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4.1 Inclusion and Disadvantaged, Disabled and SEN Learners

Introduction

Students come to the classroom with a range of abilities, experiences and backgrounds.  Some students will have identified special needs and named disabilities, while others will have additional learning needs and/or elements of educational disadvantage which are not formally recognised.  Ensuring an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all learners is an important part of educational strategy.  Inclusive education means that students with disabilities and special needs are educated together with non-disabled peers in mainstream schools.  This requires a level of adaptation on the part of the school as a whole, as well as in the classroom, to ensure that they can fully participate and take advantage of the opportunities on offer. Students with physical disabilities may require physical adaptions, such as ramps or handrails, or being given special consideration, such as being allowed to leave class slightly early to arrive at their next on time.  Students will also require adaptions to the learning material to ensure that they can access the material adequately and can fully engage. It should be noted that not all disabilities are visible, and that students with non-visible disabilities can sometimes be overlooked while their visibly disabled peers obtain more help and support, even when their needs are not as great.  Care must be taken not to give unnecessary assistance to visibly disabled pupils while not meeting the needs of those with less obvious conditions. 

Inclusion is also wider than just disability.  Inclusive education means involving all learners in the learning process overcoming barriers that they may have to education.  Disadvantaged learners for example - those who come from backgrounds of poverty, who are care experienced, who have non-traditional family structures, or inadequate housing may face particular challenges in meeting the expectations of the classroom and accessing the material.  Britain is also a multicultural society, and inclusive education involves recognising this and ensuring that students from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds see themselves reflected in material and have their religious requirements respected.  With this in mind, it is none the less the duty of schools to fully educate pupils regardless of their religious or cultural background.  On occasion, these duties can come into conflict - for example the teaching of evolutionary theory to children from some Christian backgrounds may be controversial and specialist advice should be sought in such instances. 

Some of the issues that we will cover in this module include:

Disadvantaged Learners: While schools and teachers may have general requirement that students are expected to meet, it should be recognised that these expectations are more difficult for some learners than for others.  For example, a learner who is experiencing housing difficulties may have to face challenges in ensuring that they come to school adequately equipped and prepared for learning. 

Disabled and Learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN): Disabled students may require adaptions to the curriculum, to the learning materials or to the physical environment to enable them to fully participate.  Sensitivity should be used when making these accommodations to avoid learners being singled out or unnecessarily feeling as if they are being treated differently from their peers.

SEN specific pedagogy: Specific pedagogical strategies may need to be employed for students who have identified SEN.  Some may be fairly obvious - for example a Deaf student will have difficulty with aural instruction, however others may be less so.  We will explore a range of common special educational needs that teachers may encounter and look at pedagogical strategies which can assist students with these needs to access learning.

Multiculturalism and diversity: Cultural and religious backgrounds may influence the way that some learners engage with education.  Care must be taken that assumptions of experience are not restricted to the dominant ethnic or religious group, and that sensitivity is displayed to cultural or religious inhibitions, while also recognising the rights of students to a full comprehensive education in line with the curriculum, seeking support and guidance where required.

Support is available in schools to assist teachers to prepare and deliver lessons which include students, particularly those with identified disabilities. Support is also available from other sources, such as disability charities or support groups who can give specialist advice. Students are often the experts on their own abilities, experiences and backgrounds and can frequently advise staff who are not fully understanding the difficulties they are experiencing.  Encouraging learners to articulate their own identified challenges, issues and needs can assist practitioners adapt activities and materials to allow them to access the learning as fully as possible.

Before you begin this module, we should ensure that it's clear what we would like you to take from it.

Goal for this module

The aim of this module is to understand the principles of inclusive education and be able to apply these in the context of learners with disabilities, special educational needs and those from a variety of backgrounds.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  1. Recognise the principles of inclusive education and how these principles can be applied in classroom practice to ensure that learners are able to access the learning as much as possible.
  2. Identify a range of special educational needs and have a general understanding of strategies that can be employed to ensure that students with SEN are included, engaged and involved in the learning process.
  3. Apply the principles of inclusive education to a range of situations both within the classroom and in the general school environs to encourage students with particular challenges to feel valued, respected and welcomed.
  4. Evaluate the suitability of learning activities and materials for students with particular abilities, experiences and backgrounds.
  5. Adapt learning materials and activities to accommodate difficulties that some learners may have to maximise accessibility as far as possible.
  6. Recognise the support and guidance which is available to teachers, both within the school and more generally to assist in supporting students with particular challenges.