HEAVILY CRITICISED LABOUR POLICY ‘INCLUSION FOR EVERYONE’ NOW DEEMED A SUCCESS 10 YEARS ON
In 2005 the Labour government launched their ‘inclusion for everyone’ school policy under harsh criticism from parents, teachers and other government officials. However 10 years later it would appear that most people have been converted and now the overwhelming sentiment is that inclusion for everyone works.
A recent survey undertaken by educational law specialists Maxwell Gillott has shown that in the decade since inclusion for children with Special Education Needs (SEN) into mainstream schools was introduced, public opinion has changed with over 58% of those surveyed indicating that they do believe inclusion works.
Samantha Hale for Maxwell Gillott explained the reason for carrying out this research “With experts identifying that 1 in 5 children will be diagnosed as having SEN at some point in their education, it is now more important than ever to ensure we are not failing our children. We need to ensure that their educational needs are being met. Sadly, very few children with SEN go through school without experiencing some sort of problem during their education, and this includes children who have been identified as having a hearing impairment.”
She continued “Hearing impairment can range from mild impairment to complete deafness, which means that although some children will need a specialised environment others should have no problem attending and thriving within a mainstream school so long as the child receives the correct support that might be needed - usually this is in the form of a specialist Teacher of the Deaf. If your child has a hearing impairment we would recommend you talk to the specialist teacher in the first instance, to make sure your child’s learning is being fully supported.”
Wanting a better understanding of whether or not the integration process is as successful as these results show, parents, teachers, Ofsted and the teachers unions NUT and NASUWT were also approached for comment and asked, “Do you think the inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream schools WORKS?”
This time the opinions were more mixed:
A primary school teacher agrees with the theory, but was keen to point out that all students, not just those with SEN, need to be considered when discussing inclusion. “I am very much in agreement with the inclusion of all students in one school, unless it is detrimental to the other pupils in that class.”
A secondary school teacher highlighted the struggles faced. “My mainstream school is in partnership with the local SILC (Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre). This means that students with SEN have a base within school were they are sometimes taught but they can also attend mainstream lessons when appropriate. This works brilliantly and has given SEN students supported access to expert subject teaching and exam courses which would have been much harder to provide in a SEN specialist site. However in order to be in the SILC, students need to have been assessed as having a high level of difficulty/disability. We have more problems catering for students who are fully in the mainstream school but who have some level of SEN. Funding – even when a child has a statement – is very hard to come by and class sizes are on the increase.”
It was not just teachers who agree with the theory but have ongoing concerns. An occupational therapist and senior children’s resource worker said “In my opinion it should work and it should be supported. However, teachers don't have the correct training, funding means schools can't equip adequately and other atypical children are not educated sufficiently on how not to discriminate” In search of a better understanding regarding how organisations at a high level view the situation, the NUT and NASUWT were approached. NASUWT didn’t comment but Christine Blower, General Secretary, the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said:
“The NUT believes that all schools should be inclusive and we are encouraged that the majority of the public shares this view. Local authority support services have always aided schools in effectively including pupils with SEN. Regrettably, those services in the past five years have been severely cut. Schools are often being left on their own and with inadequate funding. It is imperative that school funding is increased, including early years and post-16, and local authorities properly resourced.”
She continued “It is very clear that children and young people with SEN have been badly let down by the current approach to national policy. They face discrimination in admissions practices in some schools. Local authorities can no longer ‘hold the ring’ and ensure schools work together on special needs. Schools face an accountability regime which undermines inclusive education and which is jeopardising some of the world-class inclusive practice developed in our classrooms. We need a longer term and wider view of what success means so that all children and young people are valued and a wider range of effort and attainment is recognised.”
Ofsted was also unwilling to comment; however, they did highlight their Special Educational Needs and Disability review and a document entitled ‘Inclusion: does it matter where pupils are taught?’ from 2005 which showed there was “little difference in the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils across primary and secondary mainstream schools and special schools. However, mainstream schools with additionally resourced provision were particularly successful in achieving high outcomes for pupils academically, socially and personally.”
So, whilst there continues to be support overall for the inclusion of children with Special Educational Needs, there are also some concerns, mainly around funding and resource provision.
Samantha concluded “As educational law specialists, all at Maxwell Gillott are very passionate about this subject. We will continue to work alongside interested parties regarding inclusion in mainstream school for children with SEN including those with hearing impairment, and work tirelessly to ensure all children get the educational opportunities they deserve.”
Maxwell Gillott is a trading style of SIMPSON MILLAR LLP
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