A feeling of belonging
There cannot be a pupil, parent, carer or professional in special education who has not read, heard or been on a course on inclusion. If is "education, education, education" from politicians for mainstream education, then it is a triple dose of "inclusion" for special education. Is this one inclusion too many? If you have to repeat a phrase more than twice, it might be to convince yourself of its importance rather than trying to make it happen.
Surely by now we have all got the message; we have the policies, developed the provision and enhanced our practice to take account of inclusion. Is it only a matter of time before it is all achieved?
Sadly, no. The problem is that we have not shared an understanding of what inclusion is. For some it is a place, for some it is a process, for others it is a journey and for me it is a feeling. Try ending the phrase "Inclusion is..." and then compare it with your colleagues just to experience the range of possible responses.
If we are to make progress towards being more inclusive in education then we need to ensure that there is a continuing dialogue discourse discussion on what inclusion is.
A recent series of invitation conferences organised by NASEN provided the Department for Education and Employment with a platform to launch an interactive CD-Rom, Conncting Schools for Inclusion, a package of materials to use in promoting discussion on inclusion.
The CD-Rom contains a variety of material from video clips through to published resources. Easy to use, the material can be tailored not only to suit particular training needs but also to highlight particular issues. Its primary purpose is to facilitate discussion on inclusion and to examine the various ways in which all the players in education can be more inclusive in their practice.
The DFEE is distributing it through education authorities and has given them some training in its use. If you want to use it contact your LEA to find out who went on the training day.
The importance of this CD-Rom is that "it is a key element of the Government's strategy to disseminate best and interesting practice" in relation to inclusion. In doing so, it does not adopt a prescriptive approach to the achievement of inclusion. Rather, as one of the headteachers contributing to the introductory video clip puts it, "it is all down to relationships". Inclusion is that feeling developed in a series of relationships where I gain that feeling of belonging. With that as the central tenet of inclusion I can go on to discuss issues of where that can take place.
John Visser is a senior lecturer at the School of Education, The University of Birmingham, and is past president of NASEN