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As in the 21st century classroom there are more and more children coming from more diverse backgrounds it seems logical that settings need to teach children to learn about “ difference “ with effective methods and must therefore have pedagogical approaches that deepen understanding. (Gollnick & Chinn, 2002). Practitioners should create a classroom culture where all children, regardless of their culture, language, abilities and disabilities are welcomed and supported and provided with the best learning opportunity. This piece explores the potential for such learning and considers key issues and conditions that impact on any pedagogical approach, beginning with terminology.
Inclusive education is concerning equality and human rights. Inclusion is more than an understanding and a policy requirement. It is on the subject of respect and values which welcomes diversity in the settings and a wider part of society. Booth & Aincow (2003) claimed that” Inclusion” in education is concerned with breaking down barriers to learning, treating all children on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, though interestingly their use of verbs such as” treating ” sounds a little bit disingenuous and suggests” things being done to them” by those with the power to impact significantly upon their state and status .However the meaning of” Inclusion” can be very wide ranging frequently being dependant on the context of different settings. Some authors define inclusion via a vague notion of equal opportunities in all areas; others say that inclusion underpins the need to overcome inequities. Indeed contextually it can be argued that the ideal of an inclusive school is undermined specially by government policies, which encourage competition and selection between and within schools as well as by the continued exclusion of children on grounds that include disability and low attainment (Booth& Aincow 2011). Inclusive practice is not only for children with disabilities, it covers all types of diversity such as gender issues.
Again , competing theories abound about what are the key issues of “ gender “ but if we consider that cultures are built on the idea of social constructivist Barbara Rogoff ( 2003 , pg. 72 ) is quite compelling . Rogoff suggests that “the culture in which children grow up (or in other words how they are nurtured) accounts for gender differences”, Rogoff argues that “girls are given more guidance in ‘proper social behaviour’ than boys and that different tasks are usually assigned to children depending on whether they are boys or girls. Inclusive practice therefore would include the gender issue and practitioners should allow all children to play with all types of toys and activities, not to make comments like ‘only girls play with dolls’ or ‘can I have a strong boy to help me carry this box’ (Holland, 2003, cited in Pound, 2009). If a boy wants to put on a dress in the dressing up area or a girl wants to play with building tools, then let them, encourage positive images of men and women doing traditionally gender specific roles so that children will not get stereotypical ideas of what men and women should do
Equality is ensuring individuals or groups of individuals are treated fairly and equally and no less favourably, specific to their needs. Promoting equality should remove discrimination in all areas; these can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.
In a recent publication in OFSTED School Inspection Update 2014 states that schools should promote pupils spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, including the promotion of fundamental British values so that young people leave school prepared for life in modern Britain. The inspections were imposed in light of the “Trojan Horse” scandal in Birmingham where it was feared Muslims were attempting to impose hard-line Islamic practices in a number of state schools. (Hill 2014)
Ofsted definition of children s spiritual developments is shown by the child being reflective about their own beliefs and religion that informs their perspective on life and their interest and respect for different people’s faith, feelings and values. Children moral development is shown by the child being able to recognise right and wrong readily applying this understanding in their own lives, and in doing so, respect the civil and criminal law of England. Social developments is shown by the child’s range of social skills in different contexts and by accepting and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law , individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs. The child’s cultural development can be shown by not only having an appreciation of a wide range of cultural influences but having knowledge of British democratic parliamentary system and its central role in shaping our history and values (Ofsted 2014).
Critics have warned that the move has led to schools in mainly white areas being criticised for being “too English”, with few ethnic minority pupils. Ofsted inspectors criticised a small rural community school saying that the school was “not yet outstanding” because pupils’ cultural development was limited by a “lack of first-hand experience of the diverse make up of modern British society .The reports says that although children in small rural schools , faith schools and special school are not immersed daily with cultures that you might find in a city based environment, because the large majority of their children are white British and the number of disabled children are those from low income families is below average .Paton suggest that such schools should now attempt to strike up a partnership with an inner city school to address the concerns.
Difference’ is a word that arguably some professionals and people fear and hope that they will never have to deal with the issues it raises and wider implications associated. (Inclusive Schools 2013). The above quote succinctly sums up what the nature of the world is full of and what children see, hear every day. Why are we sheltering ourselves from difference instead of embracing it? Children and their families have to encounter diversity throughout their lives together, it is the job of educational settings to help ease the approach of diversity and try to guide them as professionally as possible. There has always been diversity in the classroom, but in today society it is important to embrace it and make positive use of it. (National Curriculum 2013)
Freud’s theory argues that the morals that stem from our parents will be passed down generations not because it is what they concluded but because it is our genetic makeup to believe what our parents believe. Freud’s peer, Jean Piaget, also recognized unconscious development. While Freud was interested in emotional and sexual development, Piaget focused on intellectual development that children can only process new concepts at a particular stage in their development (Linda Pound 2005). One of Piaget theories was the theory of Moral Development in which he explains that there are two different lanes in which a child’s moral reasoning sometimes develops, the heteronomous phase and the Autonomous phase. The Heteronomous phase is when children understand that there is only one way of seeing and doing things. The Autonomous phase is when children understand that people have different views and values on circumstances. (Walsh, 2008, online). Lev Vygotsky (1978) also believed that children are unconsciously influenced by what they absorb in their early years. His theory of ‘Social and Cognitive Development’ was that children mimic the adults that surround them, he emphasises that “children’s language was social in origin because it arose in interaction between child and others”. (Linda Pound 2005). This means that children’s language is the product from and is an element of social interaction. Vygotsky emphasised the significant importance of families, communities and the involvement with other children. Piaget and Freud believed that knowledge and understanding came from personal experiences.
Therefore it is essential that educational settings are encouraging children to look at difference and diversity through other individual’s eyes as the children may not have the same encouragement at home. According to Freud’s theory influences are unconsciously developed at a young age so it would be advantageous to practitioners to promote positive thinking and attitudes towards topics that are uncomfortable to discuss such as disability, race, gender and social background at an early stage. Children will develop a better understanding if these topics are discussed openly and sensibly and honestly rather than keeping them taboo. As practitioners we should support children, parents and families as they encounter and deal with diversity with encouragement and guidance. Hopefully the parent will continue the education in the home setting which is why they to need to be informed.
This next section looks at how my focus setting puts the theory of inclusion and diversity into practice and if there are any proposals which could be made to improve practice within this area.
My focus setting has 53 policies and procedures that provide a framework that ensures consistent principles are applied to practice across the school, they also enable school staff, governors, parents, LEA officers and Ofsted inspectors to see at a glance what principles they can expect to see applied within the school. The school polices are generated by Durham County Council, and act as a template that the setting adapts. The hard copies are kept in the head teacher’s office and are also available online via the schools website, this is its self is not being inclusive as they are not accessible to all. Many of these policies are lengthy and can be ambiguous due to the term logy being hard to interpret. Other policies have a clear meaning such as Safeguarding and the E-Safety policy that are put into effect every day. The Diversity and Inclusion polices within school are only reviewed every three years and are not active, yet staff conduct themselves in a respectful and inclusive manner towards everybody within the school establishment. The Equality, Diversity and Cohesion Policy, PHSE and Citizenship Policy. Principle 6 states that “Policy development involves widespread consultation and involvement “.
Principle 6 could be implemented to improve practice in policy development including the review of the Inclusion and Diversity so the principle within the policy would be active and easily understood by all. This review would involve input from everyone involved in school life and reflect modern life and the diverse culture in which we live. The schools co coordination in this area could develop a subcommittee which included a cross section of children and adults from the wider community. A policy that covered all government legislation but was purposeful to our setting and wrote in understandable text. It should be in a location that is accessible to all, an audio tape could be made for people who could not read or who have poor eye sight and pictures could be used as another form of communication. In doing this polices will be inclusive, remove barriers and encourage participation from the community from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. Classroom could display contracts or rules that have been generated by the children and displayed throughout the school. In this way polices will be an active part of school life, children will gain skills and values that could be taken though out their life. The school will have tangible evidence that the principles of the diversity and inclusion polices are a part of the everyday ethos of the school.
In Principle 3; we foster positive attitudes, relationships and a shared sense of belonging and Principle; 2 relevant differences are recognised.
The school are seen to address diversity in many ways, one part of this occurs during our weekly assemblies where the whole school comes together for “Celebration Friday”. This is a celebration of pupil’s achievements which includes the presentations of certificates. We also have weekly collective assembles where children explore different religions, looks at personnel, social and emotional themes and consider their rights and responsibilities in school and the local communities. Children are encouraged to take part in a range of tasks that promote active citizenship an example of this is when children in reception and year 1 raised ?1800.00 for One Wish Charity who bought our disabled child a walking frame. Over the past year the School has addressed diversity by inviting Chinese Dancers into school we have had an African drumming band attend for an afternoon and Early Years have spent half term learning all about Diwali and Budisiem. On refection this is tokenistic and during a recent staff meeting it has been decided that the school is to invest in The UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Award (RRSA), which is a child initiated scheme which is based on principles of equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination and participation.
One proposal which could improve practice in this area would be to look the settings community, which is made up of different cultures and has diverse social economic sectors. Apart from weekly readers and school plays parents and people form the wider community are not involved in school life. Children and their parents / carers come from very different backgrounds and from different cultures the school could celebrate this by inviting parents / carers in and sharing with the whole school their diverse range of occupations, talents and skills. We have parents who are unemployed, vets, doctors, painters and parents who have experience of lived in different parts of the world were English is a second language .Every Friday afternoon our children enjoy extra playtime as a treat for all their hard work over the week, we could invite parents in once a month on this day so they could share their knowledge with the whole school .This could be carried out by having a carousel in each classroom where different occupations, skills and talents are demonstrated to the children. This could be linked to the curriculum example in year 1 science they are covering plants, a florist or garden enthusiast could be invited in to describe and explain what is involved .The children could be arranged in mixed age groups and abilities including SEND children from Reception to year 6. In this way children gain first-hand experience that shows a wide range of occupations that are not stereotypic or discriminated of gender or age. Children should be encouraged to have strong aspirations in their future careers.
There are also lots of children who are not academic but may have talents in other areas such as music or sport, and may gain knowledge from adults who work in these fields. The school could extend these experiences by taking the children to visit different work places locally and nationally.
The schools Inclusive and Special Needs Policy states the setting is steadfast in being an inclusive environment for all children. The National Curriculum is a starting point for planning to meet specific needs for all childrens diverse learning needs. Some children have barriers to learning and these needs are identified by the schools SENCO.
Within the setting we have a large group of children who are waiting to be assessed for learning difficulties. Until this assessment takes place teachers cannot support individuals and make provision that enables them to participate effectively in curriculum and assessment activities. We have one SENCO who also teaches a class and has other teaching duties apart from this role. The teacher is allocated one afternoon per week for SEN duties .Which involves completing assessment of children, scheduling and review meeting with parents and outside agencies every term and then writing up reports.
There are areas of this role that could be improved upon so that the SENCO is more effective and outcomes for children are resolved quickly .The SEND Policy states that children should be assessed within six weeks on entry into the school . Due to time constrains of the SENCO role this is not happening (therefore the children are not receiving interventions or strategies they need; this could result in poor acquisition of the basic skills which could affect their educational attainment through school and hinder life chances.) By having just one designated person for a vital role has its limitations and due to new legislation in SEND document the role is large for one person to carry out in one afternoon per week, there may be aspects of the role which are not been carried out effectively . The NUT believes that SENCO can only be effective if they have effective management and school systems which value and empower them in this difficult and complex role (SENCO charter 2013).Due to the increase in the number of children coming into the school who have been identified by class teachers and parents as having additional needs, the senior team needs to look at the time needed to carry out the role effectively. One proposal to release time of the SENCO would be to put a SENCO co coordinator in place to carry out administrative duties, this person could be the SEN teaching assistant or SEN school governor whose role is to challenge and oversee that all duties are carried out effectively. The class teacher could also have an active role by taking the lead in outside agencies meetings, and the minutes could be passed to the school secretary to type up.
Another proposal would be that the SENCO could be part of the senior team and have an input in the allocation of the SEN budget and allocation of monies within this area. Also another teacher could have training in special education needs in case of sickness and oversee that the right decisions of an assessment reflect the child’s needs. With parents’ permission assessments could be carried out after school hours, therefore the child would not miss out on activates, during the school day.
The setting provides a broad and balanced curriculum for all children and teachers plan activities for the diverse abilities of children within a class, differentiate work and grouping children based on ability and achievement levels. On occasions intervention groups are taught outside the classroom. These groups are assigned names of colours to differentiate them and to provide each group with a group identity. Children become aware of differentiating characteristics very early on and labelling children as the “slower “group or “higher ability “group could lead children placed in lower ability groups to feel unsure of their educational potential, losing self-esteem and develop low expectations.
One proposal to combat this is where collaborative and paired learning takes place children are placed in mixed ability groups , where every child is expected to work at the highest possible level , as high and low ability children deal with the same challenges. Vygotsky suggested that children leaning is best served when they have opportunities to learn with and from each other, and are shown how to do so effectively (Education Scotland 2013).
It is evident from the information provided above that we should celebrate and valve our diverse communities and make every individual feel included in all aspect of educational settings. Policies are put in place to help schools establish rules and procedures and create standards of quality for learning and safety as well as expectations and accountability. Without these, schools would lack the structure and function necessary to provide the educational needs of children. However for policies to be active they should be clear and concise and revised regularly to make sure they reflect best practice. Through reflection practitioners could assess if they can improve practice in their approach to diversity and inclusion ensuring that their practice is free from prejudice and discrimination, so that every child to able to achieve their full potential.
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