Education through inclusion or integration, why is it so important for pupils with special educational needs?
Integration is a one size fits all approach which means all pupils learn together in the same way and pupils with special educational needs are expected to adapt to the curriculum many fail and eventually become excluded many through constant punishments, expulsion or nonattendance due to the anxiety and stress caused while trying to adapt and cope with little or no support.
Inclusion which is now the adopted method is a system where pupils work side by side, but the curriculum adapts to the pupils needs and support is put in place, however the success of this depends on how flexible the school, support and curriculum is.
Even when a school offers special education support it is at times a one size fits all approach meaning many pupils are still not getting education in a way that works for them also the support offered can be ineffective or non-existent to some of these pupils often leading to them eventually being excluded.
To put it simply if your needs as a pupil don’t fit what is on offer then you are not going to be appropriately supported and will continue to struggle and will eventually begin failing.
You cannot fix the one size fits all approach of integration for special educational needs with a one size fits all approach of inclusion.
We must accept there is a spectrum when looking at people’s needs and that should be taken into account when delivering support and flexibility, we cannot allow people on the fringes of the spectrum be excluded.
I have often seen pupils that don’t fit this approach being pushed further out through punishments and exclusion, mainly because their struggles are blamed on bad behaviour and that is often then blamed on poor parenting which then creates a battle line drawn between the school and the pupil and their parents.
The so-called bad behaviour should be seen as an indicator that something is not working rather than the pupil is not engaging and is acting badly.
Parent blaming is something I have seen quite often, and many parents have been sent on multiple parenting courses when in fact the problem is in the school system and not at home.
I have seen the impact these failures have had on pupils and more so the family as a whole who are already having to cope with the strain of having a child with additional needs in the home, the trauma of this can also lead to PTSD adding yet another problem for the pupil and family to deal with.
Pupils with or without special educational needs require flexibility in learning and in the environment, they learn in, that flexibility needs to be in the support offered as well.
My personal experience with pupils that I have supported showed they faced a system that only offered a set system of support, they did not fit into the level of flexibility and understanding which led them to either moved schools or spend many days excluded or be given multiple detentions.
Some pupils have faced a lack of knowledge and understanding from some of their teachers and on occasion from their SEN teachers.
I recently supported and advocated for a pupil who was being bullied by his SEN teacher, eventually after many meetings and the pupil and myself writing to the school board they admitted discrimination and replaced the staff involved.
In the cases I have been involved the pupils eventually received the understanding and support they not only needed but deserved, these pupils went onto thrive at school and went onto further education and found employment.
What I have seen is that it is often when a pupil leaves primary education that things begin to fall apart and more so in Academies.
I have also seen that if they make it into further education, they thrive again proving that someone has it right for them in early education and in the colleges and universities, so why is secondary education letting them down so badly?
Are the Academies put in a position of reaching targets?
Are a majority of teaching styles just not appropriate for pupils with special educational needs who are on different even within their own diagnosis group?
Is there a lack of empathy for these pupils?
Are teachers just frustrated with children who require more flexibility and support than the average pupil with additional needs?
Have we lost some of the diversity of teaching styles while focusing on results?
Are some hidden disabilities just not visible to the educators even when they have been educated?
Or is it something else entirely?
I can say from my own experience of education navigating school as a pupil undiagnosed with tourettes, ADHD, ASD and complex PTSD I really struggled and spent most of my time in one punishment or another I also made the corridor my home as that is where I spent most of my time excluded from lessons.
There were teachers who tried to understand me and one in particular who helped me thrive in his lessons.
I later discovered that teacher who helped me thrive was dismissed when the school changed to become an academy apparently his teaching style was not what they wanted.
I don’t want this to sound like it’s an attack on schools because the pupils that fit into the system of support and flexibility are doing really well, but this shouldn’t mean that we can ignore the ones who fall through the cracks.