How can schools implement inclusivity?
What does inclusivity mean in schools?
According to Unicef, inclusive education refers to the right of every child to access quality education. The University of Worcester also defines inclusive education in schools as promoting “a culture in which everyone, irrespective of background, identity or other social characteristic, feels valued and respected, and has equal opportunity to work hard to be successful.”
These qualities perhaps sound obvious, but when it comes to children with disabilities, neurodevelopmental differences, and minority identities, accessing a quality education isn’t always as simple as it should be. Governmental policy, discrimination and stigma, and unfulfilled access needs can make it much more complicated for children with additional needs to access the education they deserve.
This is why it’s so important to not just talk about providing an inclusive education but to make active changes to implement an inclusive education. Because children with additional needs can’t change what they need to be able to learn, but their schools do have the power to make inclusivity a priority. Read on to find out how your school can do just that.
Benefits of Inclusive Education
Without an inclusive education for all, children and young people with special educational needs will struggle to access the education they need, and their future quality of life will be impacted. As a result, providing an inclusive education can be life changing for those who need it.
Here are four other benefits of inclusive education in schools:
- Better academic prospects for all children
Inclusive practices in schools can enable children with special educational needs to receive the same education as their peers. In addition, because a key aspect of inclusive education is differentiated instruction, it can provide all pupils with a variety of different ways to learn. This means that every pupil will ultimately find the classroom more accommodating to their individual needs, which will promote learning and encourage pupils to achieve their best.
- De-stigmatises differences
If education always prioritises those without access needs, then those children with differences will always be excluded, both academically and socially. When every child can enter the classroom on an equal footing, no child is made to stand out, making it easier for them to integrate with their peers and socialise. Because there is a strong link between mental health and bullying, this is especially vital for children with special educational needs. By prioritising inclusive education, however, schools can decrease bullying and improve mental health for all pupils.
- Decreases discrimination
The foundation of discrimination and stigma is ‘othering’ due to differences such as skin colour, disability, sexuality, and appearance. However, when students with different needs, identities, and characteristics can enter school as equals, they are more likely to become part of the school community, making them less ‘othered’ and, in turn, more accepted and celebrated for who they are.
- Contributes to a more accepting society
The pupils in schools today are the leaders of tomorrow. The lessons they learn in school they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. If they get to attend school in a diverse environment that promotes acceptance and understanding, they will grow up to be more accepting and understanding adults who promote the same values in the society they live in. Inclusive education, then, isn’t just beneficial for schools – it’s beneficial for everyone, everywhere.
Challenges in implementing inclusive education
Negative attitudes to disabled people can lead to them being ignored in classrooms, left out by peers, and bullied. To combat this, education and understanding of disabilities and special educational needs is necessary to promote attitudinal inclusivity in schools.
Accessibility isn’t just about what happens inside a classroom. Ultimately, if a disabled child cannot get into that classroom, they are automatically excluded from the education they might receive. This means cohorts with disabled pupils may need to have all their classes in accessible rooms, with online learning being delivered where necessary.
- Lack of training
Teaching pupils of varying abilities, who all learn in a different way, and some of which have access needs, requires training. More comprehensive teacher training is required to enable teachers to teach effectively and overcome any negative attitudes they may have towards SEND pupils.
- Funding and policies
Funding for inclusive education has been consistently cut since 2015, indicating that policy makers do not fully believe in the need for all pupils to access a quality education. This can impact on the ability of schools to train teachers, bring in specialist staff, and provide other support.
- Language barriers
The needs of pupils and parents who speak minority languages are often overlooked, but considering parental engagement is considered a greater predicter of student outcomes than schooling itself, schools should be making it a priority to engage every parent across the board.
For a more comprehensive look into the challenges schools can encounter when implementing inclusive education, you can read our blog on the topic here.
Ten strategies to implement inclusive education
- Be proactive rather than reactive by expecting a diverse pupil population and planning ahead.
- Make sure your curriculum is both current as well as socially and culturally inclusive.
- Ensure your assessment and feedback processes are inclusive. If in doubt, ask your diverse pupils.
- Make your expectations for pupils concise, clear, and explicit.
- Ensure teaching materials, such as handouts and presentations, are accessible for all.
- Diversify the ways pupils can contribute to lessons so that all pupils can take part in their own way.
- Encourage teachers to develop a rapport with pupils so that pupils feel safe to ask for help.
- Establish a no-tolerance environment for discrimination.
- Provide equality, diversity, and inclusion training for all staff members.
- Nurture an informed and inclusive culture.
Embrace inclusive education with ReachMoreParents
When it comes to incorporating inclusivity in schools, communication is the key. Using educational technology to enhance communication can be extremely powerful. Whether it’s by segmenting parents of SEND children so they have their own, tailored stream of information, by making it easier to communicate with parents and pupils for whom English is a second language, or by creating a secure, private way to manage Free School Meals.
With a wide range of apps and software designed to further communication with even the hardest to reach parents, the ReachMoreParents platform can empower your school to increase inclusivity.
To find out more about how the ReachMoreParents platform can be used to support your school, click here to book a discovery call at a time that suits you, drop us a line via our enquiry form, or give us a call on 01509 221 349.