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Leave your prejudices behind, teachers told

David Henderson reports that the inspectorate's review of inclusion will soothe some teachers' grievances

Inspectors have reminded teachers to forget their prejudices and question how they can push all pupils to achieve.

Just because a pupil speaks with a harsh local accent, comes from a notorious housing scheme or family, or has a disability does not mean that he or she should not be set the same challenges or treated the same way as others, the inspectors argue.

Their shorthand warning to focus on individuals' potential talents and abilities is couched in studied officialese. "In setting expectations, staff need strenuously to avoid negative stereotypes or assumptions that might constrain attainment or reduce expectations for pupils from particular groups or backgrounds," they state.

A principal message is that schools should have high expectations to ensure all pupils gain something positive from schooling.

"Concern for high standards of attainment is absolutely consistent with the broad aims of social and educational inclusion. To a considerable extent it is by helping all pupils to achieve as well as they can that schools can most effectively maximise pupils' life chances and minimise the risk of social exclusion after leaving school," they say.

The HMI want all pupils to be successful in something, whether in developing personal and social skills or taking part in extra-curricular or community activities. "We need to find new ways of explicitly rewarding and celebrating the success of schools in meeting the challenges presented," the inspectors admit, while noting headteachers' view that schools are judged narrowly on the success of more able pupils in exam passes and national tests.

The inspectors believe schools need to be more flexible, particularly in the type of curriculum they offer and in styles of teaching, and the approach they need is the exact opposite of a "one size fits all" model. Inclusive education can be delivered in various settings, they insist.

On a final point, the inspectorate reinforces its consistent view that school leadership remains crucial.

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