Understanding Inclusion: Framing a Practitioner Enquiry
Tutor: Alan Britton
Inclusion is a contentious and complex issue which has been widely debated and critically reflected upon within Scottish Education (Scottish Executive, 2006). Inclusion, according to Thomas and Vaugham (2009) represents the convergence of various channels of thought, social, political and educational. However, there is no straightforward or clear consensus of the definition of inclusion even though the term has been researched over a long period of time in an effort to determine what it means and what can be achieved from it. However, Haring, (2002) asserts that the long and extensive rhetoric surrounding inclusion in education has to some degree has been substantially successful. Notably, this does not only refer to pupils’ with mild disabilities but also for pupils who are regarded as having intellectual and significant disabilities (Smith, 2010).
The following essay will explore the concept of inclusion and how inclusion as an ideology has evolved to form the landscape in education to date. Specifically, this will be examined through the lens of leading commentator’s interpretation of inclusion and the Government policies that have been implemented to support inclusion within Scotland. Booth and Ainscow (1978) have debated the notion of inclusion since 1978, they assert that for many authors inclusion has been framed by a philosophy of acceptance. Similarly, it is about developing a structure where all children irrespective of ability, gender, and language, ethnic or cultural orientation are treated with equality and respect. Therefore, ensuring that all children can be provided with equal opportunities to fully embrace and participate in schools.
Initially, inclusion was not always known as inclusion. It was once referred to as integration and was brought to the forefront in England by the Warnock Report in 1978. The report created huge national interest influencing the way children with learning needs should be integrated into mainstream schools. Subsequently, this lead to LEA’s looking at a more social model for disabilities as opposed to the previously applied medical model that had been exercised in earlier legislation and reports (Thomas & Vaughan,2009). Those committees proposals ultimately set the scene for significant enhancements in the educational and social lives of people with disabilities and additional learning needs. Likewise and particularly noteworthy was the recognition of parental voice, allowing parents to have an equal partnership with professionals on their child’s educational process. As much as the Warnock report gave ground for inclusion it was limiting in the fact that it was more aimed at integration in three areas, locational (special units), social ( interaction with whole school during lunch and play), and functional ( the children were included in certain activities in regular classes). In retrospect these endorsements were damaging and limiting, allowing for a segregated framework and hindered the progress of integration (Thomas & Vaughan, 2009). Thereafter, in 1994 the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action provided a significant development towards an Inclusive Education system. As a result the statement was weighty and popular, to such an extent that the Labour Government gave full support and consequently used the recommendations in the Green Paper, Excellence for All Children. At the same time, Wertheimer (1997) asserted the importance of inclusion and states that the Salamanca Statement together with 1989 UN Convention of the Rights of the Child provided clarity to international authority, resulting in inclusion being implemented as one of the human rights.
More recently inclusion and equality in education is considered one of the five national priorities embedded in the standards of Scotland’s School Act 2000. This