Including all Learners
Inclusive education is an expansive subject and this on line resource aims to touch on particular aspects of inclusion and integration related to children with English as an additional language (EAL) and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The key focus of these web pages will explore how the use of effective resources and approaches to teaching can support children with varying learning needs whilst promoting the values of inclusion. The intention is also to provide an interactive resource for others who may be concerned with including all learners in the classroom by giving access to further information about enabling equipment, resources and strategies to remove the barriers that some children may experience. Case studies about children’s experiences of receiving additional support, links to key documents with further information and a range of videos demonstrating debates and the application of various strategies to help children with SEND and EAL overcome barriers to their learning are some of the resources that can be accessed through these pages.
Policies of Inclusion:
Firstly, it is important to briefly examine inclusive education and pupil progress within the context of policy to understand how and why it influences teaching and learning for all children. There has been a degree of ambiguity in the way that the term inclusion has been used in policy which some have argued has led to it being misinterpreted in schools. The inconsistent use and definition of inclusion in policy seems to have influenced how schools have adopted inclusive values within their culture and teaching practices (Ainscow et al, 2006). It is suggested by Armstrong (2001) that inclusive practice is often translated in schools as a response to individual learning needs. This seems to be more closely linked with issues of classroom integration and enabling pupils to fully participate in learning activities. Integration is considered by Armstrong to be different from inclusion which operates at a macro level and has a broader socio-cultural focus on equality of opportunity and recognising diversity. Although, as Armstrong argues, there is an important connection between the two which schools can play a pivotal role in strengthening. It is through the integration of pupils with additional learning needs in classrooms at a micro level that the principles of inclusion such as, equality and accepting people’s differences in society are positively developed at an early stage. This is discussed further in the page relating to supporting children with EAL. The diagram below illustrates this difference between integration and inclusion and highlights how it would be difficult to reinforce the principles of inclusion through practices which segregate and exclude children.
Social implications of inclusive education:
The implications of schools not harnessing this responsibility is described by Armstrong as follows: “Variation in educational participation and attainment is explained largely in terms of individual differences while the social and cultural functions of schools are not recognised as being significant factors in the production and maintenance of inequality in society” (Armstrong, 2011, p.20). Equally, Pollard (2002) calls for teachers to reflect on the level of inclusive practice they provide and consider the ‘social consequences’ (Pollard, p.366) of not doing so, implying that if children’s varying needs are not effectively supported it may negatively impact their self esteem and disposition to learning. The importance of considering not just the physical barriers influencing pupil’s progress but the external factors too such as, culture are underlined in the Cambridge Review (2010). The review points to the danger of making assumptions which could reinforce social inequalities such as, an attitude that all children with EAL require specialist help when in fact bilingualism can be a great asset to learning. (Alexander, 2010). Misinterpreting the learning needs of children with EAL is discussed in more detail in the forthcoming pages. The video below puts inclusion into a historical context and points to the growing social inequalities that are being created by globalisation however, it also suggests that by exploiting the innovative technological advances being made in society it can enhance inclusion and learning.
The complex dilemma about how to include all learners:
Armstrong points to the tension faced by teachers and schools between policy requirements and this wider responsibility of making provision effective for all learners. The dilemma exists between balancing the need to provide inclusive and sometimes targeted education whilst meeting the demands of high performance targets and national standards in order to maintain a strong position in league tables to attract the right number of students. Therefore, it is argued that the education system presents such external pressures on high performance it constrains the freedom schools have to enable individual and collective learning at the community level in creative ways (Armstrong 2011). Using existing resources such as, Teaching Assistants is a common strategy in providing specialist support to children with EAL and SEND however, as the forthcoming pages demonstrate this has pros and cons. An additional limitation on schools to address individual and varying needs of learners is because of a significant shortage of resources described in the video debate below and this document which addresses the recent changes to SEND provision funding.
The responsibility to respond positively to diversity within education provision has been described as having, ‘implications that reach beyond the classroom. Differences in culture, gender, language and wealth shape the totality of young lives. Sometimes these differences appear closely connected with educational success, but not all of them and not for every child. Teachers need to be able to identify and understand the educationally relevant aspects of pupil diversity – not easy in an education system where ‘fairness’, ‘inclusion’ and effectiveness are often regarded as incompatible.’ (Alexander, 2010) p110. Similarly, Alexander (2010) questions how children identified as requiring special educational provision to learn within a curriculum which is not accessible to all, even though there is an equal right to it, can have these needs met without their individual differences being amplified and thus compromising principles of inclusion. A plea for teachers to be provided with training and for flexible, co-ordinated support packages designed to help children with particular needs at home, school and community levels is made by Alexander (2010) and presented as a possible holistic solution. The current launch of personal budgets, increased parental choice about specialist schooling and multi agency plans to support SEN provision which replaces the current process of assessing needs and accessing resources through Statements of Needs introduced in 1978 could be argued to be a much contested form of this, as debated in the following video.
The inclusive classroom:
The Index for Inclusion (Booth and Ainscow, 02) shifted the focus and bias towards SEN pupils being provided with targeted support in earlier polices to all learners who may face barriers to their learning. This work was supported by Hart (1996) who challenged the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Children with Special Educational Needs implemented in 1994. Hart points to how it influenced inclusion policy and practice in schools. Hart advocates moving away from deficit models of teaching solely based on identifying and implementing special provision and towards progressing the learning of all pupils through creative practices involving, “the identification and mobilising of resources to support inclusion and participation and developments in innovative thinking” (Hart, 1996, p93). This implies a need for teachers to demonstrate an active commitment to supporting the diversity of pupils through more innovative approaches compared to traditional forms of teaching within a school culture underpinned by values of inclusion. Hart (2010) highlights the sensitive, responsive approaches that are required by teachers to address additional learning needs in a non – exclusionary way to ensure that children’s learning progresses within what is being provided for all pupils, thus creating a diverse learning community for every child. Vygotsky (1962) claimed that the relationships between a pupil, their teacher and peers is vital in learning development as is the need to take into account children’s cultural and environmental influences to be able to scaffold their learning. Similarly, Sapon- Shevin (2007) underlines the enrichment and learning that comes from embracing diversity through the provision of inclusive classrooms. She encourages schools to adopt inclusive practices which facilitate children connecting with each other’s differences and argues that learning activities which segregate pupils, rejects these differences and prevents diversity from being an accepted and celebratory aspect of life. “Inclusive schooling requires that teachers be responsive to the whole child, and not simply to one aspect or characteristic” (Sapon – Shevin, 2007, p11).
The video below presents how possible it is to create inclusive classrooms which reflect and respond to varying needs and benefits all children.
The ‘EVERY Child Matters’ agenda (2007) called for ‘Personalised Learning’ strategies to be implemented in schools to support children with disabilities by giving them more control over their learning and participation. Involvement in planning, applying differentiated outcomes in learning activities and providing children with a choice about how they can work with their peers to learn in similar ways are characteristics of this kind of strategy. This agenda seems to be built on the principle of providing beneficial learning to all pupils through fostering equality in learning activities that takes account of diversity (Knowles, G. and Lander, V., 2011). The case studies presented on the Inclusion and Disability section provide a clear insight into how these strategies can effectively respond to diversity and are positively perceived from a child’s perspective.
Summary and next steps:
To summarise, the research seems to suggest that despite the constraints imposed by statutory education requirements and policy, it is still possible to build collective, diverse learning communities where teachers and schools act on their transformational potential to develop children’s own principles of inclusion. The following pages provide access to and information about some of the resources and teaching strategies available which can reinforce inclusive values by meeting the varying needs of learners such as, SEND and EAL.
Ainscow, M., Booth, T. and Dyson, A. (eds) (2006) Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion, Abingdon: Routledge.
Alexander, R. (eds) (2010) Children, their World, their Education. Final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Review, Abingdon: Routledge.
Armstrong, F., Armstrong, D. and Barton, L. (2000) Inclusive Education. Policy Contexts and Comparative Perspectives, London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd.
Armstrong, F. (2011) Inclusive Education Ch1 in Richards, G. and Armstrong, F. (eds) Teaching and Learning in Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms, London: Routledge.
Hart, S. (2000) Thinking through Teaching. A framework for enhancing participation and learning, London: David Fulton Publishers.
Hart, S. (1996) in Ainscow, M., Booth, T. and Dyson, A. (eds) (2006) Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion, Abingdon: Routledge.
Knowles, G. and Lander, V. (2011) Diversity, Equality and Achievement in Education, Sage: London.
Pollard, A. (2002) Reflective Teaching. Effective and evidence – informed Professional Practice, London: Continuum.
Sapon – Shevin, M. (2007) Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms,’ Massachusetts, USA: Beacon Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978) in Pollard, A. (2002) Reflective Teaching. Effective and evidence – informed Professional Practice, London: Continuum.
Poet, H. (2012) Changes to the Funding of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Provision: Views of Lead Members (LGA Research Report). Slough: NFER. https://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/publications/LGPB01/LGPB01.pdf