Part AInclusionIntroductionThe beginnings of inclusion can be traced back to the 1960s when policies of educational segregation began to be questioned. In the UK the Warnock Report (DES 1978), followed by the 1981 Education act radically changed the perception of special educational needs (SEN). The result was a policy of integration, with increasing numbers of pupils with SEN joining mainstream schools. From integration developed inclusion, whereby there was a movement away from medical models of disability towards social and educational models. Inclusion has since continued to evolve with its aims now widely perceived to provide all learners with equality of educational opportunity (Glazzard 2014).
In recent times inclusion has become an increasingly important global issue with the advent of the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994), where 92 governments and 25 international organisations agreed that inclusion education of children within mainstream schools should become the norm. Inclusion has continued shape government policy, particularly in the UK with the coming to power of the New Labour government in 1997 which explicitly committed itself to the development of inclusive education.
Recently, inclusion has developed and broadened its boundaries and is now largely viewed as a drive to meet the needs of all individual children rather than limiting its focus to SEN. However the movement still faces many barriers.The Standards Agenda, School League Tables and Accountability At the same time as progressively increasing movements towards inclusion, there has also been a focus on raising standards, resulting in what has become known as the standards agenda. This is the drive, supported by targets, to raise pupils’ average test and exam results. The first national performance league tables in the UK began in 1992 with the publication of GCSE results and this was followed up in 1996 with tables being produced for Key Stage 2 exams in primary schools. League tables, have been justified because they allow parents to make informed judgements in regards to which school to send their children. However, performance in these tables informs school accountability and inspections by OFSTED with schools who are deemed to be underperforming facing various sanctions including increased scrutiny, potential takeover by neighbouring schools or even closure’ (Leckie & Goldstein, 2016). This has caused attainment levels to become high stake targets in schools. This marketisation and accountability of schools has created a potential conflict with inclusive policies. In this paper I will outline why I believe that the standards agenda and inclusion are mutually exclusive, but first I will examine some of the arguments in favour of the agenda.Do The Publication of League Tables and Accountability Actually Raise Standards?There is some evidence that publishing league tables along with accountability measures does in fact raise standards (Burgess et al, 2010). Following devolution in Wales, the decision was made to abolish the publication of league tables in 2001. Research undertaken by Burgess et al, then compared GCSE results in the following years with those in England, where publication remained. The findings showed that the reform significantly’ reduced schools effectiveness, with there being a fall equivalent to 1.92 GCSE grades per student per year (Acquah, 2013). Overall the study concluded that school accountability policies hold promise for raising school performance, and that publication of league tables appears to be a cost-effective policy for raising attainment, with the fact that schools are held to account being a driving force (Burgess et al 2010). It has been argued that there are several flaws and assumption made when formulating this judgement. For instance the exam boards for Exam boards for England and Wales are not the same, therefore different tests were used and thus are incomparible (Goldstein & Leckie, 2016). Also there are many other factors at play which were not considered. For instance the drop in results could be due to Welsh students simply becoming less accustomed to taking high-stake tests and were therefore less prepared for their GCSE examinations (Goldstein & Leckie, 2016). So even though that the removing league tables and accountability measures may have resulted in a fall in achievement results at GCSE level in Wales, the reasons for this appear to be more complex than at first may appear.Other studies have suggested that the standards agenda and inclusion can in some cases be complimentary, with attainment targets and accountability being seen as a driving force for inclusion (Dyson & Gallannaugh, 2007). In a target school they studied, achievement was seen as a priority with inclusion representing a way to achieve this. Here achievement targets were viewed as a way of assessing and identifying areas of weakness and marginalised students, allowing more focused remedial actions to be deployed. However, as I will argue, although it may be possible for the standards agenda and inclusion to exist side-by-side, the barriers to inclusion that are created are such that in many cases groups of pupils become marginalized and teachers attitudes towards inclusion can decline. Standards Focus on Core Subjects It has been argued that the advent of the standards agenda has results in a tightening of the curriculum (Runswick-Cole, 2011; Reed and Hallgarten, 2003; Glazzard, 2011; Lloyd, 2008). This is due to the promotion of a narrow view of attainment biased towards the core subjects of literacy, maths and science which are covered in Statutory Assessment Tests (SATs). A broad curriculum is essential in order to meet the needs of all students in order to celebrate and engage their diversity of their strengths and interests. Government literature has continually emphasised the importance of a broad, balanced curriculum (DfES, 2014, for instance). This has been backed up by recent calls from OFSTED chief inspector, Amanda Spielman in her address to the Association of School and College Leaders (2017), however by focusing assessment for schools so narrowly and by having high-stake implications for not reaching set targets this is being sidelined by many schools, leading to teaching to the test’ practices. Furthermore, according to findings published by the National Union of Teachers (NUT, 2015), accountability measures disproportionally affect disadvantaged pupils and those with SEN or disabilities with teachers reporting that these children are more likely to be removed from lessons to be coached in maths and English at the expense of a broad curriculum.With the focus being firmly placed on the three core subjects are we truly celebrating pupils diversity or indeed are we meeting the needs of all individuals? Standards as Attitudinal Barriers to InclusionGlazzard (2011), examined perceived barriers to inclusion by conducting interviews with a focus group of teachers and concluded that the standards agenda represented the key barrier to pupils’ participation and achievement. The interviews showed that the standards agenda was in fact promoting exclusive practices amongst some schools, and having a knock on effect of building attitudinal barriers of teachers towards inclusion. This can be illustrated by an interview with a SENCO in one of the study primary schools: I was at a meeting before the child (who had special educational needs) started school and the teacher who was going to be involved with John actually put up strong barriers before he arrived. She said she couldn’t cope with him before he started at the school and that she had to focus on getting her class through their SATs.Reflecting on this, it could be stated that the current education system celebrates high achievement over the valuing of difference (Goodley, 2007), which forces teachers to focus their time on pupils who will produce valued outputs’.Promotion of a Focus on Valuable’, Borderline ChildrenIn order to hit demanding targets schools are being said to focus their efforts more on some children as oppose to others (Dyson & Gallannaugh, 2007; Glazzard, 2011, 2014; Reed & Hallgarten, 2003). They concentrate their efforts on children of middle ability’. This group of pupils can make the most significant difference to a school’s overall results as they can be pushed to higher levels of attainment with focused time and effort. However, it can be argued, that this comes at the expense of lower attaining (or indeed the highest attaining) students who may be left on the sidelines, being seen as beyond able to achieve desired standards. This is also illustrated in the following extract from an interview with a primary school teacher, Sally.You can raise standards if you ignore the rest and work with your borderline groups. These are the children who some teachers target. Some teachers just teach the middle ones and hold the others. You hear them talking about it in the staffroom (Glazzard, 2013).One method to help teachers focus on these valuable’ pupils may be to remove children with SEN from the classroom, as discovered in interviews with teachers by Glazzard (2011). The use of intervention programmes and resulting segregation from their main classes can further add to feelings of failure and disenchantment (Glazzard, 2014).Promoting Exclusions of ChildrenA further question has arisen whereby if schools are to be judged on results will this affect their willingness to take on pupils who may adversely affect this? High attainment targets and publication of league tables has led to the marketisation of schools, resulting in them becoming effectively in competition with each other. This, many argue, results in low-attaining students becoming unattractive with schools wary of accepting them (Ainscow, Booth and Dyson, 2006; Hodkinson, 2010; NUT, 2015) Some have gone as far as stating that SEN children are characterised in policy as both deficient and potentially dangerous’ (Runswick-Cole, 2011). This potential danger’ can promote exclusion from schools, as Glazzard (2011) reported in an interview with a teacher:For a lot of teachers inclusion is not a priority. They have to focus on getting resultsAll you have to do is say a child is disruptive and you can’t handle himThey voice loudly to parents about the effect the child is having on the others and then they have parental backing to get the child out. This was echoed in research by Runswick-Cole (2011), who concluded that when the standards agenda meets the inclusion agenda in schools, the competing demands are often results the exclusion of children.There has furthermore been much recent attention on the so called off-rolling’ of students in secondary schools (The Guardian, 2018; The Mena Report, 2018; House of Commons Education Committee, 2018). The House of Commons Education Committee (2018) defined off-rolling as the process where students are removed from the school’s register by moving them to alternative provision, to home education or other schools’ and found that the accountability system and the governments new Progress 8 assessment criteria were a major factor in this, contributing to the 40% increase in exclusions over the past three years.ConclusionsThe emaphasis on standards, league tables and the accountability of schools and teachers has been with us for some time, and shows no sign of abating. League tables put schools in direct competition with each other and this risks marginalising those who need extra support even more. Although it can be argued that the standards agenda may increase attainment levels and, as I have stated above, there are ways the conflict between standards and inclusion may be effectively traversed, I do find them fundamentally mutually exclusive. Furthermore, the narrow focus of league tables on core subjects undermines the promotion of many other skills and achievements pupils make. Surely this is the antithesis of the fundamental inclusive belief of supporting individual needs, by limiting what we see as valuable’. There is a clear contradiction when schools are being demanded to drive up their academic results whilst at the same time are required to include those whose academic abilities fall outside the core subjects.When teachers and schools are held directly accountable for perceived failures in attainment it has been shown to lead to marginalisation and even off-rolling of students.The solutions to this dilemma are difficult, with a possible broader focus on accountability, (Aquah, 2013), the developing and broadening of what is meant by success and achievement or the way in which it is measured’ (Lloyd 2008, p234), or to reconceptualise achievement in a way that is attainable and accessible to all’ (Lloyd, 2008, p229).There has recently been signs for encouragement with Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, admitting school inspectors have been placing too much weight on exam results and vowing to overhaul the way schools are currently monitored (The Guardian, 2018). Hopefully this will help to solve some of these problems and increase the focus on fully meeting each child’s individual needs.