When we as teachers use the word ‘Inclusion’ what do we mean? Have we understood it’s meaning, in terms of policies and statutory documents, or are we actually trying to make sense of inclusion through practical applications and what we innately know will work for our pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Or is Inclusion a one (word) hit wonder that we have all adhered to, so that we don’t forget that the SEND children matter. However, in reality we don’t really know how or what it should look like, within the classroom.
The principles behind Inclusion, are all noteworthy and in essence, it’s a great way to ensure that our senior leaders and teaching staff, are all singing from the same hymn sheet, to manage the teaching and learning of SEND pupils. Except it would appear that on ground level, it’s mainly the teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) who are concerned about SEND and are functionally trying their very best to understand and promote the inclusion of SEND children in every aspect of the school curriculum. Yet, time and time again we are told to take a whole school approach towards the inclusion of SEND pupils. Therefore, how can we make certain that all our teachers (this includes senior leaders) are concerned with SEND and incorporate high quality teaching, that will facilitate an inclusive classroom setting?
The key emphasis must be, to provide an inclusive learning environment, where the pupils’ needs are met, without drawing attention to their difficulties in order to limit any feelings of embarrassment and frustration. But at the same time, making sure that, they are able to participate in whole class activities and praised for their contribution towards class discussions, subject specific topic work and any interactive group work with their peers. Essentially the aim should be to encourage a cohesive community, in which all pupils, regardless of their learning difficulties, feel comfortable to take part in-class activities.
In order to ensure that learning is effective and progressive for all pupils, including those with SEND, we need to address any barriers that may prevent this from happening.The analysis of data collected from systemic observation studies which consider the educational experiences of SEND pupils within the classroom in primary schools (UK), alongside recent secondary studies(formoreinfo;http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ber j.3181/abstracthttp://maximisingtas.co.uk/research/the-sense-study.php) do indicate that an increase of TA involvement with SEND has led to limited interaction between the teachers and peers. Surely, this has a significant impact, both on the day to day learning and experiences of the SEND pupil within the classroom.
A class teacher at primary level or a form/subject teacher at secondary school, both play a vital role in promoting an inclusive classroom environment. Their tactful understanding of the SEND child’s needs, as well as the manner in which they influence the dynamics of the classroom, are essential factors that can promote a positive learning environment for all SEND pupils. Essentially it is the teacher who inspires the child to overcome their fears and welcomes the contribution that they make to build a cohesive community between all pupils within the classroom. It cannot be left to the TA or the SENCO to manage this relationship between SEND pupil-teacher-peers, but they, along with senior leaders can raise the consistency of an all-inclusive learning environment throughout the school and across the whole staff.