Towards Inclusive Schools? Edited by Catherine Clark, Alan Dyson and Alan Millward David Fulton #163;14.99. - 1 85346 355 8
For those who haven't yet found out, "inclusion" is special education's new buzzword. Integration is now taken (by inclusionists) to have meant little more than the move away from segregation to mainstreaming. Inclusion, they aver, means more: that schools find ways of opening up, including and valuing all children and being of value to them all.
Those outside special education may find the drawing of such distinctions a little arcane and may, unkindly, point to the zero correlation between special educators' ritual creation of neologisms with the creation of new practice. Tony Booth's chapter is well worth reading as an assertion of his long-held belief (he is not alone) that integration is not simply about a shift of children from here to there, and that there is therefore little new in inclusion. He concedes, though, that "inclusion" at least helps him to think of what happens to special children as being the opposite of "exclusion" rather than simply segregation.
The editors must have asked the contributors to say something about paradigms, since paradigms get mentioned far more than logic would dictate that they need to be mentioned in a book about inclusion. The more gung-ho let's-be-academic contributors ran away with the advice and proceeded to over-attribute wildly and use lots of long words. One actually begins his chapter with the sentence, "This chapter is heuristic rather than conclusive." What? He proceeds to tell readers that the "reductionist view on inclusion is hegemonic, reverberating through all levels of school operations". (Any hegemonic reverberations felt in schools should, of course, be reported immediately to the Department for Education and Employment).
There are three main themes to the book. One concerns paradigms and research methodology; one is about the history of inclusion as an idea and its international progress; the third is about school effectiveness and its relevance (or otherwise) for the development of inclusive schools.
The quality of the chapters is in strong inverse proportion to the number of times chapter-authors mention hegemony and paradigm.
The international dimension in the book is especially interesting and in particular the transcontinental debate which emerges over school effectiveness research. School effectiveness research stresses general outcomes and suggests ways for schools to achieve those outcomes. This approach contrasts with that of inclusionists (exemplified best in Linda Ware's excellent chapter), who emphasise the importance of schools' own individually-shaped priorities.
Gary Thomas is reader in education at Oxford Brookes University.