By Chris Chivers
This post was originally published at Chris Chivers (Thinks).
Inclusion can sometimes be seen as an add-on to “normal” teaching activity. It is possible to argue that inclusion, far from being an add-on, is an integral part of practice, explicit in the detail of the standards for teachers. Teachers will go to work each day to secure the best opportunities for each and every child in their class. Inclusion occurs in the best of teaching experiences.
Inclusion is not something that is done to people. It is an aspect of ethos, a principle and, as such, exists or it doesn’t. An inclusive environment is one where people matter, their needs and aspirations are not only known but are also supported. Therefore it is a college of individuals which cares for each other, the collegiate approach. Inclusion is an ethos based on love and care, with the opposite extreme leading to exclusion and a child being ostracised. An inclusive ethos should allow individuals to express themselves and, at times, to articulate different opinions. Openness and articulacy can support the resolution of issues more easily. Inclusive organisations often support discussion and resolution through mediation and allowing advocacy for vulnerable members.
All school staff are the eyes and ears of the organisation. In this approach, early identification of concerns, such as behaviour change, physical hurt and absence can lead to early intervention, by the most suitable means, sometimes external to the school. School staff have a responsibility to keep children safe. Intervention can be testing for the adult, but to ignore warning signs puts everyone at risk.
Every child is unique, demonstrably so, educationally, physically, emotionally, socially, though heritage and life experience. It is possible to perceive thirty different needs in a class of thirty children. That puts a strain on a teacher’s organisational abilities and their ability to engage with each individual. However, differentially challenging activities can lead to deeper engagement
with small groups and individuals, where whole class teaching cannot.
Differentiation has been a significant challenge to teachers, as it implies the need to plan for several layers of ability within groups. Some schools organise in sets or streams, but it is arguable that even in sets there is a continuum of ability, even if it is narrowed. One only has to ask the simple question, “What’s the point in being bright in this classroom?” to see that some may not be sufficiently challenged. Challenge implies expectation, where the teacher has analysed the child’s needs and can see what that the next learning step is. Expectation can lead to aspiration, with targets being set slightly higher, but with support. Teachers need to be aware that task completion does not automatically mean success in learning, but the combination of learning processes with positive outcomes is energising to both the child and the teacher. We all want the “light-bulb moment”.
Inclusion should imply personalised approaches to learning and teaching, with individualised challenges for children to enable them to become engaged learners and active producers,
rather than consumers.
Assessment, analysis and reflection are embedded within practice, supporting individual and institutional progress.
The mantra for each school and each individual within a school should be,
“Inclusion is what we do.”