Effective inclusion benefits all pupils

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
Reports on inclusion that rely on sensational comments about disabled children and the "extra work" they represent, undermine the dignity of these children and those who teach them ("Inclusive teaching? It's more like nursing", TES, May 19).

A policy of inclusion is generally understood around the world as part of a human rights agenda. We in the special needs and inclusion team at the faculty of education, Cambridge university, support this policy as an integral aspect of schooling that acknowledges the shared humanity of all learners.

In recent years, our understanding of the relationship between teachers, learners, schools as communities and their relationship to society has deepened, creating an opportunity to think differently about special needs education, what it is called and how it is provided.

While "special needs education" is defined as providing something "additional to"or "different from" that which is "otherwise available" in school, "inclusive education" challenges complacency about what is not "otherwise available" and calls for new ways of working for the benefit of all.

In inclusive education, differences between learners are seen as challenges for teaching and learning. It is not about providing something "special" for some; it is about providing something meaningful for all.

Indeed, there is growing evidence that inclusive practice can benefit all when schools stop seeing the difficulties in learning experienced by some children as problems for others to solve.

Last week, Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, called for an independent review of inclusion policies and practice. Such a review must consider the ways in which many current policies penalise, not only the most vulnerable learners, but also their teachers and schools. It should consider how funding might support innovation, reward good practice and develop staff to meet the challenge of providing education for all. We must stop seeing some children as extra work for teachers, and take heart and learn lessons from those successfully developing inclusive practice.

Dr Kristine Black-Hawkins

Richard Byers

Dr Lesley Dee

Dr Lani Florian

Martyn Rouse and Dr Nidhi Singal

University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

184 Hills Road, Cambridge

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