Inclusive Education is when a school educates all children, regardless of background, attainment level, or special educational needs. It means that children with additional learning needs and special academic requirements are educated within a ‘mainstream’ learning environment rather than a specialist school.
To offer a genuinely inclusive education, adaptations may need to be made to the physical spaces within the school to ensure all students can access all resources and the school routines, teaching styles, and classroom rules. For example, some students may need adapted timetables with different start and finish times to their peers, others may require specialist equipment such as communication devices, voice recorders, or computers to demonstrate their learning, and others may need to be allowed to access quite spaces, leave the classroom when overwhelmed, or require additional support from support staff or SEND specialists.
What are the benefits of Inclusive Education?
When education is genuinely inclusive, it can have significant benefits for all students – not just those who have special educational needs.
Studies over the years have found improved skills and higher achievement in students with additional needs through Inclusive Education. These studies have proven that Inclusive Education boosts friendships, enhances communication, and encourages more refined social skills for everyone involved. Children have also performed better in math, English, and Social Sciences exams.
There is also evidence to suggest that inclusive schools have fewer absences and referrals for disruptive behavior.
Inclusive Practice within Early Education
Inclusive practice refers to the accessibility and inclusion of all children regardless of their attainment, religious and cultural beliefs, gender, and background. Inclusive practice is a fundamental principle throughout the EYFS and is the underpinning ethos throughout all Early Years frameworks and guidance documents. Inclusive practice is embedded within the EYFS learning aims to ensure that practitioners promote inclusion and these values are instilled in children.
The promotion of inclusive practice can be implemented in a range of ways. Ensuring that activities and resources are accessible to all children is a vital way of enabling each child to feel valued. This could be achieved by guaranteeing various languages are promoted within the classroom and that multiple ethnicities, religious and cultural beliefs are evident within your continuous provision, such as small world areas, role-play activities, and within the books, magazines, and various reading materials you offer.
The EYFS People and Communities aims are particularly effective in promoting inclusive practice; within these aims, children are encouraged to learn about lifestyles that are different from their own and gain an awareness that diversity should be celebrated and honored. Within early years settings, a wide variety of events and celebrations are introduced to children. These are fantastic ways of supporting children in understanding different cultures and aiding their participation in celebrations that differ from those they are familiar with.
The underlining themes, principles, and practices outlined in the EYFS are built upon creating optimum learning environments for children from all backgrounds with a wide range of beliefs. Seeing each child as an individual is a vital part of inclusive practice; through taking the time to become familiar with each child’s thoughts, religions, family dynamics, and circumstances, you will then be equipped to ensure that your provisions and planning are fully inclusive.
The Every Child Matters framework considers that each child will have different circumstances. Regardless of their home life and backgrounds, they deserve the right to an inclusive education where they feel respected and valued.
The British Values framework further explores children’s abilities to understand the inclusive practice. The framework aims to support children to integrate positively within our ever-growing and diverse society. Helping children gain the skills needed to be supportive and inclusive of their peers makes them more likely to be tolerant and respectful throughout their education and beyond!
Different settings require different particular education inclusion strategies; here are some ways that you may adapt in your classroom:
- Celebrating various cultural and religious festivals and events, such as Chinese new year, Diwali, and Eid. Become aware of the celebrations your class partakes in at home and integrate these into your planning and provision.
- Providing children with a diverse range of dolls and ensuring that the food within your role-play area incorporates foods associated with various cultures.
- During circle times, have children discuss their home lives, making this a safe and supportive space for children to open up to practitioners and their peers.
- Some settings may have an Equality Needs Coordinator (ENCO). This person will work closely with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) to promote inclusive practice.
- An important part of inclusive practice is ensuring that parents feel included; liaising with parents regularly ensures that you can provide provisions that meet all of your classes and their family’s needs.
- Sometimes children can find it hard to understand why other children are different from them; this could be aesthetically or within their behaviors and language. Answering their queries sensitively, explaining why their peers may appear distant and why it is important to accept each person for who they are will help children be tolerant and empathetic. You can use printed materials and videos or audio to help children to grasp this concept.