Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Importance of Inclusion in Mainstream Schools

Hopscotch on playground with title overlaidI have supported inclusion my whole adult life. I went to a small, remote, underfunded secondary school and I realised from an early age how important it was to support those who needed it, to ensure their development, not just educationally, but also socially. As a young person at school, you don't see what awareness there is or what support is being provided for individuals, you just notice who is bored, or embarrassed, or struggling. That’s why I decided, there and then, that I wanted to be a Learning Support Assistant. There wasn’t even a name for the role then, it was unkindly referred to in the press as the ‘Mum’s Army’ and was viewed as the Government trying to cut costs in teaching.

My Careers Advisor assured me that I shouldn’t ‘put myself down’, and with the right application, I could make it as a Teacher and didn’t have to ‘settle’ for a comprise job like that. Which made me rather cross. I have never seen it as a compromise, or a step down, or anything like that. The staff who make inclusion possible work really hard and provide vital support to the teacher they work with.

 Learning Support is not a straightforward role, there are many facets to it, depending on the child, or children who need supporting. It is, however, a role that, along with many others, contributes to the running of the school. If a young person doesn’t find school easy, for whatever reason; academic, social, or something else, it’s very easy for them to become a target. That doesn't mean they should be removed, though, sometimes the opposite is true. Education isn't just about the three 'R's, it's about learning about life and how we all fit in to it and how to be tolerant, understanding and respectful of each other. It's a cruel fact of childhood that all children want to be accepted. Most of us grow out of it, but as children, we lack the confidence and self-assurance that tell us it's ok to be us. We also want to make friends, to make our first forays into building social networks and having the affirmation of knowing we are part of the group. Just because someone has different, or additional, needs, why should they be denied that? 

Classroom display on newspaper article writing

In some circumstances, it's not possible to accommodate SEN pupils in mainstream education and that's ok. If the needs are too specialised, or it's not in the child's, or even other children's best interests, then it's obviously vital to seek out the right environment for that young person. In many cases, though, their right to be educated alongside their peers can, with some effort and funding, be accommodated, with full integration into school life. However, as with a lot of great initiatives, it relies so much on funding. A recent Inclusion Survey by Simpson Millar, highlighted this as one of the sticking points surrounding the issue of inclusion. The survey shows that since being introduced in 2005, attitudes have improved enormously towards the Government's 'Inclusion for Everyone' policy, but funding continues to be a major issue. It really frustrates me that, in many cases, parents have to work so hard to get much-needed support for their children. Different agencies have to be involved and assessments can take an inordinate amount of time to complete. Every day a child is at school unsupported, is a day that can affect them in so many ways, they can end up lacking confidence and self-esteem, even hating school, and it’s avoidable. Schools are doing great things to support their pupils, but they can’t do it on their own. Government support and funding is vital, particularly when it comes to speeding up the process for parents. Inclusion in schools shouldn’t be a fight, it should be a right.

Read my last post about education here; What's so Special about Breakfast? 



  1. What year groups do you teach? I'm an LSA in year R working with SEN children.

    1. I've had to give it up now, due to illness, and I blog full time. I should probably update the post actually. I still think it's such an important subject, so I thought I would share it again for #InclusionAwarenessWeek When I was working, Reception was my favourite year group!


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