the curriculum better suit removing barriers to achievement through developing it to reflect the holistic approach rather than children achieving on a scale? P scales are a compulsory part of educating children with SEN that are working below level 1 of the national curriculum.
The Inclusion development programme which was launched following the 'removing barriers to achievement' is guidance for provisions focusing on specific areas of SEN. It gives useful information and guidance for provisions to improve inclusive practice through training materials, information concerning where to find specific help and advice. It is an invaluable learning resource to enable quality improvement. Through continuing professional development Early Years practitioners work to identify discriminatory practice for example stereotyping, ignorance, prejudice and fear. (Jones 2004:15) Through identifying factors which may deter inclusion practitioners can evaluate practice and make improvements.
In conclusion the initiative 'removing barriers to achievement' aimed to address issues relating to inequality and inclusion. Although the principles of the strategy are clear to help children to reach their full potential, in reality some children with SEN are still failing to achieve this. The Every Child Matters personalised education approach to SEN and a quicker system of assessment and support will be required to achieve the strategies aims. It maintained that early intervention was the factor that would determine its success as the Surestart programme outlined in the Children's Act 2004. Other factors that need to be addressed are bureaucracy and paperwork, making sure schools and teachers are equipped to meet children's needs through training and support. It also needs to evaluate resources and increased funding in order to provide high quality early years practitioners that value and promote equality and inclusive practice.