Blaming inclusion

October 29, 2009 at 9:22 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment

When set against the context of the number of children you’ll teach throughout a school year, incidents of violent, abusive or threatening behaviour are actually quite rare. The occasions when a pupil dreams up allegations of abuse by a teacher are rarer still, and the occasions when those false allegations result in disciplinary action or a criminal conviction are even more infrequent.

That said, everyone’s heard at least one horror story about a teacher who’s been the victim to a malicious allegation. It does happen, and more can be done at school, local authority & central government level to ensure that good and safe teachers are protected from career-destroying fairy tales. Ending the atrocious policy of isolating accused teachers from contact with their colleagues would be a good place to start.

So it’s not like I’m ambivelent to or dismissive of a problem which does prey on a lot of teachers’ minds, and the general thrust of Jenni Russell’s piece on the topic is generally correct. Still, it is a Jenni Russell piece, and so every article must contain at least one moment of eye-watering idiocy:

Classrooms are becoming more difficult to manage because the policy of inclusion means that children with emotional, mental or physical difficulties are being put into mainstream schools without the extra support they need to cope.

Whether Russell is basing this on any actual evidence is unclear, but unlikely. For a start, when the DCSF asked researchers to look into the outcomes of inclusion (pdf), they found no evidence – none – of any relationship between inclusion policies and educational attainment. This means that whilst inclusion does not positively affect levels of achievement in a school, nor does it adversely affect it.

I’m also at a loss to understand what ‘extra support’ for support children with social, emotional & behavioural difficulties teachers are being deprived of. Every school in the country has someone responsible for organising provision for children with special educational needs, and they will often work with pupils, teachers, parents, social workers & psychologists to help each child achieve their best level of learning. Could there be more support? Sure, but we’d all have to open our wallets a bit more.

Admittedly, what we have now is an imperfect situation; it’s always going to be imperfect when you have finite resources but an infinite number of potential problems. But I think it’s worth remembering where we were before the policy of inclusion, which Russell blames for getting ‘violent’ teachers sacked. Before the journey towards integration and inclusion, most children with special educational needs were educated separately and as a result suffered castigation and humiliation. This meant that kids without English as a first language wouldn’t interact with their English speaking peers; that vulnerable kids would grow up lacking the confidence to fully participate in society; that children with mild disabilities would be mercilessly taunted as ‘spackers’.

If Russell wants to reverse this policy, shes’s welcome to go & vote for whoever will promise to do just that (the boys in blue might be a good bet). But the least she could do is be a bit more honest about what inclusion is, what it does, and that ending it won’t make teachers, pupils or the wider society any better off.

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