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The concept of
inclusion is not a new addition to Government education policy, rather it is a
social ideal which has developed and placed additional demands on teachers and
schools to adapt and find methods to educate all children together, regardless
of their needs (Armstrong et al, 2010).  This essay seeks to discuss and explore the
conceptual, historical and practical aspects of inclusion within Scottish
schools.

 

In today’s
society, inclusion is viewed as a concept that has grown and developed from a
social desire towards equal rights for all, a desire stemming from the civil
rights movement, which began in the 1960s, and further developed by today’s all
inclusive social climate (Paine, 2004). 
However, some argue that this idea from which the idea of inclusive
schools begun, was found in political and social contexts much earlier, perhaps
even more than a century ago, with the liberal and progressive movements
(Thomas, G. et al., 1998).

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Following the
shift towards recognising equal rights for all, societies around the world began
to share the opinion that all children have the right to be educated together
(Wertheimer, 2004).  The international
community produced several statements in order to move towards achieving this
goal, and these have greatly influenced any policy produced in order for the
government to move towards an inclusive education system.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights
of the Child (1989) of which Scotland became a signatory in 1992 enshrines the
thought that every child be granted equal access to an education without
discrimination, (UNICEF, 2007).  This
international statement, although not incorporated into either Scottish or UK
law and as such is not legally binding, provides the necessary framework for
the Scottish Government to improve policy and legislation focussing on the
rights of children, (Scottish Government, 2007), thus showing their commitment
towards an inclusive education.

 

The Salamanca
Statement in 1994 aimed to further highlight the right of education for all. It
did so by guaranteeing the principle of the development of inclusive education,
namely that schools should “accommodate all children regardless of their
physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions”
(UNESCO, 1994, p6).  Further ensuring that
children with special education needs should have access to mainstream schools,
which should move to accommodate them in order to meet their needs. (UNESCO,
1994, pviii).  The Salamanca statement
was ratified by the UK and Scottish Governments and has provided clear policy
guidelines for development in Scottish Schools (Scottish Government, 2007).

 

Around the same
time as the previously mentioned international statements the Scottish
Government was developing additional policies, to include within the education
system, to prove their commitment to inclusion within Scottish schools.  The Standards in Scottish Schools etc Act
2000, asp 6, made the local authorities responsible for making sure every child
in their area received an education without any barriers (Scottish Government,
2000).  This act emphasised that attempts
would be made to educate all pupils in mainstream schools unless the school
environment,

a)    
Was
not suitable for the ability or aptitude of the child

b)   
Was
unable to provide specific provisions for the child

c)    
Would
result in a public cost that would not normally occur (Scottish Government,
2007).

The Standards in
Scottish Schools etc Act made it explicitly clear that inclusion related to
every child within a local authority, not just those with additional needs,
ensuring the needs of all children are being met.

 

Further attempts
were then made in Scotland to create a more inclusive education system with the
Education (Additional Support for Learning)(Scotland) Act in 2004 asp 4, which
was then amended in 2009.  This act
replaced the need to label children with specific conditions, known then as
Special Education Needs, be the conditions physical, mental or emotional, to
that of Additional Support Needs (ASN) (Allan, 2006).

 

For the purposes
of this Act, a child or young person has additional support needs, where, for
whatever reason, the child or young person would be unable to benefit from the
school education provided without additional support (Scottish Government, 2009
asp 7).  By concluding that additional
support needs arise from a number of reasons, the Scottish Government again
places the responsibility upon the local authorities to constantly seek to
identify any pupil with possible additional support needs within the
environment as it may not be clear at first.

 

In order to
provide more assistance and support to practitioners in order that they meet
the needs of every child, whether they have additional support needs or not,
the Scottish Government developed “Getting it Right for Every Child” (GIRFEC)
(Scottish Government, 2012).  This
guidance policy aims to support all practitioners involved in working with
children to meet the individual needs of the child and “give them the best possible
start in life” (p3).  This framework
builds on the international policies previously discussed, and many national
strategies, including but not limited to the Curriculum for Excellence, first
implemented in 2010.  This curriculum places
great importance on the wellbeing of every child and hopes to provide teachers
with the necessary tools to help the child overcome any social, educational,
physical and economic inequalities and allow them to become accepted as part of
the community in which they are learning.

 

The GIRFEC
document identifies the necessary roles and responsibilities of professionals and
their responsibility towards the children and goes on to provide them with
information on where additional support can be found in order to help them carry
out their role (Scottish Government, 2012). 
It is clear therefore, that inclusion permeates many documents and
policies of the Scottish education system to promote a more inclusive society.

 

The policies and
strategies put forward by national and international bodies, make it clear that
an inclusive school must be constantly adapting to accommodate the needs of
each pupil and one which recognises the pupils as individuals ensuring that no
person is treated any differently from any other, (Leicester, 2008).  As such any inclusive school can never
explicitly state that they are inclusive, as all evidence will be derived from
practices that claim to include all children in effective learning, rather they
must demonstrate that they do everything within their power to be an inclusive
environment (Rose, 2003).  After all, a
school welcomes new pupils every year and with this comes the requirement to
plan for the needs of these children. 

 

Therefore, inclusion
does not only have a profound effect on the students within the classroom, but
also deeply impacts the day to day working life of the teacher and the
individual school as it adapts and evolves (Sukys et al, 2015.)  A teacher
within a truly inclusive classroom must know every one of their pupils
individually and be able to fully understand their learning needs.  They must be able to support the pupils in
overcoming any learning barriers in order to reach a desired outcome (Evins,
2015).  Being able to do this requires a
significant increase in the time and effort put into the planning and
instructions for all learning tasks and activities, to ensure they are
correctly differentiated (Mastropieri et
al, 2009).  Having a class with a
range of abilities can make this particularly difficult as all lessons must
make every child feel included, from those with additional support needs to
those who are deemed more able.  However,
teachers can hopefully draw on their own experience and on experience from others
within the school and the overall community to produce the appropriate
resources and embrace all the learners in their class (Murray and Moore, 2012).

 

How a school and
teachers adapt to the needs of their pupils varies between different
schools.  My placement school was also
the Deaf Education Centre for the local area, providing an education for pupils
from those with a mild hearing impairment to those with no hearing at all.  However, this did not mean that these pupils
were kept excluded from the rest of the school. 
Depending on the pupil’s individual needs, most spent the first years of
high school included in mainstream classes, accompanied when required by a deaf
education teacher to provide a sign language translation or just additional
support.  The class teachers were also
very willing to adapt their lessons whether that be by providing printed out
PowerPoint slides or only showing videos with subtitles (Brinkley, 2011).  The school, as a community, also did their
best to make sure these children were included in all school activities, for
example taking them to the pantomime with the rest of S1 and S2.  They also provided lunchtime sign language
classes for staff and also for other pupils. 
Although this was working well for the school as an inclusive community,
it could have been further developed by possibly including the sign language
lessons as a compulsory part of S1 personal and social education (PSE) classes.

 

The Curriculum
for Excellence promotes the idea that the inclusive school is about taking
action to remove barriers to participation and learning (Lloyd, 2008).  The guidelines included in GIRFEC also place
emphasis on learning outcomes that can be tailored to suit the needs of all
learners, trusting that a broad general and flexible curriculum would allow
teachers to plan effectively, in order that they are able to meet the needs of
the children in their care (Education Scotland, 2008).  To do this an inclusive school must have staff
that supports these policies to remove any obstacles, otherwise the school will
fail in its ultimate goal (Costello & Boyle, 2013).  It can therefore be concluded that effective
inclusion requires teachers who embrace the current national policies and who also
make use of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to ensure they are
kept up to date with the new developments.

 

This is not to
say that inclusion within Scottish schools is a straightforward concept.  Allan (2013) argues that confusion
surrounding the exact model of inclusion to be used within schools has arisen
following policy makers rushed practice of introducing new terminology in the
hope that it will change how teachers think and teach.  There is also a failure to actively consult
with the children themselves, and their families, to determine what inclusion
would mean for those with Additional Support Needs.

 

In 2005, Baroness
Warnock, who in 1978 published the Special Educational Needs (Warnock) Report,
made a statement highlighting her concern that placing children with additional
support needs within mainstream schools can create “children as casualties” and
the move towards inclusion may have been too quickly done (Warnock, as cited by
Allan, 2013, p788).  This completely
disagreed with her report in 1978, which established that pupils with special
educational needs should, whenever possible be taught in mainstream schools,
when they are given special provision (Swanson et al, 2017).  Baroness Warnock
suggested that her original report had been misinterpreted leading to
authorities ‘forcing’ some children into mainstream schools when other options
would have been more beneficial (Warnock, as cited by UK Government, 2006, p5.).

 These statements would suggest that the
concept of inclusion will continue to be debated within government policy and
amongst the most respected educators over many years and we may never reach a consensus
on a definition of what inclusion means within the Scottish education system
and its schools.

 

Despite the
debates that surround inclusion, the Scottish Government’s own statistics on
the subject show a clear policy move towards an inclusive educational
environment.  In 2016, a government
report stated that there were 170,329 pupils (24.9 percent of total pupils in
school) who had additional support needs with 162,252 (95 percent of them)
spending at least some of their time within mainstream schools (Scottish
Government, 2017).  This can be compared
with six years previous in 2012 where, 98,523 pupils (14.7 percent of total
pupils in school) were classed as having additional support needs, with 91,550
(93 percent of them) spending time within mainstream schools.  The rise in the number of pupils registered,
as having additional support needs, shows an improvement being made within the
school environment in the practitioner’s ability to confidently identify the
needs of pupils within the education system.  This hopefully implies that having been
identified, by teachers and other professionals using government guidance and
policy, these pupils’ needs are now being met.

 

In conclusion,
national and international views are united in their idea of adopting an
inclusive report to education.  There is
also an opinion that schools may never be able to call themselves truly
inclusive, as they must be constantly adapting their school policy to fall in
line with governmental policy and the views of leading educators.  Schools must be able to do this while also
taking into account all the individual needs of their pupils.  They must continue to communicate effectively
with those teachers who are seen to be inclusive within their own classrooms so
that they may help share effective practice with other professionals within the
school and the wider community.  Working
towards an inclusive education system may present many challenges for all
involved, however inclusion is not just an option to be taken, it is the right
of every child that they be educated without exclusion.  This right is not one that can be overlooked,
and is cemented in policy by the Scottish Government to ensure that the needs
of all pupils are met.

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