The challenges of effective inclusion

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Chris Darlington (right), the new Nasen president, on priorities for his term of office

Inclusion is a process, not a state. Nasen believes effective inclusion can only be achieved when all those involved are able to participate confidently. The focus of our work over the next two years is therefore participation. We will be promoting strategies that include children, parents, education staff and multi-agency workers.

Nasen has produced a policy which recognises that inclusion is not a simple concept restricted to issues of placement. Its definition has to encompass broad notions of educational access and the importance of catering for diverse needs. Key principles are valuing diversity, entitlement, dignity, individual needs, planning, collective responsibility, professional development, and equal opportunities. The advantage of such a policy is that it can be transformed into questions to support inclusion at various levels : Do we:

* recognise the links between inclusive education and catering for diversity? This means promoting a whole school ethos that values all children and their families, whatever their needs.

* foster a climate that supports flexible and creative responses to individual needs? An initial lack of success should not be seen as a reason to abandon inclusion, but rather as a starting point.

a recognise inclusion as part of a school's equal opportunities policy? There need to be clear arrangements for implementation, funding and monitoring.

* ensure that all school develop ments and policies take account of inclusive principles? Are there clear strategies in place to ensure successful inclusive practice?

* handle the admission of pupils with special educational needs positively and sensitively? While, in some cases, extra support may be necessary to ensure that children's needs are adequately met, all parents and children should be made to feel welcome.a make sure appropriate assess- ment and support arrange- ments are in place? Are there trained staff within the school and from external agencies who will work together to meet the children's needs?

* work collaboratively with local authority officers and other local agencies to identify barriers to inclusion and discuss how best to overcome them?

* recognise that inclusion is the responsibility of all school staff?

Developments in practice will also need the support of the school community as a whole. All staff will need to be regularly consulted and involved in developments from the outset.

* offer professional develop- ment opportunities to all staff? These will support the development of effective inclusive practice and ensure a con- fident and informed team.

Nasen is working with voluntary and statutory organisations to promote effective inclusive practice . These include the Department for Education and Skills, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Executive, Ofsted, the Teacher Training Agency, Association for Science Education, and Mencap.

Nasen: Stands 38 and 90

Chris Darlington is head of St Hughes secondary school, North Lincolnshire. He will be chairing a seminar on The Inclusive School - how can we achieve it? at the NasenTES Special Needs Exhibition on October 30 at 10am.

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