In a joint blog Nancy Gedge and Chris Rossiter list the top five reasons why inclusive education isn’t something that should ever go out of fashion.
- Inclusive teaching is good teaching
Inclusion can’t go out of fashion because it’s like eating or breathing. Being an inclusive teacher is just being a teacher. These kids are in your class, so no excuses. The law says so, policy says so, good practice says so and we have a professional remit to do it. Unlike mini-skirts, craft-beer or organic kale crisps served in hessian bags, inclusion is a way of working- like riding a bicycle. It’s a method, which may change and evolve over time, but it isn’t something you can pick up or put down according to the weather. As a way of teaching, backed by the law, it’s a bit like your self-assessment tax return. The only difference is that there isn’t anyone chasing you if you try to fiddle the system.
- We are signed up to the Salamanca Statement
It seems like a long time ago, but the statement still stands. Education for all is a human right, not a privilege; an academic entitlement for all young people, regardless of their needs. Like it says: ‘Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all’. What we have is not ‘meritocracy’, where only some young people ‘deserve’ a particular kind of education , but one of social justice and human rights, where we recognise that children and young people with SEND, or any other kind of difference (girls, ethnicity) are equally human and equally deserving of an education.
- Inclusive teaching raises standards for all.
It’s time to be done with the nonsense that including young people with special needs into mainstream classes, or even teaching mixed ability groups, damages educational outcomes. If we are serious about closing gaps or diminishing differences and giving opportunities to those upon whose doors it has never knocked before, then inclusive practise is the way to do it. We want to raise outcomes and improve the future for all children, don’t we? We aren’t just interested in the ‘happy few’ or the ‘deserving’, are we?
- Inclusive education has the potential to change society in a fundamentally positive way.
One of the main reasons that parents of disabled children send them to mainstream schools is that the act is, in itself, a symbolic recognition of our shared humanity. All children are different, they all have a unique set of skills and talents, despite their background, or intelligence, or special learning needs. But the fact is that the future remains a not-especially positive vision for those with a disability. We can do something about that. The future is not fated; it is unwritten for all.
- Inclusive education is cheaper
In times of budget squeezes and real terms costs to schools, the imperative to save money is ever more apparent. Schools are asked, this year more than ever, to do more with less, although if you looked at recent headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking the opposite. However, like the £37.1 million in December 2014, this money won’t be going directly to schools. It won’t be there to ensure that practice is improved, it isn’t there to ensure that teacher knowledge and understanding of SEND is strengthened, or to employ staff either to work directly with children, such as SaLTs or EPs, or to train specialist TAs, but to help to clear up the administrative mess that change upon change visited upon the education system has resulted in.
But we do need to see change. We need to see Inclusion being something that isn’t up for debate. We need to see the slow slide towards segregation for what it is. We need to reassure our teachers that they have the skills to teach all the children in the class.
The change we need is a change of the heart, and that the time for that is now.