As a teacher I have seen firsthand the benefits of inclusive education. I have had many children in my class with additional needs that have flourished in a mainstream setting.
Benefits of inclusive education to the child include:
* Greater opportunities for social initiations and relationships
* Reciprocal friendships
* They learn new skills through imitation. There are peer role models for academic, social and behavior skills
* They can learn new social and real life skills to help equip them to live in their communities.
* Families can be more integrated into the community
Benefits of inclusive education for the whole school include:
* Increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences
* They learn to have realistic and accurate views about children with disabilities
* Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity
* Respect for all people
* Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society
* Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others
However, for me, inclusion MUST not come at a price to the child. Not every child will be able to flourish in a mainstream setting.
Challenges of inclusive education include:
* A regular classroom often isn’t equipped for handling the diverse needs of all children. Specialist equipment is expensive.
* As a teacher we receive very limited training when it comes to providing for the educational, behavioural and physical needs of children with special needs.
* Mainstream schools often lack the man power and funds to fully cater for the needs of the child.
In 2005 the ‘Inclusion For Everyone’ policy was launched with the aim to include as many children and young people as possible in mainstream education. It was met with some reluctance all round. However, in a recent Inclusion Survey 58% of the public now feel it was a success.
The survey was commission by Simpson Millar. It questioned parents, teachers, Ofsted and the teachers unions NUT and NASUWT. The over-riding opinion is that it can and should work, but that funding is an issue. Unfortunately inclusion costs, and nobody wants to be the one to pay.
I have seen first hand the difficulties schools face with funding. Resources are stretched to the limit and children who struggle within mainstream education settings suffer as a result. Education Heath Care Plans (which recently replaced Statements) are incredibly hard to obtain and when they are in place often the funding provided does not cover all the additional help required.
I am glad that parents are given the opportunity for their child to go to mainstream school and it is a system that can work with adequate funding. However, places within specialist schools need to be available for children who do not flourish with an inclusive education system.
World Autism Awareness Week starts on 2nd April and is a chance to raise awareness of autism. Last year almost 5,000 people took part in the National Autistic Society’s first and biggest ever fundraising campaign. You can find out more information on their website.
So do you think the inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream schools works?
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