Inclusion is a term that is very common in schools that normally incorporate both typical students and students with special educational needs (SENs). The paper will, therefore, look at the various problems that prevail whenever institutions try to fully understand what is really meant by inclusion. It will further demonstrate the various factors that have made the concept become a success in England. The concept of multi-agency working has also been observed to play a very significant role with respect to improving the performance of institutions that handle children with SENs. The paper also discusses the various advantages and drawbacks that are associated with multi-agency working and the various means through which parents and schools can partner in order to meet the needs of their children with special needs.
1 (a) Outline and discuss the problems with the definition of the term ‘inclusion’.
The term ‘inclusion’ has been observed to have different meanings among various people such as teachers and parents. The problem with the definition has mostly been attributed to children with disability or special educational needs SENs (Boardman, 2010; Cheminais, 2006). According to SEDL (2011), the concept has often been used to refer to a process whereby children with SENs are moved into mainstream schools or whereby the exclusion of other students is carried out in schools. Boardman (2010) says that there is another group of people who says that inclusion refers to the changing of policies, attitudes, and practices inside schools. It is agreed, however, that in order for inclusion to emerge successfully in schools, young people, together with their parents, must be willing to take full initiative towards supporting the concept. However, there are parents who are normally against the idea and instead, they lock up their children with SEN at home because they are ashamed of them. There are also schools that are known for not having well-established mechanisms for dealing with children with disabilities/SENs and as a result, these children end up feeling left out (Beveridge, 2004).
There is also a class of people who claim that inclusion is a continuous process with the goal of increasing the presence, participation, and achievement of all learners in an institution. In this context, the schools are required to regularly review as well as routinely reflect on their approaches meant to meet the needs of those people who are at a greater risk of being marginalized or being excluded (SEDL, 2011). This ensures that the learning and teaching process will benefit all people. The schools should in this context therefore accept and learn from the diversity and the uniqueness of the disadvantaged people.
According to Beveridge (2004) there are those institutions that believe they can engage in partial inclusion so as to cater for the needs of the disadvantaged. He says that this idea is morally unacceptable. The disadvantaged people should be accorded full attention in order to ensure that they are able to interact fully with the environment in which they are in. This way, they are able to remain focused on their goals. Beveridge further argues that the kind of harm that is caused to typical students is normally less important compared to the social harm that is caused to the disadvantaged people where they are made to be less visible in society. It is, therefore, necessary for institutions to understand that inclusion is a very critical aspect in every institution; thus, it is the goal of organizations to ensure that all people with special needs (SNs) in the organizations are accorded the recognition that they deserve.
There are those people who claim that they would understand inclusion if it is only associated with benefits. They say that inclusion should have positive impact on both the students who have SENs as well as those without. They claim, however, that whenever they integrate inclusion in their system, there is a problem with the adoption of the idea by the students who do not have SENs. As a result, therefore, they see no need to keep up with the problem and hence decide to do away with the idea as it disrupts the normal operations of the students (Warnock et al., 2010).
The cultural environment significantly influences the way in which people define inclusion. There are those societies which argue that people with special needs should not be allowed to interact with people who do not have SNs. As a result, these people with SNs are set aside in other areas whereby they can relate with their colleagues without influencing the lives of those without SNs. On the other hand, there are societies that do not see any problem with allowing people with SNs to interact with everyone. In this context, they claim that this condition has the effect of improving the psychological wellbeing of people with SNs. They are also able to build strong relationships with those people and as a result, they begin to feel appreciated as members of the society (Boardman, 2010).
According to Carl et al. (2007) many children and young people with SENs normally feel that they do not fit in any society because of the dilemma of difference. As a result, whenever they find a school that includes all their needs effectively, they feel welcome and have a peace of mind. Dale (1996) argues that there is an author who studied on the impact that a diversified education body normally brings on the general education population. He goes ahead and says that those students who have mental impairment and who spend most of the time with their peers tend to demonstrate an increase in academic proficiency and social skills.
It is, therefore, necessary for institutions to ensure that they fully understand what is meant by inclusion before criticizing the positive impacts it has with regard to transforming the lives of the people with special needs in the society. Boardman (2010) also says that inclusion is often more important than the academic performance of children with SENs. What happens here is that it is very difficult for a person to perform when he or she is feeling discriminated against. This state of affairs plays a very critical role with regards to making people within an organization feel appreciated and as a result, they are able to improve on how they relate with other people within an institution. This is only achievable when organizations realize the impact that inclusion has on the social behaviour of the disadvantaged people in any society.
(b) Assess the successes of inclusive education in England. Address this question in relation to contemporary research evidence.
The implementation of inclusion education in England is arguably one of the most controversial educational issues in the country ever since it adopted this policy. The paper intends to determine and discuss whether the policy is successfully implemented in England, as well as analyse its long term effects to the country’s educational system.
The premise of inclusion education is that the educational needs of children that have learning disabilities and special needs are more likely to be met when they are educated in regular classes together with other students without disabilities (Ainscow, Booth and Dyson 2006; Cline and Fredrickson, 2009). England adopted this new educational policy in conjunction with UNESCO’s appeal to the international community to consider inclusion education in order to improve the education of children that have learning disabilities and to facilitate their integration with society after their education (Norwich, 2008). This change in policy resulted into the many schools opening their institution to children with SENs and also resulted into additional training for teachers and professors in order to effectively teach students with special needs (Rayner, 2007; Rieser, 2008).
The practice of education inclusion has been met with mixed results that make it difficult to gauge whether the policy change has been effective or not. The educational theories involved that rationalize this change state that children are capable of developing learning behaviours that can allow them to adapt and learn from their surroundings, implying that children with special needs will be able to learn like regular students if their specific needs are provided by the school and if they are placed in an environment that can provide the necessary stimulus to facilitate learning (Lindsay, 2007). Barton and Amrstrong (2006) explain that children with SENs can greatly benefit from being included into regular classes by allowing them to be exposed to the behaviours of regular children, allowing them to develop adaptive behaviour that mimics good class room behaviour, communication techniques and study habits. Thomas and Loxley (2007) discuss that learning institutions are responsible for creating adaptive teaching techniques in order to accommodate the needs of every child regardless of learning ability or disability, indicating that having access to education an established curriculum can lead to academic and future success that cannot simply be attained in specialized classes.
All of these claims demonstrate that the reasoning behind the adoption of this policy is based on the intention of providing an environment that increases the chance of academic success of children with special needs. However, even with these grounded premises, the inclusion educational policy of England has produced only tepid results and more conflicts for policy makers and educators (Ainscow, 2006; Terzi and Norwich, 2010; Martin, 2008). Reasons for the difficulties in implementation can likewise be traced back to the same presented theories that rationalize the adoption of the inclusion education policy because all of these views represent different viewpoints that have specific conflicting elements that results into confusion and uncertainties regarding the definition of what truly inclusion is.
The premise that state that education is a universal right that the government must provide all students with quality education, making the inclusion education policy more centred on ideology, politics and civil rights, rather than on its merits on helping special needs children (Miles and Singhal, 2008; Rodgers, 2007). Florian (2007) explain that students with SENs all have specific needs that is different for each child depending on their specific conditions, emphasizing the importance of specialized training in teaching children. Teachers and educators in regular classes and schools do not have enough specialized training in order to effectively teach or communicate with these children. Forlin (2010) asserts that regular school teachers can experience difficulty in teaching both regular and students with special needs because making that transition from regular teaching strategies can be difficult. Making them rely on special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). Ainscow (2006) argues that one of the hindrances of effectively implementing inclusion is the lack of practical and applied training of regular teachers that can cope with the demands of children with SENs. These difficulties faced by educators are largely not addressed by the civil rights advocates of inclusion, depending on schools to make these adjustments for themselves, resulting into children with special needs being placed in institutions that do not have the necessary personnel that have specialized training to teach them (Barton and Armstrong, 2007; Miles and Singhal, 2008).
The advocates of inclusion due to the merits of placing them in regular school environment based on the role model concept and adaptive behaviour suffers from the reality that not all regular school environments are the same and that children behave or react differently when placed in a specific scenario or setting. The study of Gidley et al. (2010) supports this argument, stating that access to facilities that provides children with specific needs is difficult because not all school environments are the same. For instance, students that have hearing problems will experience difficulty in communicating with regular students if sign language is not included in the school in their curriculum, even though they are eligible for inclusion. Students that have autism can likewise experience difficulties if the regular students are not educated on the nature of their condition, resulting into feelings of social isolation and anxiety with these students. The study of Humphrey (2008) describes these difficulties as experienced by students that have autism, explaining that the emotional stress experienced by the students prevents them from learning, defeating the purpose of inclusion. The government’s categorization system that identify eligible children for inclusion do help (Florian, 2007; Daniels, 2000), but still results into too many children being left out (Ainscow, 2006; Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009; Norwich, 2008), thereby defeating the purpose of the policy, since majority of children with SENs still remain in specialized schools or other similar institutions.
In the end, data shows that the inclusion strategy has yet to produce significant improvements because many issues have yet to be resolved. The study of Lindsay (2007) that reviewed various forms of literature discussing inclusion, determined that positive effects of the inclusion strategy are not evident and can be considered as negligible because of the myriad of problems in its implementation. The same finding is discussed by the study of Hodkinson (2010), however, the study provides a positive light to issues against inclusive education, stating that improvements have been made and that further involvement and coordination between the involved agencies can drastically improve inclusion education.
2 (a) Drawing on research outline the advantages of multi-agency working. What are the barriers to successful multi-agency working? Refer to research in your answer.
In order to implement the inclusion policy, various agencies are involved in making the necessary policies that can facilitate the integration of children with special needs to the regular school system (Rieser, 2008; Ainscow, Booth and Dyson, 2006). The most important agencies involved with implementing the inclusion education policy are the Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCO) and the agencies that administer the regular school teachers (Rayner, 2007). Collaboration and coordination with these agencies are important because the presence of SENCOs are necessary to guide institutions in formulating school policies and guidelines that allow them to educate children with SENs. Cheminais (2006) explains that SENCOs have assumed a significant role in the inclusion education policy given that majority of the regular school institutions require guidance on how to properly educate qualified children.
Collaboration between SENCOs and school administrators is also necessary in order to identify the needs of children with special needs and additional facilities they require in order to assimilate themselves in the regular school environment. Martin (2008) explains that improving communication techniques and strategies is one vital component when educating children with SENs because failure to do so will render any teaching strategy to become ineffective. SENCOs successfully fulfil this function, stating that the experience of this coordinators are valuable because they have been working longer in an environment that deals with students with SENs on a daily basis (Miles ; Singhal, 2008; Rodgers, 2007). For instance, schools involved in inclusion are expected to integrate specific activities that can reach children with SENs in order to facilitate education.
Specific issues can hinder the collaboration between SENCOs and regular school teachers. The studies of Ainscow (2006) and Miles and Singhal (2008) both state that jurisdiction and leadership issues can be a barrier for effective collaboration because SENCOs and regular school teachers report to two different agencies that each have its own leadership. Problems can arise when the issue of jurisdiction is brought up, especially on the status of SENCOs on regular schools because although they have the specialized skills needed by the regular school teachers, they must still abide by the regulations and policies of these schools (Ainscow, 2006). Moreover, the relationship between regular teachers and SENCOs are further hindered by the lack of a definitive that each play in the inclusion policy. Thomas (2004) argue that problems can occur in determining which of them is primary implementer of the policy in the school setting, especially if regular school teachers have yet to receive sufficient training to educate children with SENs. Clear and concise policies can remedy the issue and allow all those involve to be aware of their roles within the policy.
As discussed earlier, not all students with SENs are eligible for inclusion to help ensure that these children will experience no difficulties in joining these classes. Children that have severe extra sensory problems have a history of disruptive behaviour or short attention spans have generally been excluded in inclusion education programs. Coordination between the regular schools and the local government agencies ensure that children with SENs can manage the regular school environment to ensure that these students are not exposed in an environment that will do more harm than good (Hodkinson and Vickerman, 2009). Because of the need of collaboration between the different agencies, ineffective communication between the involved agencies can be a significant barrier that prevents them from fulfilling their respective responsibilities since the problems encountered by one agency will surely be encountered by other agencies involved and that a proper resolution will not be formulated if communication is absent (Booth and Dyson, 2006; Terzi and Norwich, 2010).
The system has its flaws because there is no definite way to predict the reaction of these student to the regular school environment (Ainscow, 2006; Norwich, 2008), but the local government agencies provide much needed guidance that can help schools decide on how to manage their inclusion program. Furthermore, collaboration with local government agencies offers a channel that allows schools to provide immediate feedback about the needs of their students in the community (Terzi and Norwich, 2010). Collaboration between these agencies further increase the chances that qualified children will be placed in institutions that can meet their educational needs. In this issue, availability of resources is a potential barrier since not all boroughs have the same number of financial resources, as well as the appropriate number of trained personnel and educational facilities to implement inclusion in their area (Forlin, 2010; Rayner, 2007). Local government authorities are not only expected to maximize the resources available to them, but also inform the appropriate authorities about their difficulties. Problems in resources can be handled through prudent management, while issues concerning roles and jurisdiction can be handled through proper communication (Cheminais, 2006; Mitchell, 2008).
Finally, a positive effect of involving multiple agencies is that improvements in policies concerning education can be made based on the feedback and experiences of the involved agencies in inclusion education, specifically on implementing the policy in actual practice. In this regard, the expert opinions of SENCOs are integral because they have the most practical experience in managing children with SENs, as well as in conducting educational activities that can be used for these children. Educators can provide insight on how to integrate these practices in regular school activities to facilitate the education of these children, as well as to ensure that the regular students will be guided and informed on how to interact with these students in order to provide a conducive environment for their learning. The local government agencies are not generally aware of these operational aspects, and open communication between these agencies can greatly improve the system that is currently lacking in focus and clear objective (Ainscow, 2006; Cline and Fredrickson, 2009; Miles and Singhal, 2008).
(b) How can partnerships between schools and parents of children with SEN be improved?
Children who have special needs deserve all the care that they can get both from the parents as well as the teachers. It is, therefore, necessary to enhance partnerships between the parents and the teachers in order to improve the wellbeing of these children. This can be more effective when partnerships between parents and teachers are fostered. One of the ways in which this relationship can be fostered is by welcoming well-wishers to make contributions to the programs meant to assist children with SENs. Parents and institutions should also be willing to contribute to the program in order to enhance its sustainability as well as ensure that it is under constant supply of funds. This way, it will be possible for the parents to take their children to schools believing that optimum care will be directed to them (Great Britain Parliament, 2006).
Since the teachers are the ones who normally have a wide exposure regarding how children with SENs are supposed to relate with each other, the teachers should explain to the parents how they are supposed to relate with their children in such a manner that can foster their physical, social, and psychological wellbeing (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2007). This is supported by Rayner (2007) study which found that when teachers demonstrate an effort to direct the parents on the ways in which they can relate with their children, the parents will be able to develop close ties with those teachers thereby fostering the relationships that they have with each other.
Teachers should, at times, call parents for seminars aimed at guiding them on ways through which they should interact with their children at home. This strategy would serve as a very essential tool especially to those parents who do not have any information on how to treat their children who have SENs. When teachers demonstrate such concern, the parents will be appreciative of the efforts that those teachers make and hence improve on the relationship that they have towards each other (Warnock et al., 2010). This way, parents will be able to gain the trust of the teachers and the teachers will confidently engage in partnerships with the parents, knowing that the parents will also play the part of improving the performance of their children with SENs.
There are families who do not know how to deal with their children who deserve special attention. In order to foster relationships with the parents, teachers need to make it their responsibility to visit the homes of children with SENs. In this context, the teachers are able to see how these parents relate with their children. This way, the teachers will be able to spot any weaknesses with the parents-children relationship and as a result, train the former on effective means of addressing the needs of their children effectively (Family Education, 2011). Ainscow (2006) says that this will make the parents feel that their children are loved and appreciated and thus, the parents will be more open to the teachers and be ready to build long-lasting relationships with them regarding the development of the wellbeing of their children.
From the analysis, it is evident that inclusion is a concept that, when adopted, would result to the needs of special children being met adequately. Many sources have stated that the problems associated with the inclusion educational policy of England is because of the lack of unifying focus on what inclusion is supposed to be and the strategies used to implement it on the operational level to meet the primary objectives of policy. As of now, the improvements can still be made on how the policy is implemented, and collaboration and communication between the involved agencies is an effective strategy to implement these strategies. It is, therefore, recommended for institutions to ensure that they adopt both the concept of inclusion and multi-agency working in order for them to effectively provide the needs of children with special needs both in schools and at the children’s own homes.
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