Changing Approach to Inclusion in Britain

Here’s a fascinating article from The Independent newspaper in UK looking at the proposed government changes to policy and legislation on inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools.

The Independent article

I first became aware of the debate that was raging in UK around 3-4 years ago. As stated in the article, it was the Warnock Report that did more than anything else to shape the policy in the UK over the last 40 years. The policy had resulted in all but around 120,000 children with special needs being moved in to mainstream schools. Sometimes this included children with very significant mental and/ or physical challenges to be accommodated. One of the results of this was that large numbers of special schools and units had to close down because they had insufficient students. This meant that for the small number of children who were not joining the mainstream schools, they were faced with long and challenging commutes to the nearest special school.

Around 5-6 years ago Baroness Warnock shocked the SEN community when she openly questioned what she and her colleagues had done over all those years. Her new perspective was that whilst the decisions made and actions resulting from them were for all the right ideological and ethical reasons, somewhere they had been ruled too much by their hearts. The result – children in mainstream schools where neither they or their classmates benefited from their presence. Reading between the lines I conclude that the perception was that the presence of the children with the most challenging individual needs caused unavoidable distraction from the overall needs of a class of students and even then too often that individual child’s needs also got compromised.

Our awareness of these UK debates and history have played some part in the shaping of the TSRS approach to inclusion for special needs students since 2007. As a result, we have limited the numbers of SEN children in a class and been careful to limit to those children who we believe have the capability to transact a curriculum in a group setting. Throughout, we have sought to ensure that the needs of the individual child and the rest of the children in the class are not brought in to conflict. Whilst this always scope to improve, we’re pretty happy with the achievements to date. Where success has been achieved it has been in large part down to a very high calibre special educators working alongside mainstream teachers who were open and receptive to doing things in new ways to meet changed scenarios in the classroom.

For the longer term, a debate goes on about how TSRS might support the needs of children who don’t meet these criteria for inclusive education, especially as we are painfully aware that there is a massive shortfall in provision currently. However, no definite plans to report just yet.

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