Inclusion hits rough waters

21st January 2005 at 00:00
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" might well have been the first statement on inclusion, as the Statue of Liberty welcomed the dispossessed to the New World. But, judging by a veritable outbreak of hostility to the policy on this side of the pond, it is heading for deep waters. This is hardly new or surprising, although the Sunday Herald's adventures in Bannockburn High last week suggest it has just discovered indiscipline and inclusion. The problems have been around for a considerable time, as Gwynedd Lloyd recalls this week (page one). What has not been around for a long time are the series of cultural and other changes swirling around schools, which impact directly on them but over which they have little or no control.

There is no doubt that the Executive, and the Education Minister in particular, are only too alert to all these problems. Indeed, they sometimes convey almost an air of desperation as they struggle to demonstrate their support for schools with initiatives which leave many teachers distinctly underwhelmed. But are they not doing what schools are asking for - short of abandoning one of the Government's flagship policies, which would be a bridge too far? There are more support staff, alternatives to the mainstream and to the curriculum, and measures such as restorative justice and antisocial behaviour orders.

These are, of course, the "plethora of initiatives" that are often airily dismissed as of no consequence. The issue is not whether there are too many initiatives but whether they are managed properly: the Executive's job is to oil the wheels but it is schools and local authorities that have to drive the car. Ministers must ensure, however, that they do not throw babies out with the bath water and that specialist provision such as guidance remains available.

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