The term inclusion is difficult to define, with many professionals having their own theories on what inclusion is .One of the most controversial but perhaps true definitions of inclusion comes from the Salamanca Statement whereby educational accomplishment is perceived as being secondary to the development of the self through personal choice(Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).This statement and definition relates directly to the rights-based model and discourse(Dyson,2000) this reinforces the rights of a child and their entitlement to an education . To implement this type of inclusion both schools and society needs to recognise and disable the obstacles that constrain a child’s choices and their capability to reach their full potential (Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
The term SEN was devised in the 1970s by the Warnock Report (DES, 1978, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009). Lady Warnock states in her report that authorities should consider the idea of including all children into mainstream schooling if that is where they will learn successfully (Kent, 2005).
The 1981 Education Act came after the Warnock report .This new piece of legislation affected the entire education system, and was seen to have a positive influence on the education of children with SEN (Potts, 1995). The Act prohibited any child from being deprived of an education, and effectively reinforced inclusion whenever it was possible (Kent, 2005).
The Education Act describes a child with SEN as someone who has a learning barrier which appeals for special educational conditions to be made for them. This includes any child below the age of 19 who is a recorded pupil at an educational institute (DfEE, 1996 and SENDA, 2001, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009). Frederickson and Cline (2007) suggest that many people misperceive special educational needs with special needs. They propose a child has a special need if they originate from a community whose conditions or upbringing is dissimilar from the majority of the school populace. Thus meaning that a special need does not necessarily manifest itself as SEN (Frederickson and Cline, 2002, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
The Education act calls for an official assessment of all alleged SEN children, a provision upheld by later legislations. A statement of Special Educational needs is formed and complied by educational authorities, who are accountable for outlining the extent of the child’s needs and recommending educational strategies and resources to suit the child.
The SEN statements are used to situate children into mainstream schools if; the child’s requirements can be met, they do not restrict or hinder other children’s learning and is an efficient use of the authorities’ resources (Kentworthy and Whittaker, 2000). In 2003, within the UK there was anticipated to be over 1.7 million children with possible SEN and of these children around 250,000 of them had a formal statement (Russell, 2003).
It could be argued that the statement process and the use of the term SEN is negatively associated to the medical model opinion of disability (Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009). Frederickson and Cline (2007) maintain that the process of assessing a child with SEN is completed by scrutinising the individual child. It is expected that the foundation of the problem is within the child and that they must be afflicted with a disability or a learning impairment.
The assessment process is thought to be comparable to a medical diagnosis by establishing what classification of disability the child suffers from. It has been advocated that this method of labelling, is disrespectful and distressing to the specific child and also has an impact on the way in which their learning is sustained (CSIE, 2005, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
Segregation, due to the labelling process is a ‘ normal’ experience for a child with SEN .Children may be excluded from mainstream schools and placed in a special school or within a mainstream classroom children may miss out on lessons to be educated by the ‘special needs ‘expert or more commonly the designated teaching assistant. The medical model has perhaps lowered anticipations of a child with SEN. Some consider ‘handicapped’ children as abnormal, because they are constrained to what they can accomplish. Frederickson and Cline (2007) state that being handicap was defined by society in terms of defect, physical and emotional deficiencies were believed to inflict limitations on cognitive advancement. As a consequence obstructions to achievement and social development were forced upon children with SEN (Frederickson and Cline, 2007, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
Law (1993) suggests some parents of children with SEN would prefer a diagnosis, as they feel it helps them comprehend and prepare for the problems their child may be confronted with. Parents also feel that a statement can help to gain access to expert help and advice and secure a place in a special school. Hanson et al (2001) argues that the majority of parents welcome inclusive locations for their children with SEN, although parents did have apprehensions about the teacher’s level of training and experience.
Corbett (2001) claims teachers are enthusiastic to support inclusion when dealing with children who have a mild disability. There is nevertheless the proposal that teachers do not have the similar inclusive idea in relation to those children who show severe behavioural problems (Wedell, 2005).Inclusion for certain children is being deferred because the ‘educational system is not fit to include’ them because of the obstructions of ‘lack of knowledge, lack of will, lack of vision, lack of resources and lack of morality’ (Clough and Garner 2003; 87 cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).Study in this topic establishes that for these children, teachers consider that exclusion is essential due to their experience within the classroom (Corbett,2001).
The previous Government, encouraged teachers to improve ‘personalised learning’ for all students (Milliband, 2004, cited in Wedell, 2005).This was intended to inspire a more receptive approach to teaching. While the majority of teachers no doubt aspire to do this, the difficulties within whole-class teaching stipulate how difficult this is to accomplish. Additionally, such targets require understanding and time to apply. David Hargreaves (2004) states traditional teachers are not educated adequately enough to deal with the varieties of responsibilities now outlined for them (Wedell, 2005).
The quality of teaching for pupils with different needs has been an concern that has prevented the effective application of SEN and inclusion strategies .The Programme of Action(DfEE,1998)specified the need for teachers to undertake detailed training in special educational needs and the previous Government also agreed that effective practice is being obstructed by the same issue(DfES,2004).There seems to be a common opinion amongst educational professionals that the training they receive to prepare themselves for the teaching and accommodating of children with SEN is ‘woefully inadequate'(Corbett,2001;22).
To aid teachers, the process of grouping pupils is still commonly used in the classroom. This technique was introduced so that teachers could prioritise and plan differentiated lessons. The tensions this inflicts on children and the complications it creates for teachers have been extensively acknowledged. David Hargreaves stated;
‘Pedagogy in schools is about mastering the art of controlling the behaviour of some thirty young persons of the same age, who are reluctantly enclosed in a room of modest size and who can be easily managed as thirty kittens can be herded.’
(Hargreaves, 2001:2 cited in Wedell, 2005)
Hartley also mentions;
‘If the government retains a bias towards whole- class, traditional pedagogy, then the costs may be reduced, teachers may be tamed, high-stakes scores will rise, and procedures may be standardised. But the economic benefits are likely to be few in the long term.’
(Hartley, 2003:91 cited in Wedell, 2005)
These interpretations specify how features of the structure of schooling present difficulties for children with SEN in general. The government has introduced a mass deployment of teaching assistant(TAs)to aid teachers in these dilemmas , but class grouping still exists within a classroom .The provision of learning support assistants(LSAs)for pupils with special educational needs is perhaps a method of ‘softening the blow’ for teachers who are in mainstream classes. It is recognised that the ‘velcro-ing’ of LSAs to pupils occasionally becomes a system of within-class segregation (Wedell, 2005).
The Pragmatic discourse states that for schools to achieve a more inclusive ethos, support will be needed to develop polices and practice(Dyson,2000) that not only allows all children to be supported but also convey the needs of the teachers as well (Hanko, 2003 cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).Frederickson and Cilne (2002) declare that for schools to develop inclusion they must scrutinise how they might encourage involvement of the diversity of pupils that they assist within the community (Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
The Political discourse discusses the ‘struggle’ (Vlachou, 1997, cited in Dyson, 2000) between views of teachers, parents and MPs. These conflicting opinions cause national education policies and legislations to frequently aggravate each other in their execution.
The Audit Commission (2002) noticed that the application of the Statement process proceeded to pull finance away from local education authorities(LEAs).Funding for pupils with a statements ran at ten times the funding available for children with mild to moderate SEN without a statement.
The 2004,OFSTED report on progress in inclusion found that for some schools inflexible timetabling ,staffing and non-existence initiative were ‘ handicaps’ to successful progress. Whereas The Audit Commissions (2002)refer to the predicaments faced by schools ,as they are put under pressure to achieve better academic results and to become inclusive(Wedell, 2005).
In England, educational requirements for children with SEN are administrated by the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DFES, 2001a, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have similar Codes. The Code was launched in schools in 2002.The Code of Practice details the standards for the management of SEN provision (Soan, 2005, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).
The Code’s key objectives are that a child with SEN: should have their needs met, their needs will ordinarily be met in mainstream schools, the views of the child should be considered and children with SEN should be offered a diverse and significant education. The principles within the Code work alongside the statement of inclusion that exists within the National Curriculum (Soan, 2005, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).The National Curriculum’s principles of inclusion maintain that teachers will: set appropriate learning tasks for all children, respond to children’s varied learning requirements and overcome possible barriers to learning.
It is evident that these two statements, conflict with each other ,due to the fact that they link to different models. Within the Code the child’s difficulties are perceived to be the focus which associates the Code to the medical model, .(Soan,2005, ,cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009).Whereas the statement of inclusion expresses links to the social model as it looks at improving factors such as the learning environment (Alcott,2002).
If the hurdles of implementing inclusion are to be weakened it would seem obvious that ‘….. individual pupils…. must be at the core of all we do'(Coles and Hancock,2001, cited in Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009:88). A common issue with implementing inclusion is that perhaps to much time is spent over concerns about inputs and settings when perhaps more time should be spent on developing experiences and outcomes for the pupils.