Integration or Inclusion

“Special Education Week …. Autism and ADHD Awareness Month.
‘Kids with Special needs aren’t weird or odd. They only want what everyone wants…. to be accepted.”

Inclusive Policies for those with disability or with Learning difficulties

by Pam

Labour’s approach to how to best include children with Special Educational Needs requires careful planning. The following needs consideration:

  • Inclusion in society is a human right.
  • Exclusive practice is discriminatory.
  • The word “mainstream” is not necessarily a large, busy school.
  • Children and adults learn from working alongside others.
  • Differences should enrich our lives, not divide us.
  • All involved in education need training on SEN.
  • Specialist staff need specialist training.
  • Schools may need to be adapted for accessibility

Therefore, Labour should continue with the policy of Every Child Matters, but in future should  allow for more variety of provision, smaller accessible schools in some cases or units within schools. Specialist support will be made available in all schools for provision of SEN as listed below, ensuring that all children enjoy learning, can form positive relationships with each other and lead fulfilling and constructive lives.

If we were to design an education system that segregated on the grounds of race, there would quite rightly be an uproar. Why is it then that there are those who feel it is acceptable to segregate some children from others on the grounds of gender, of creed, or on the grounds of disability?

Educate to suit the child, not mould the child to fit the school

Why should we be surprised that adults who were segregated from others while children sometimes feel alienated from one another and communities live with social friction and with its associated problems?

Arguments for inclusive education are well documented and rest on notions of equality and human rights. Much more than a policy requirement, inclusion is founded upon a moral position which values and respects every individual and which welcomes diversity as a rich learning resource. At a time when the educational landscape is rapidly changing, with schools having to provide for learners of increasingly diverse abilities and family, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, respect and equal commitment to all learners seem more important than ever. The education system is called upon to cater for, among others, black and minority ethnic learners, children of migrant workers and of gypsies, travellers and showpeople as well as for disabled learners. CSIE works towards the restructuring of mainstream provision so that all schools are willing and able to include, value and respect all children.

Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (1)

Our school system is the key place in our society where people from all backgrounds learn to live together. Inclusion is not just about a few children with learning, physical or behavioural impairments being ‘placed’ in mainstream schools. It is about creating a society where all people can find their own unique place and work together for the benefit of all. If this work is not started at school – then what hope do we have as a society?

(Alliance for Inclusive Education) (2)

Examples of children with specific learning difficulties SpLD

A child who experiences a specific learning difficulty, for example dyslexia will of course need extra support in school.Dyslexia (3,4) is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence. The same applies to individuals with dyscalculia. Dyscalculia (5) is difficulty with numbers. It is separable from the individual’s ability with mathematics. People are often good at mathematics but have specific difficulties with numbers. Other children may have been diagnosed with dyspraxia, which can impact on their daily lives. Dyspraxia, (6) also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a disability that affects movement and co-ordination. Evidence indicates that it is caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. Having dyspraxia does not change how intelligent a child is, but it does affect their learning ability. They may need extra help at school to keep up with their classmates.  It is therefore imperative that there is specialist provision within all schools allowing focus on these specific difficulties yet there must be opportunities for these children to spend a large part of their school day with their peers.

Other specific conditions, which can affect a child’s ability to learn, include ADHD and ADD.  (7) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a type of ADHD. Extra support for these children should be provided. Adequate funding to schools to support this additional provision is essential, and will be guaranteed by a Labour government. For a child to be excluded from other aspects of school life unaffected by their specific difficulty would therefore be discriminatory and would deny that child basic human rights.

Inclusive Policy of children with moderate learning difficulties MLD

The same arguments about human rights and rights to inclusion apply to those with moderate learning difficulties. The same principles listed above apply. It is also recognised that all people will gain a greater understanding of the population if encouraged to mix at school and the benefits of this to the harmony in society cannot be understated, while also enhancing the opportunities for those with MLD.

The Centre for studies on Inclusive Education and the Alliance for Inclusive Education put forward very convincing arguments, supported by studies for Inclusion.

When the Coalition Government came to power, the following was in the Queen’s Speech outlining the details of its first proposed education legislation, the academies bill, all contain important indicators for the future of SEN.

The Coalition programme for government included promises to:

•                ‘remove the bias towards inclusion’

•                ‘improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren’

•                ‘prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools’

•                ‘tackle bullying, especially homophobic bullying’

•                ‘ensure that all new academies follow an inclusive admissions policy’

‘work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible’.

The following is noted from “SENCO Update” (8), showing the move away from Inclusive Policy

1.“The undertaking to prevent the closure of special schools and ‘remove the bias’ towards inclusion in mainstream schools will not come as a surprise to those familiar with Conservative Party policy. It follows the undertakings in their election manifesto and reflects what they have been saying for the last five years.”

2.“The coalition government should have no difficulty in developing a shared implementation plan for specialist provision. The Liberal Democrats are thought to want to stop any reduction in special school places and to support the development of more co-located special schools on mainstream campuses.

However, there will be resistance to these moves to limit inclusion among disability rights and inclusive education advocates, and these groups will no doubt argue that the government will be out of kilter with international efforts to implement Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Some might welcome this policy in the belief that inclusive policies of the previous New Labour government failed, and that MLD children may benefit from focussed approaches in Special Schools. However, as stated earlier, the segregation is both inadvisable and discriminatory. Labour should adopt an inclusive policy, but ensure more flexibility, regarding the size of the nature of the school environment, e.g. smaller schools, nurturing environment, adaption of schools for access. It is ever more clear that New Labour’s focus on league table  benefited very few children, indeed maybe none, and it diverted resources and attention away from Inclusion.

Furthermore, clarification should be made regarding the terms Integration and Inclusion. To many, they are interchangeable terms. In fact, they are fundamentally different.

Integration is when a child meets the school;

Inclusion is where the school meets the child.

With the correct focus, with adequate funding, with removal of the obsession with league tables, with investment and flexibility, inclusion is not only the best policy for children with SEN, but also better for those in the more general population.  It is the responsibility of a government to ensure that such very vulnerable children are not discriminated against, and have access to their human rights.

For a Labour Party, that turn its back on human rights, is not worthy of the name of a party with a history of supporting the vulnerable and ensuring rights for all people. Labour must show that  Every Child Matters.

References and Further Reading

1. http://www.inclusion.org.uk/

Centre for studies on Inclusive Education

2. http://www.allfie.org.uk/

The Alliance for Inclusive Education

3. http://www.scribd.com/doc/6909663/Dyslexia-and-Inclusion-Classroom-Approaches

Advice for Inclusion – dyslexia

4.http://www.dys-add.com/define.html

Biright Solutions for Dyslexia

5. http://www.reading.ac.uk/disability/about/DyslexiaSLDs/do-dyscalculia.aspx

Dyscalculia – Information

6. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Dyspraxia-(childhood)/Pages/Introduction.aspx

7. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

ADHD/ADD Information

8.http://www.senco-update.com/article/government-remove-bias-towards-inclusion SENCO Update –Refers to SEN Policy

15 thoughts on “Integration or Inclusion

  1. A great post Pam.

    Through the issues with my little boy (with probable Aspergers), I know issues the hard way.

    The SENCOs we have met have not filled us with confidence. Through some basic research done on the internet and a few library books, it became apparent that we knew more than the SENCOs.

    We had major issues with how the school communicated with the local NHS who were assessing him. The communication was virtually nil.

    When we got quite assertive about basically terrible professional standards, things moved quicker, but later we saw the notes made on my wife and myself and we had been labelled as aggressive. Utter lies.

    We also realised that we had been told a pack of lies by both the school and speech therapist who was looking at him (he had been misdiagnosed as having verbal dyspraxia, very common we have learned).

    We pulled our boy out of that school, and he is in a better school, with a school action plus plan starting in September.

    We have had to fight so hard. It is obvious that some SENCOs have little training or experience, and are useless. This must be the starting point to make things better.

  2. Garry.. I identify so much with what you are saying but its not just with schools. I could report so many times, when I have had to persuade the GP to do a throat swab … on one occasion, he insisted that my child’s week old sore throat was because the child must have been sleeping with their mouth open (!) Three days later, there would be no acknowledgement when they phoned with a prescription for a streptococcus infection, and when I looked at the notes, I found that I had invariably been described as an aggressive mother…. not an adjective usually applied to me.

    The problem is that the SENCO and the GP both act as ‘gatekeepers’ …. and all depends on getting a sympathetic, competent professional. Personally, I think far too much power is invested in these positions and many of the ‘inadequacies’ of schools and the NHS stem from that point in the process. It is all too easy for a prejudiced, uncaring or stupid SENCO/GP to write off the parent as the problem and facilitate the ignoring of a child’s very real needs. Well done for moving your little lad to a different school.

    On the other hand, if all the SENCOs were like Pam, none of us would have cause to complain :) Great post Pam.

    • The truth is SENCOs have very little power, it all rests with head teachers and their budgets. With the introduction of Academy Schools from Sepember I predict there will be more problems for all, as it will be all about money and profits.

      • A question for you Pam, if you don’t mind please?

        Is a SENCO a trained teacher first, who then does additional training? If so how long is this additional training?

        I think that as the SENCO should be an advocate for the child first and foremost, if they work under the Head, it has potential to be a conflict of interest. I would like SENCOs to be independent of the school hierarchy.

    • Thanks for that Sue.

      I think parental instinct with regard to their child is very powerful, and more of the medical profession would be wise to listen to it more.

      • Garry, I think it depends on an individual school. Special Needs co-ordinators should be teachers with SEN qualification and experience, some schools have no SENCO in place or a non teacher in place.
        Ideally SEN qualification would be the norm, but bear in mind the costs of training and university fees. In my opinion all education should be free, but certainly for those working in the public sector for five years or more the fees should be waived, and that applies to public sector education and health. Those who have free training and then go on to work in private health or education direct from training could pay a penalty. I fear what will happen with Academies in olace and I think all sorts will be hitting the proverbial fan.

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  4. I just think we need to remember that every life is equal. Those of us who ill and disabled are not to be pushed away and hidden, as it was for generations past; let’s not go back there.

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