Bullock (1975) goes on to say that ‘A stimulating classroom environment will not necessarily of itself develop the children’s ability to use language as an instrument for learning’. It is also suggested that additional staff are brought in to accommodate the children who do not have English as their first language. In a school with a high percentage of children in these circumstances it should be reasonable to expect that this provision would be made.
However, in my experience in a school where there is little ethnic diversity, with around one per cent of the pupils coming from an ethnic background this is unlikely to be deemed viable. The obvious barriers to inclusion for children, whose first language is not English, are those of communication and language as well as racism. In order to try to address these issues and offer an inclusive environment, teaching assistants support them in the classroom by assisting with communication and understanding and are currently researching the use of translation websites as well as foreign language – English dictionaries.
Resources for translated versions of the books used in school are also being sought. These pupils are also given additional study support time to catch up using dictionaries and other available resources to ensure understanding of the subject – this takes place in a quiet environment away from the rest of the class and could be seen as a form of exclusion, however, from both the school’s and the pupil’s point of view, this ‘time out’ is essential to ensure long-term inclusion.
Cultural differences are discussed and taught in PSHE and RE from year 7 at secondary school (continuing the work already started at primary school) in order to encourage social awareness of people’s different cultures and beliefs and empathy towards their communication difficulties. Inclusion for all children offers them the same learning opportunities regardless of gender. In the past there have been concerns over higher achievement made by boys than that of girls. This was thought to have been due to girls being seen as home-makers and not bread-winners.
However, times have changed and it is now of concern that girls achieve, on average, much better results than boys. Cole (2006) cites that ‘girls have continued to do better in education whenever they have been offered more opportunities’. He goes on to conclude that instead of celebrating this achievement of girls, the media have seen this academic success by girls as a problem for boys, in particular working class boys. By removing the streaming of many subjects, pupils of a lower ability are being offered the opportunity to work with and learn from those who achieve higher academically.
Girls are possibly taking advantage of this more than boys as they are aware that it can be harder to ‘climb the ladder’ as a girl as they are constantly told by the media that men earn more than women on average and that men have the top jobs. There is much debate on whether inclusion can feel like isolation to some children. In a debate on BBC Radio 4 (see appendix 1), titled ‘Is Inclusion Of Special Needs Pupils Into Mainstream Schools Always The Right Option?
‘, Richard Rieser, director of Disability Equality in Education which campaigns for inclusion of disabled pupils into mainstream schools, argues that special schools are outdated and ‘it’s about time we moved on to inclusive schools’. He goes on to say that this is possible if barriers are removed, such as the way that teaching and learning is organised, the curriculum, the materials that are in the classroom, the physical environment of the school and most importantly attitudes of staff, parents and other children. Reiser states that ‘What can’t be changed so easily is the child themselves…
evidence suggests that if you go to a separate school then you remain separate for all of your life. And the achievement is very, very low in most of the special schools’. During the same programme it was argued by Jerry Bartlett of the NASUWT, that ‘it remains the situation that there are pupils whose best interests are not served by a policy of universal inclusion within mainstream schools when in fact the special needs of children with certain types of problems would be far better and more effectively met through education in special schools’.
This view is further supported by MacBeath (2006) states that ‘Physically sitting in a classroom is not inclusion. Children can be excluded by sitting in a classroom that’s not meeting their needs’. He goes on to say that ‘The typical secondary school timetable – rushing from physics, to history then French, say – was for some children as bewildering as being “on another planet”. You might call it a form of abuse, in a sense, that those children are in a situation that’s totally inappropriate for them’. By identifying the needs of the individual before they arrive at a school, provision can be made for suitable support at school.
It must be concluded that assessing a child’s individual needs before admitting them to any school is the best route in offering them an environment where they will benefit the most as an individual. In circumstances where total inclusion would be detrimental to the child’s mental and/or physical wellbeing, that they may well be better placed in a ‘special’ school. However, the benefits of inclusion for those with less severe special educational needs far outweigh the negatives and lead to a more fulfilled person both academically and socially.