Whilst the fundamental principles behind inclusive practice are admirable and absolutely should be instilled across the educational spectrum, the extent to which it is helpful to have a fully inclusive educational system is questionable in my mind.
That is not to say inclusivity is a negative practice. When taking a step back and looking at the wider education system within Scotland, inclusive practices should absolutely be encouraged, especially as the diversity of the children entering education varies economically, racially, socially, and so on. It has become increasingly important to instill in younger generations key principles within the curriculum – respecting others and equality most importantly. When the current social climate is accomodating an increase in racially motivated incidents, there is a worry that younger generations will be influenced by this, and it is through education that future generations should be taught this is not the way forward.
However, it is the discussion of children with additional support needs which highlights concerns with inclusive practice. There are, of course, children who benefit and flourish in mainstream education. Many find that socially they enjoy being a part of their class and take pride in their friendships, educationally they can be driven by their peers, and their peers can benefit from educational strategies intended to support additional needs within the class. These children also benefit from the same opportunities outwith school as others – out of school clubs, perhaps, or school trips.
Most interestingly in my mind is the discussion of the benefits of inclusive practice when referring to children with more complex or severe additional support needs. All the arguments above of course still apply, however what happens if a child who intially showed great promise through inclusive practice begins to fall behind?
In my experience working in SEN schools, there are children who, due to various complex needs and health issues, will spend their years of education working in the earliest stages of the curriculum, and whilst socially they may enjoy being a part of a larger inclusive school community, could ultimately suffer if they find themselves left behind academically, in social, phycological and behavioural contexts.
Can inclusivity therefore be applied in a manner in which the needs of every child are met academically whilst instilling those principles discussed earlier? One suggestion is that children with complex ASN could be academically catered for in special unit within mainstream schools whilst those capable of joining the majority can so, another that SEN and mainstream schools could colaborate in special projects intended to bring children from all backgrounds together. The main problem with suggestions such as these is resources, or rather the lack of, that prevent every school from being able to accomodate such ideas, and there are those who would not label these approaches and fully inclusive.
Therefore, whilst it remains important to encourage the principles of inclusivity in every classroom, inclusive practice should not come down to a single strategy to be implemented across Scotland. Each child is deserving of an educational strategy that suits their individual needs, and although in some cases inclusivity will not extend to placing them in a mainstream classroom or having them follow the system that will (broadly speaking) accomodate the most children, perhaps the best kind of inclusivity is when children can be taught to be socially accepting of one another, no matter their diversities.