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developments and future challenges
Alan Hodkinson Article first published online: 16 JUL 2010 Keywords: inclusion;special education;segregation;integration
Special education in England has over the past 25 years been subject to rapid development, not least in relation to the emergence of inclusive education. Alan Hodkinson of the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure, John Moore's University, critically examines the development of inclusion in England and the barriers that can stall the development of this important educational and societal initiative. He discusses the journey towards inclusion from educational segregation to integration and describes the current Government stance on this important subject. Alan Hodkinson suggests that many of the barriers to effective inclusion are in practice located within the loci of Government, local authorities as well as that of schools. He concludes that it is now time to develop a new vision for the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities that is supported by straightforward, co-ordinated and well-resourced policies. If educational policy is to achieve an inclusive consciousness, it must ensure that the views of children, their families and educational professionals are listened to, and that inclusion is by the choice of the pupils and their parents and not by compulsion.
Special education in England has over the past 25 years been subject to rapid development, not least in relation to the emergence of inclusive education. However, one might argue that the current push for the implementation of inclusive education is one example of an instance where policy development and philosophical thought outpace practice. There is a danger that ‘the most
vulnerable learners’ (O'Brien, 2002) might be crushed by the weight of political policy, philosophical thought and ideological doctrine that seemingly dominate the current educational discourse. This is a potential problem for the formulation of effective inclusive education in England. More worrying, from my perspective, is the heavy criticism (Barton, 2005; Frederick, 2005) to which Mary Warnock (2005) has been subjected for suggesting that inclusion has gone too far and that some children are being damaged by the application of its principles. It would seem that the ‘tidal wave of inclusive intent preached with overpowering zeal’ (Hornby, 2002) for the evolution of inclusive education, coupled with the apparent unquestioning acceptance of the ideology of full inclusion might, in practice, be providing a disservice to some pupils. More than ever, I would suggest educationalists should pause to consider whether inclusion is, in reality, serving the needs of all individuals. The first aim of this article is to examine critically the development of inclusive education in England from its emergence within the latter part of the twentieth century. Secondly, I intend to elucidate the barriers which may serve to stall the development of this important educational and societal initiative.
The emergence of inclusive education
The ideology of inclusion should not be viewed as a new phenomenon. Indeed, its origins may be traced back to the early 1900s and the welfare pioneers who believed in a non-segregated schooling system (O'Brien, 2002). In its current form, however, inclusion is the end of a journey which began in the 1960s, when policies of educational segregation became subject to debate within the context of the civil rights movement. This questioning of policy heralded the birth of a new integrated educational system which was legitimised by the Warnock Report (DES, 1978) and the subsequent 1981 Education Act. While it is observable that these events began a journey towards inclusion, the last years of the 1980s witnessed criticism of integration as a policy that had failed to account for
individual need (Ainscow, 1995). There can be little doubt that the problematic nature of integration coupled with the statements made at the World Conference in Special Education (UNESCO, 1994) led to the emergence of inclusive education in England. The evolution of inclusive educational policy began with the election of New Labour in 1997. The Government upon taking office acted swiftly and through the Green Paper, Excellence for all Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs (DfEE, 1997), and the subsequent Programme of Action (DfEE, 1998), they set the tone for the central thrust of education reform through the last decade of the twentieth century (Judge, 2003). The Government further developed its inclusion policy by introducing a revised curriculum. Curriculum 2000 (DfEE, 1999), as it became known, was formulated upon three inclusionary principles: setting suitable learning challenges, responding to pupils' diverse learning needs and overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils. It became quite clear to observers that the Government had put inclusion firmly on the political agenda.
Inclusion in the twenty-first century
The beginning of the twenty-first century witnessed the evolution of inclusive practices being supported by a raft of governmental policies, initiatives and legislation. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA, 2001) revised section 316 of the 1996 Education Act and so strengthened the rights of children to be educated in the mainstream. For the first time, institutions were not able to refuse access to placements based upon the contention that they could not meet the needs of individual children (Frederickson & Cline, 2002). In addition, the 2001 Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) confirmed the acceptance of inclusion by stating that the special educational needs of children would normally be met in mainstream settings. It became clear, then, that inclusion was a policy that was not going to go away. However, it is important to note that while Government documentation and legislation in England included a ‘strong commitment to the principle of inclusion’ (Croll & Moses, 2003), it was still
observable that the Government continued to pursue a ‘twin-track system’ (Barton, 2003) of special educational needs by promoting and developing the orthodoxy of segregation within the loci of special schools. It would appear, then, that while the Government would have us believe that inclusion is based upon the rights of all children, a critical interrogation of its education policies leads one to conclude that its inclusion practices are subject to limits (Evans & Lunt, 2002; Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2008). Furthermore, despite a critical report in 2006 by the Education and Skills Committee, which labelled the Government's inclusion policy as a ‘system not fit for purpose’, the former Education Secretary Lord Adonis expressed a belief that the Government should take a completely fresh look at its policies of inclusion. Indeed, he argued that the Government is making progress in its 2004 strategy of removing the barriers to achievement for children with special educational needs (Simms, 2007).
Inclusion: the difficulties of definition
The above review of the literature leaves one in no doubt that inclusion has become an important aspect of our educational system. However, the literature base also suggests that tension exists with regard to how inclusion should be defined (Hornby, 2002). During recent years, educational policy has promoted inclusive education as the teaching of disabled and non-disabled children within the same neighbourhood schools. Further definitions have suggested that all pupils, regardless of their weaknesses, should become part of the school community (Judge, 2003). Such definitions, though, are difficult to accept, primarily because they relate to locational inclusion; that is, children simply being educated together is more important than the curriculum or attitudes to which they are subjected. Definitions couched in these terms are likely to shackle an individual's needs to entrenched societal views of disability. Moreover, I perceive that the terminology of weakness and disability is patronising and degrading, as it inevitably leads one to a narrow and contrived view of inclusion. Inclusion located in these terms is culturally
loaded because it employs language which does not instil pride and value but rather refers to individuals who are seen to be not able because of impairment. Definitions formulated in these terms do not promote inclusion but, conversely, I would suggest, encourage the return to integration and thereby tolerance, not inclusion, of children with additional needs. A further consideration is that these definitions refer only to children whom society and institutions deem to have special educational needs. Increasingly it is becoming apparent that inclusion is being conceptualised as relating solely to children with special educational needs and the relationships these individuals have with mainstream schools. I believe that conceptions of this nature devalue inclusion by a process of fragmentation. It is my view that inclusion must be a broad church with solid foundations where exclusion from society is accepted as having a common route in ‘intolerance to difference’ (Booth, 2000). Inclusion from this perspective would relate to special needs as well as to gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, culture and social class. It would seem apparent that if we are to develop a truly inclusive society, interest groups must not be allowed to seize inclusion as a flag to rally around in the promotion of their individual causes and ideologies. Recently, perhaps the greatest problem has been that inclusion has become defined and operationalised by governmental agents of accountability and standards. For example, OFSTED, while stating that inclusion ‘is more than a concern about any one group of pupils’ and that ‘its scope is broad’ (OFSTED, 2000), has nonetheless formulated a set of inclusive principles with which to judge schools. According to these principles, an inclusive school is one where ‘the teaching and learning, achievement, attitudes and well-being of every person matter’ (OFSTED, 2000). While this may be observed as a better definition than those which employ the language of deficit, one might question whether inclusion should ever be determined by academic standards or by the metrics of accountability.
The contention I forward here is that inclusion is not a summative measurable entity, nor is it one that can be clearly defined. Perhaps a clear definition is less important than schools achieving an understanding of the core values of inclusion (Coles & Hancock, 2002). Some writers (Reynolds, 1989; Booth, Ainscow, Black-Hawkins, Vaughn & Shaw, 2000), while accepting that inclusion is beyond definition, also contend that it should be a process inextricably linked to the ‘goal of full inclusion’ (Hornby, 2002). Within this utopia, all children are educated together in terms of location, need, curriculum and attitudes with no tolerance or justification given to the maintenance of a segregated system of special schooling. It could be argued that, although interesting, OFSTED and full inclusionists' definitions and contentions are flawed because they define inclusion within the terms of institutional and societal control or ideological dictate. It is my belief that inclusion cannot simply be operationalised in terms of OFSTED's notions of academic achievement, nor should it be countenanced solely as a process that achieves full inclusion. It seems essential that inclusion be firmly located within the sphere of individuals and their needs.
The importance of the child's voice
During recent years, children's rights to mainstream educational placement have been brought to the fore by legislation, such as the Children Act (1989), SENDA (2001), the Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, legislation has also placed a duty upon adults to ensure that children involved in this process have their views taken into account (May, 2003). Some writers have quite rightly argued that a prerequisite for successful inclusion is the maintenance of a dialogue between those involved and those who experience this process (Jones, 2005; Rogers, 2007). Regrettably, though, it is becoming apparent that some children's voices are being drowned out by inclusion policies dominated by adults. In a recent study (Hodkinson, 2007a) I was dismayed to observe that, when questioned, a majority of mainstream children had no conception of what inclusive education was and, more worryingly, they held extremely negative views of disability and disabled people. Evidence of this kind should make us question whether inclusion is actually possible without all stakeholders, firstly, understanding what inclusive education is and, secondly, ensuring that all those involved have positive attitudes toward its implementation. I would suggest that it is crucial for all children, families, support staff and teachers to be educated about its principles and for all
participants to have their views heard and taken into account. For this reason, I have come to believe that time and resources would be better spent supporting activities (see Jones, 2005) and co-operative learning programmes that would actively enable children and adults to form and express their views about inclusion, rather than being wasted on further legislative measures. Inclusion conceptualised in this manner, therefore, would become a catalyst requiring schools and society to identify and overcome the barriers that inhibit individual children's choices and ability to achieve their full potential (Hodkinson, 2007b). I would suggest that inclusion should seek to diminish the controlling power of state, institutions and society, and replace them with an understanding of individual value, respect and a commitment to the development of self.
The current position: examination of the barriers to inclusive education
Earlier in this article, the three principles of inclusion in the National Curriculum were detailed. An examination of these principles suggests that the Government perceives the barriers to inclusive education as being related mainly to the locus of the school and that the responsibility for overcoming these barriers is in the hands of teachers (DfES, 2004). This viewpoint, I suggest, is simplistic and somewhat contrived, because it is observable that many of the barriers to effective inclusion are in practice to be found within the loci of Government and local authorities as well as those of schools.
The locus of the Government
Inclusion in the English educational system is essentially a political process (Booth et al., 2000) and it is observable that it has become, at one level, a key component of governmental planning (Corbett, 2001). Problematically, though, in recent times the Government has pursued a powerful inclusion stance on a topdown implementation basis (Coles & Hancock, 2002). Regrettably, while the Government has been well versed in the language of inclusion, I suggest that this top-down approach may actually be responsible for many of the barriers that are precluding some children from interfacing with mainstream provision. The previous Labour Government wanted us to believe that inclusion is intended to ensure that educational provision offers an opportunity for children to achieve
their full potential. This is a very laudable reason. However, I would question whether in practice this was the previous Government's only motivation for including all children within mainstream education. To support this premise we need only examine the words of a previous Minister of Education in relation to Curriculum 2000: ‘. . . the education of children with special educational needs . . . is vital to the creation of a fully inclusive society . . . We owe it to all children . . . to develop to their full potential and contribute economically and play a full part as active citizens.’ (David Blunkett, 2000, cited in Judge, 2003, p. 163) Blunkett's statement is interesting because he employs inclusion with the caveat of economics. Inclusion in these terms, while promoting ‘a route to equality of opportunity for all,’ is also about providing support for ‘a productive economy and sustainable development’ (DfEE, 1999). To those of a more cynical disposition, it might appear that policy operationalised in this manner is not about fulfilling individual potential but rather is grounded within a functionalist motivation. A second governmental barrier that seemingly bars the path of successful inclusion is the curriculum and teaching practices promoted within our education system. Through policies such as personalised education, the Government has seemingly promoted inclusion. However, inclusive education does not seem to square with other policies, such as more selective education promoted within the recent white paper (DfES, 2005) nor with a National Curriculum and Strategies that place an emphasis on the whole-class teaching of literacy and numeracy (Judge, 2003). Rather than promoting inclusion, recent legislation, the inspection regime and the metrics of accountability ensure that schools cannot fully adhere to inclusive principles and practices. The National Curriculum and Strategies are becoming strait-jackets which serve only to restrict inclusion by discouraging schools from reflecting upon how changes in curricula and teaching might contribute to increasing the quality and extent of the participation of all learners
(Clough & Garner, 2003). A former Secretary of State for Education stated that: ‘. . . we need to do much more to help children with special educational needs to achieve as well as they can, not least if we are to meet the challenging targets expected at school’. (Charles Clarke, cited in DfES, 2004, p. 16) This statement makes it abundantly clear that ‘policies of inclusion operate within a regime of accountability’ (Allan, 2003). This system of accountability should be perceived as one of the most serious challenges that inclusive education is facing (Frederickson & Cline, 2002; Allan, 2003; Clough & Garner, 2003; Hanko, 2003). The danger here may be that by linking inclusion to academic accountability schools, whose reputation and financial viability are dependant upon surface success where league tables and examination results dominate (Hanko, 2003), will become wary of accepting children whose low attainment and discipline may depress examination and SAT scores (Frederickson & Cline, 2002). For some writers, a further area of tension within current inclusion policies is that they do not go far enough. While the Government may be ‘firmly committed to the principle of inclusion and increasing the proportion of children with special needs attending mainstream schools’ (DfES, 2004), it has stopped short of a commitment to full inclusion (Frederickson & Cline, 2002). This lack of commitment, though, should not be seen as a barrier to effective inclusion. By stopping short of full inclusion, I would suggest that the Government is advocating ‘inclusion by choice’ (Smith, cited in Tod, 2002). The premise of ‘inclusion by choice’ is vitally important, especially when one considers research which suggests that some children do not want to be forced into mainstream placements (Norwich & Kelly, 2004). This premise of choice is further supported by Warnock (2005) who believes that the specialist sector, rather than being seen as a place of last resort, should rather be regarded as offering a ‘more
productive and creative interpretation of the ideal of inclusive education for all’ (Byers, 2005).
The locus of the local education authority
Earlier in this article, it was suggested that the Government is a key stakeholder and thus creator of barriers to the inclusion of all our children within mainstream provision. However, it is invariably the local authority that translates legislation and initiatives into more practicable forms. In this respect local authorities perform two functions; not only do they create local policy but they also decide, in the main, the level of funding for local inclusion programmes. These two functions seem crucial to the implementation of effective inclusive education. Regrettably, though, it would appear that inclusive education at this local level is succumbing to the same difficulties suffered by integration (OFSTED, 2004; CSIE, 2005; Rustemier & Vaughan, 2005). It is apparent that local authorities' current inclusion policies have resulted in some building new more inclusive special schools, others developing inclusive provision by transferring monies from their special educational needs budget as well as those who no longer provide special schools for certain categories of special educational needs (Coles & Hancock, 2002). This variety of implementation means that families are once again faced with unacceptable variations in the level of support available (Audit Commission, 2002; Rustemier & Vaughan, 2005) and that, for some children, inclusion, like integration before it, has become placement without adequate provision (Corbett, 2001). While educational policy should advocate inclusion by choice, in reality it seems that some families are left with no option but the choice of inclusion. A further barrier placed in the way of the local authorities' provision of inclusive education is their complex funding arrangements (MacLeod, 2001). It is interesting to note that a recent study (NUT, 2004) observes that 76% of SENCos felt that their role was undermined by a lack of funding and 40% believed that there was not sufficient support for pupils with special educational
needs. This lack of funding is problematic for the successful implementation of inclusionary practices. However, it would be unfair to lay the blame for the creation of these barriers solely on local authorities. Many have been placed in an impossible position, in that not only do they have to continue the funding for Statements of Special Educational Need but are also required to provide further funding to support early intervention and inclusive educational strategies for all. Moreover, those authorities which maintain a range of special provision and so provide inclusion by choice are coming under increasing pressure to reduce their reliance on high-cost residential placements (DfES, 2004). If local authorities are not provided with adequate financial support to implement inclusive practices, then, rather than being a catalyst for inclusion they will be left with no choice but to impose barriers that will inhibit the development of successful practice.
The locus of the school
It was suggested earlier that many of the barriers to inclusive education are located within the sphere of control of individual schools (DfES, 2004; Hodkinson, 2007b). While this premise has been questioned above, there is little doubt that the last stop on the inclusion journey is controlled by the schools, their staff and local community that supports them. Inclusion, it is argued, is being stalled because educational institutions are not fit to include all children because of the barriers of ‘lack of knowledge, lack of will, lack of vision, lack of resources and lack of morality’ (Clough & Garner, 2003). The last stop on the journey to successful inclusion, then, is dependent firstly upon teachers' attitudes to its implementation, and secondly upon their competencies to deliver this important initiative. Research studies suggest that while a majority of teachers support inclusive education they do so with reservation (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Croll & Moses, 2000; Hodkinson, 2005). Teachers, it would seem, will support inclusion if it relates to children with mild mobility or sensory difficulties (Corbett, 2001). However, some teachers do not have the same inclusive vision in relation to children who exhibit extreme behavioural difficulties (Hodkinson, 2005; OFSTED, 2004). Research suggests
that, for these children, teachers believe that exclusion would be necessary on practical grounds (Corbett, 2001; Hodkinson, 2006). It would seem that if schools are to become inclusive, then it is crucial that they are enabled to develop an ethos that not only enables all pupils to be supported but also provides for the needs of teachers (Hanko, 2003). A problem in relation to supporting the participants of inclusion is that the literature base indicates that the training for the teaching of pupils with diverse needs is an issue that has inhibited the successful implementation of special educational needs strategies in the past. As far back as the Warnock Report (DES, 1978) the lack of specialist training was raised as an issue that was stalling the successful implementation of special educational needs strategies. Twenty years later the Programme of Action (DfEE, 1998) again indicated the need for teachers to undertake specific training and most recently it has again been noted that practice is still being inhibited by these same issues (DfES, 2004). It appears that, despite continuing requests for the training of all teachers in the pedagogy of special educational needs, there remains a common feeling among educational professionals that training, to date, has been ‘woefully inadequate’ (Corbett, 2001).
Conclusions: future challenges
The teaching and learning of children with special educational needs has been subject to increased debate over recent years and it would seem that this level of interest through policy initiatives such as inclusive education will ensure, at least in the near future, that this will continue to be the case. This level of interest should be seen as beneficial, as it ensures that educational policy is questioned and analysed through the lens of the media and the camera of research. The future, though, still holds many challenges for both teachers and pupils. Hopefully, many more children with special educational needs and disabilities will be taught alongside their peers in local schools. However, if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past we must heed their lessons and guarantee that the
professional development of teachers and adequate funding for schools are given a high priority. Furthermore, I would suggest that if the prevailing educational policy is to meet the requirements of children with special educational needs and disabilities in local schools it must, as a matter of urgency, move away from the Victorian systems of accountability to ones that allow local authorities, schools, families and individual pupils to work in a partnership where mutual trust and respect, not examination results, dominate. It is now time to develop a new vision for the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities that is supported by straightforward, coordinated and well-resourced policies. If educational policy is to achieve an inclusive consciousness, it must ensure that all children are enabled to achieve their full potential. I would suggest that this can only be achieved by listening to children, their families and education professionals, and by ensuring that inclusion is by the choice of the pupils and their parents and not by compulsion.
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