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  • Writer's pictureSarah Alix

The Context for Inclusive Education

The Context for Inclusive Education

This post examines the local and national context of inclusive education, how legislation, policies and evidence set the context for inclusion, and how SEND affect learning and development and the subsequent impact of evidence-based interventions and practice on SEND. I will firstly consider the local and national context in relation to policy and literature. Then how the causes of underachievement and high incidence SEND can affect pupil learning, development, and participation, including consideration towards the environment and teaching approaches, supported by a range of literature.

The Local and National Context

This section will examine a range of legislation that leads to the newest version of the SEND Code of Practice (2015). It is impossible to review all of the legislation that has been written previously, however, I have chosen a selection of pertinent legislation and documentation to discuss which situates the current Code of Practice within previous legislation.

Prior to 1944 Education was not compulsory in schools in England, the 1944 Education Act introduced compulsory Education for all children up to the age of 15 years old. Schooling at this point was structured into three strands: Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Technical schools. As we know, Grammar and selective schools are still in situation today, and this is offset by comprehensive, high schools and academies. There has also been the introduction of a range of Specialist provision such as special schools, pupil referral units, and residential schools to provide support and cater for individual needs. However, the question is how far have we come? And, is inclusion embedded and effective within our schools?

There have been issues raised that have arisen through the social care element in regards to vulnerable children, which have been driven from key inquiries into child abuse cases such as the Laming report (2009), and the Waterhouse Report (2000). The Waterhouse Report engaged with unresolved issues from previous inquiries such as the Jillings Report (1996). Reports such as these led to the monitoring of interagency working within Education, Health and Social Care which were seen to be failing at the time. Reports such as these led to the introduction of Every Child Matters (ECM) in (2003). The aims of ECM were to state outcomes for ALL children which were: stay safe, be healthy, enjoy and achieve, achieve economic well-being and to make a positive contribution. In theory, leading to the inclusion and achievement of all pupils in schools.

The Warnock report in 1978 was seen as revolutionary, it introduced the term Special Educational Need. It also introduced the idea of segregated special schools. One aspect outlined the need to involve the views of parents and pupils in their own education and planning provision. This included carrying out assessments, evaluating needs, and assessing background information. The idea of the use of external professionals was introduced whilst pupils are maintained within a mainstream setting. The first SEN Code of Practice was introduced in 2001, in which it outlined the SENCO as an important role, and that the priority was seen as equality and achievement, with high aspirations for all pupils. One area of key importance is the focus of parental involvement within the pupil progress. This was supported later by the Lamb enquiry (2008). In my previous teaching years, it was apparent that parental involvement within their child’s education was happening. Parents and carers were invited to meetings regarding their children, and would listen to advice and guidance from professionals supporting their child in school. I think we have progressed a long way since then, and view ‘parental involvement’ differently today, seeking the views from parents, and the opportunity for them to have a ‘real say’ in their child’s education through the discussion of provision. We have also moved towards person centred planning as outlined by NASEN (2014) in which pupils are much more involved in their review meetings. Meetings provide opportunities to seek views from pupils and parents, and to focus around the views and strengths of the child. Person centred planning seeks to create a more child friendly environment within the structure of review of progress. NASEN (2014) even goes as far as outlining guidance on the idea of having a slideshow of the pupil during the meeting, outlining the likes and the strengths of the pupil.

So, in summary, how far have we come? We have a compulsory education system and curriculum (which could be debated in depth in regards to inclusion, but not in this assignment). We have a range of schooling opportunities, from grammar, academies, free schools and specialist provision schools. We certainly have much more parental and pupil engagement and involvement in planning and deciding provision. We still have further to go, and this can be seen on an individual school level, in which legislation and policy filters through to a school and class-based level.

The Breadth and Complexity of the Causes of Underachievement

The SEND Code of practice (2015) outlines four main categories of need: communication and interaction, cognition and learning, Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs, and finally sensory and/or physical needs. These are classed as high incidence categories and the CoP outlines the categories to support planning for pupils who may fall into one or all categories and is a method for understanding and deciding what support should be considered. Behaviour was removed from the new SEND CoP as it was stated that behaviour is the result of underlying needs not being met.

There have been key learning theorists over the years such as Piaget who discussed the stages of development in the early 90s, alongside Vygotsky who examined a different approach which considered the zone of proximal development, and Bruner who promoted self-discovery as an active process. Although they researched different approaches to learning, they all shared common thinking around the importance of the roles of adult in meeting the needs of pupils to aid development though.

Through categorising the causes of underachievement as outlined in the CoP, appropriate support can be identified and sought for each individual pupil as seen below:

Communication and interaction

I have seen many pupils with communication barriers. This may sit alongside other areas of need and diagnosis such as Autism. One example of this is with a pupil that had delayed speech and language development. He had been receiving support from the NHS speech and language service, but this stopped on reaching the age of 7 years old. However, the pupil still had issues with communication and being understood. Therefore the setting put into place further daily support with a specially trained Learning Support Assistant (LSA) who works solely with pupils with communication difficulties across the school. This pupil as he has become older has lost confidence participating in class and socialising with peers due to his communication delay in speech in particular (I acknowledge this is not the sole issue but for the purpose of this example this is the focus). This also affects his progress within the learning environment as he is not keen on working with peers in pairs and groups in class. Goepel, Childerhouse and Sharpe (2015) highlight the issue that teachers must provide opportunities where pupils can develop their self-esteem, as their low self-esteem impacts on their peer relationships. The pupil is receiving intensive support from the LSA, such as support in class for facilitation of participation which is working well, and integration at play time and during golden time, and the pupil is beginning to increase in confidence in this area.

Cognition and learning

An example for this section is a pupil who has a global delay. For this pupil it is key to consider how this pupil is affected by his learning environment, teaching approaches and the social environment. This pupil is supported by a range of resources which includes visual reminders and guidance, and the support from an LSA to access the learning environment. The pupil can become quickly frustrated if he does not understand a task, resulting in unwanted challenging behaviours, and therefore it is important to understand his need for the right support and teaching approach such as the use of breaking down tasks and repetition to achieve success as outlined by Wearmouth (2017). The classroom environment is also a consideration for this pupil in terms of where the pupil sits so that he has easy access to the resources he needs, and so that he can discuss his concerns with the LSA while the class teacher is continuing to teach, examples such as this are given by Cowne, Frankl and Gerschel (2015).

Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs

The child for this example is a child who has high anxiety, and is diagnosed with a mental health need. This pupil finds new situations and changes in routines very unsettling. She often complains of headaches and stomach aches which is a sign of her anxiety and discomfort at the current situation. This pupil has difficulty participating in activities that include larger groups, and therefore this needs careful planning of daily activities. As outlined by Goepel, Childerhouse and Sharpe (2015) with this pupil the anxiety can lead to disturbing behaviours which are symptomatic of her mental health needs. We work with the class teacher to develop her planning to consider how the environment or tasks can be adapted to minimise anxiety. Such as some groups working in an adjacent classroom so during an activity the classroom is less busy and noisy. This pupil is also supported by the mental health service and her GP in addition to the school support, and regular meetings are held to discuss progress and next targets.

Sensory and/or physical needs

The example in this section is of an autistic pupil that has specific sensory needs. This pupil has a heightened awareness in particular around the sense of smell. This can cause particular issues when coming into class, as he normally came in through the main entrance for mum to drop him off. After daily issues with this, it was realised that he did not like the smell in the reception area that would probably go unnoticed to most neurotypical pupils. Cowne, Frankl, and Gerschel (2015) identify that minor adaptations can be made to the learning environment in cases such as this, and are seen as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. Once we realised that this environment was causing issues and behavioural challenges, we were able to change the entrance that he now comes into school by, it was a simple solution but has had a great impact on him. It is also in consideration at the moment, as the pupil needs to be placed in a classroom away from the dinner hall as this causes unwanted challenging behaviour around peak times in the day, and he eats his packed lunch in Lego club


Ainscow, M. (2003) Understanding the Development of Inclusive Schools, London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Bomber, L. (2008) Inside I’m Hurting, London: Worth Publishing.

Children and Young Persons Act 1989, [Electronic] Norwich: The Stationery Office (TSO).

Children and Young Persons Act 2004, [Electronic] Norwich: The Stationery Office (TSO).

Children and Young Persons Act 2008, [Electronic] Norwich: The Stationery Office (TSO).

Cowne, E. Frankl, C. and Gerschel, L (2015) The SENCO Handbook; Leading and Managing a Whole School Approach London: Routledge.

Department for Education (2003) Every Child Matters, [Electronic] London: Department for Education (DfE).

Department for Education and Skills (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement; Executive Summary, [Electronic] Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

Department for Education and Skills (2005) Raising Boys’ Achievement, [Electronic] Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

Deleuze, G. (1968, 1974) Difference and Repetition. [Electronic] Paris: Presse Universitaires de France.

Department for Education, Department of Health (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 Years, DfE.

Goepel, J. Childerhouse, H. and Sharpe, S. (2015) Inclusive Primary Teaching: A Critical Approach to Equality and Special Educational Needs and Disability, Northwich: Critical Publishing.

Hartley, R. (2010) Teacher Expertise for Special Educational Needs, Policy Exchange ( [10/06/17].

Hewitt, D. (2008) Understanding Effective Learning; Strategies for the Classroom. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Hewitt, D. and Tarrant, S. (2015). Innovative Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools. London: SAGE.

NASEN (2014) Person Centered planning available at: [25.5.17].

Rix, J. Simmons, K. Nind, M. and Sheehy, K. (2005) Policy and Power in Inclusive Education: Values into Practice, Oxon: RoutledgeFalmer.

Thomas, G. and Loxley, A. (2001) Deconstructing Special Education and Constructing Inclusion, Buckingham: Open Unversity press.

Waterhouse, R. (2006) ‘Lost’ Generation Still Needs Help Times Educational Supplement 24th November 2006 ( [24/05/17].

Waterhouse Report (2000) ( [05/06/17].

Wearmouth, J. (2017). Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Schools: A Critical Introduction, London: Bloomsbury.

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