The Christmas holidays are now over, and it’s time I got back to the old blogging. In the third part of this series on the new (2019) Guidance on the presumption to provide education in a mainstream setting, I will be looking at the first of the “Key features of inclusion” : Present.
All Present and Correct?
The guidance begins by setting out the key expectations here:
- All children and young people should learning in environments which best meet their needs
- All children and young people should be fully engaged in the life of their school, through the inclusive ethos, culture and values of the school
- All children and young people should receive a full-time education including flexible approaches to meet their needs
So, a school which adapts the learning environment to meet its learner’s needs, and which adopts an inclusive ethos, culture and values is likely to be one which all children and young people will be able to attend. Inclusion means full inclusion: it means being present on a full-time basis, including extra-curricular activities, school trips etc.
So, if “[p]resence is a fundamental requirement of inclusive practice”, what does that look like in practice? There are two very obvious measures which are highlighted here: attendance and exclusion. Are pupils with additional support needs attending at the same rates as other pupils? Are pupils with additional support needs more or less likely to be excluded from school? Are schools actively monitoring these statistics, and acting on any gaps between pupil populations? And if not, why not? Certainly, this should be taking place for disabled pupils in terms of the education authority’s public sector equality duty .
The answer to these questions is not always obvious – particular case must be taken to note children whose attended is restricted to part-time timetables, or who are in school, but not part of mainstream classes, or who are not formally excluded, but frequently asked to return home, or to not come in, or to not attend particular activities. These “informal exclusions” are helpfully documented in the “Not included, not engaged, not involved” report and website.
Where a pupil is unable to attend school due to ill-health, the guidance helpfully refers to the possibility of pupils being “engaged via virtual means” and the “use of technology” – which is to be welcomed, and could definitely be used more.
On the bright side, the number of exclusions has dropped (since the 2017 figures), as have the number of exclusions for pupils with additional support needs. However, the exclusion gap between the two has narrowed very slightly, and remains stubbornly high with pupils with additional support needs being almost 5 times more likely to be excluded from school.
Attendance figures have not changed much in the last two years. Attendance rates for pupils with additional support needs are significantly lower than for those without (91% compared with 94%) with the gap particularly noticeable at secondary school (88% compared with 92%).
Of course, it is not enough to be simply present in a mainstream school to be included there, and the next question – and next key feature we will consider – is whether the pupil is participating…