In this short report, I will attempt to identify what inclusive education is and give examples of what it might look like in the classroom.
According to the Special Educational Needs and Disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, the UK Government is: “committed to inclusive education of disabled children and young people and the progressive removal of barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education.” (2015, p.25) This code of practice was introduced to reform the way Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children and youngsters were treated in schools. One of the aims was to hand over more control and insight to the children and the parents (or carer) regarding their education. It is the intention that this will increase both the quality of their learning and their general sense of independence, providing possible improvements with employability and standard of living. (DfE, 2015)
I believe for inclusion to happen it needs to be embedded in every aspect of the school. We need to look at how we can adapt methods and conditions to meet the requirements of all the students; this also includes those children who are exceeding academically. Lessons have to be planned in a way that ensures all pupils can reach their potential and teachers should set high expectations for every class member. (DfE, 2014)
It is necessary to focus on their capabilities and differences to acknowledge what they can bring to the classroom environment rather than solely on their difficulties. In Inclusive Pedagogy in Action: getting it right for every child, Florian, L. and Beaton, M discusses the use of an “inclusive pedagogical approach” (2017, p.1) whereby children are taught in a way that is accessible for everyone. Instead of using methods that most learners will be expected to understand, and simply adjusting or tailoring these for someone with SEND, teachers need to plan so that everyone has the chance to be part of the lesson. This plan should ensure that no child feels excluded from the rest of the class; it is essential that all pupils have access to everything that the school has to offer, both educationally and socially. (Florian, 2017) However, the responsibility does not solely lay upon the school, but also local authorities, health, and social care services involvement is needed, to ensure children with SEND receive the care and support they deserve to reach their ambitions. (DfE, 2014) My placement school supported social inclusion and inclusive education for all. There was an ethos that every child had the right to education and should not be excluded from any activities on offer, regardless of ability. Instead, the school tried to work with that child to see what could be done to help. (link removed for anonymity)
One of the boys in my class found it very difficult to sit still and concentrate on the carpet. He would start fidgeting and moving around, distracting the other children. Instead of taking this child out of the classroom (which I have witnessed in other schools), we worked out ways his experience on the carpet could be improved. He was given an Inflatable Dynamic Air Cushion to improve his concentration, the bumps on the cushion provide sensory stimulation and he can start to feel like he is moving when only using minimal motion in reality. We started asking him pre-planned questions to increase his confidence and to make him feel part of the class. The teaching assistant would sit close by him (during carpet time) and make sure he had understood the learning objectives. He started to happily sit on the carpet and take his cushion with him, even to assembly. He could still, occasionally, move around but he was much calmer and did not disturb any of his classmates. By responding to his needs and removing any hurdles that he was experiencing, we could ensure that he received the same education as everyone else in the class.
A great way of improving inclusion is by employing effective grouping; pairing a SEND child together with a higher attaining child. (DfES, 2001) This can take place by the use of talk partners. Talk partners are the idea of the children sharing their ideas and thoughts with the person sitting next to them. It invites the pupils to be fully engaged in the learning and helps get away from the use of ability groups. Other benefits could be an increase of greater feeling of self-belief, especially in the lower attaining children. This also works especially well in group tasks. (Clarke, 2008)
I have seen both good and bad examples of attempted inclusion; one of the worst examples I experienced was when working as a SEN teaching assistant; I worked closely with a pupil who was constantly being told she could not take part in class activities because of her disruptive behaviour. Instead of trying to work out the reasons for her behaviour, the school’s preferred method of dealing with her was to simply remove her from the classroom and the activity. Much of this behaviour stemmed from the pupil not feeling included and from the general lack of understanding the situation.
Defining what we mean by inclusion, and what this looks like, is not easy. What some might think is an inclusive practice might have a very different meaning for others. (Trussler and Robinson, 2015) This school thought just allowing the pupil in the classroom (occasionally) was enough, without providing the appropriate measures or environment to enable a full and meaningful sense of inclusion.
It is clear that some schools have taken a more active role in making changes towards achieving, an all-inclusive school environment, than others. (Mittler, 2000) The challenge therefore still remains to ensure all children receive the education they deserve (Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., & Booth, T. 2006)
Mittler, P. (2000) Working towards inclusive education: social contexts. London: David Fulton.
Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., & Booth, T. (2006). Improving schools, developing inclusion. London ; New York: Routledge
Trussler, S & Robinson, D (2015) ‘Understanding special educational needs, disability and inclusive education’. Chapter 1 in Inclusive Practice in the Primary School: a guide for teachers. London: Sage.
Department for Education and Skills. (2001). Inclusive schooling: children with special educational needs. London: Dept. for Education and Skills.
Florian, L. and Beaton, M. (2018) ‘Inclusive pedagogy in action: getting it right for every child’, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(8), pp. 870–884. doi: 10.1080/13603116.2017.1412513.
Florian, L (2015) Conceptualising Inclusive Pedagogy: The Inclusive Pedagogical Approach in Action Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.11 -24 Available:<https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/S1479-363620150000007001>(Accessed: 16 January 2019).
Department for Education (2015) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, London: DfES, Available: <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf> (Accessed: 16 January 2019).|
Clarke, Shirley (no date) ‘Talk Partners’ Shirley Clarke Media Ltd. Available: <https://www.shirleyclarke-education.org/research/talk-partners-2009-year-5-4th-grade-us/ >(Accessed: 17 January 2019).
Department for Education (2014) National curriculum in England: framework for key stages 1 to 4, London: DfES, Available: <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4/the-national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4#inclusion> (Accessed: 16/01/19)