Inclusive and special education


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Inclusive and special education

  1. 1. INCLUSIVE AND SPECIAL EDUCATION: Inclusive andspecial education in the English educational system:historical perspectives, recent developments and futurechallengesAlan HodkinsonArticle first published online: 16 JUL 2010Keywords: inclusion;special education;segregation;integrationAbstractSpecial education in England has over the past 25 years been subject to rapiddevelopment, not least in relation to the emergence of inclusive education. AlanHodkinson of the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure, John MooresUniversity, critically examines the development of inclusion in England and thebarriers that can stall the development of this important educational and societalinitiative. He discusses the journey towards inclusion from educationalsegregation to integration and describes the current Government stance on thisimportant subject. Alan Hodkinson suggests that many of the barriers to effectiveinclusion are in practice located within the loci of Government, local authorities aswell as that of schools. He concludes that it is now time to develop a new visionfor the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities that issupported by straightforward, co-ordinated and well-resourced policies. Ifeducational policy is to achieve an inclusive consciousness, it must ensure thatthe views of children, their families and educational professionals are listened to,and that inclusion is by the choice of the pupils and their parents and not bycompulsion.IntroductionSpecial education in England has over the past 25 years been subject to rapiddevelopment, not least in relation to the emergence of inclusive education.However, one might argue that the current push for the implementation ofinclusive education is one example of an instance where policy development andphilosophical thought outpace practice. There is a danger that ‘the most
  2. 2. vulnerable learners’ (OBrien, 2002) might be crushed by the weight of politicalpolicy, philosophical thought and ideological doctrine that seemingly dominatethe current educational discourse. This is a potential problem for the formulationof effective inclusive education in England.More worrying, from my perspective, is the heavy criticism (Barton, 2005;Frederick, 2005) to which Mary Warnock (2005) has been subjected forsuggesting that inclusion has gone too far and that some children are beingdamaged by the application of its principles. It would seem that the ‘tidal wave ofinclusive intent preached with overpowering zeal’ (Hornby, 2002) for theevolution of inclusive education, coupled with the apparent unquestioningacceptance of the ideology of full inclusion might, in practice, be providing adisservice to some pupils. More than ever, I would suggest educationalistsshould pause to consider whether inclusion is, in reality, serving the needs of allindividuals.The first aim of this article is to examine critically the development of inclusiveeducation in England from its emergence within the latter part of the twentiethcentury. Secondly, I intend to elucidate the barriers which may serve to stall thedevelopment of this important educational and societal initiative.The emergence of inclusive educationThe ideology of inclusion should not be viewed as a new phenomenon. Indeed,its origins may be traced back to the early 1900s and the welfare pioneers whobelieved in a non-segregated schooling system (OBrien, 2002). In its currentform, however, inclusion is the end of a journey which began in the 1960s, whenpolicies of educational segregation became subject to debate within the contextof the civil rights movement. This questioning of policy heralded the birth of anew integrated educational system which was legitimised by the Warnock Report(DES, 1978) and the subsequent 1981 Education Act. While it is observable thatthese events began a journey towards inclusion, the last years of the 1980switnessed criticism of integration as a policy that had failed to account for
  3. 3. individual need (Ainscow, 1995). There can be little doubt that the problematicnature of integration coupled with the statements made at the World Conferencein Special Education (UNESCO, 1994) led to the emergence of inclusiveeducation in England.The evolution of inclusive educational policy began with the election of NewLabour in 1997. The Government upon taking office acted swiftly and through theGreen Paper, Excellence for all Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs(DfEE, 1997), and the subsequent Programme of Action (DfEE, 1998), they setthe tone for the central thrust of education reform through the last decade of thetwentieth century (Judge, 2003). The Government further developed its inclusionpolicy by introducing a revised curriculum. Curriculum 2000 (DfEE, 1999), as itbecame known, was formulated upon three inclusionary principles: settingsuitable learning challenges, responding to pupils diverse learning needs andovercoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals andgroups of pupils. It became quite clear to observers that the Government had putinclusion firmly on the political agenda.Inclusion in the twenty-first centuryThe beginning of the twenty-first century witnessed the evolution of inclusivepractices being supported by a raft of governmental policies, initiatives andlegislation. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA, 2001)revised section 316 of the 1996 Education Act and so strengthened the rights ofchildren to be educated in the mainstream. For the first time, institutions were notable to refuse access to placements based upon the contention that they couldnot meet the needs of individual children (Frederickson & Cline, 2002). Inaddition, the 2001 Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) confirmed the acceptance ofinclusion by stating that the special educational needs of children would normallybe met in mainstream settings. It became clear, then, that inclusion was a policythat was not going to go away. However, it is important to note that whileGovernment documentation and legislation in England included a ‘strongcommitment to the principle of inclusion’ (Croll & Moses, 2003), it was still
  4. 4. observable that the Government continued to pursue a ‘twin-track system’(Barton, 2003) of special educational needs by promoting and developing theorthodoxy of segregation within the loci of special schools.It would appear, then, that while the Government would have us believe thatinclusion is based upon the rights of all children, a critical interrogation of itseducation policies leads one to conclude that its inclusion practices are subject tolimits (Evans & Lunt, 2002; Hodkinson & Vickerman, 2008). Furthermore, despitea critical report in 2006 by the Education and Skills Committee, which labelledthe Governments inclusion policy as a ‘system not fit for purpose’, the formerEducation Secretary Lord Adonis expressed a belief that the Government shouldtake a completely fresh look at its policies of inclusion. Indeed, he argued that theGovernment is making progress in its 2004 strategy of removing the barriers toachievement for children with special educational needs (Simms, 2007).Inclusion: the difficulties of definitionThe above review of the literature leaves one in no doubt that inclusion hasbecome an important aspect of our educational system. However, the literaturebase also suggests that tension exists with regard to how inclusion should bedefined (Hornby, 2002).During recent years, educational policy has promoted inclusive education as theteaching of disabled and non-disabled children within the same neighbourhoodschools. Further definitions have suggested that all pupils, regardless of theirweaknesses, should become part of the school community (Judge, 2003). Suchdefinitions, though, are difficult to accept, primarily because they relate tolocational inclusion; that is, children simply being educated together is moreimportant than the curriculum or attitudes to which they are subjected. Definitionscouched in these terms are likely to shackle an individuals needs to entrenchedsocietal views of disability. Moreover, I perceive that the terminology of weaknessand disability is patronising and degrading, as it inevitably leads one to a narrowand contrived view of inclusion. Inclusion located in these terms is culturally
  5. 5. loaded because it employs language which does not instil pride and value butrather refers to individuals who are seen to be not able because of impairment.Definitions formulated in these terms do not promote inclusion but, conversely, Iwould suggest, encourage the return to integration and thereby tolerance, notinclusion, of children with additional needs.A further consideration is that these definitions refer only to children whomsociety and institutions deem to have special educational needs. Increasingly it isbecoming apparent that inclusion is being conceptualised as relating solely tochildren with special educational needs and the relationships these individualshave with mainstream schools. I believe that conceptions of this nature devalueinclusion by a process of fragmentation. It is my view that inclusion must be abroad church with solid foundations where exclusion from society is accepted ashaving a common route in ‘intolerance to difference’ (Booth, 2000). Inclusionfrom this perspective would relate to special needs as well as to gender, sexualorientation, race, ethnicity, age, culture and social class. It would seem apparentthat if we are to develop a truly inclusive society, interest groups must not beallowed to seize inclusion as a flag to rally around in the promotion of theirindividual causes and ideologies.Recently, perhaps the greatest problem has been that inclusion has becomedefined and operationalised by governmental agents of accountability andstandards. For example, OFSTED, while stating that inclusion ‘is more than aconcern about any one group of pupils’ and that ‘its scope is broad’ (OFSTED,2000), has nonetheless formulated a set of inclusive principles with which tojudge schools. According to these principles, an inclusive school is one where‘the teaching and learning, achievement, attitudes and well-being of every personmatter’ (OFSTED, 2000). While this may be observed as a better definition thanthose which employ the language of deficit, one might question whether inclusionshould ever be determined by academic standards or by the metrics ofaccountability.
  6. 6. The contention I forward here is that inclusion is not a summative measurableentity, nor is it one that can be clearly defined. Perhaps a clear definition is lessimportant than schools achieving an understanding of the core values ofinclusion (Coles & Hancock, 2002). Some writers (Reynolds, 1989; Booth,Ainscow, Black-Hawkins, Vaughn & Shaw, 2000), while accepting that inclusionis beyond definition, also contend that it should be a process inextricably linkedto the ‘goal of full inclusion’ (Hornby, 2002). Within this utopia, all children areeducated together in terms of location, need, curriculum and attitudes with notolerance or justification given to the maintenance of a segregated system ofspecial schooling.It could be argued that, although interesting, OFSTED and full inclusionistsdefinitions and contentions are flawed because they define inclusion within theterms of institutional and societal control or ideological dictate. It is my belief thatinclusion cannot simply be operationalised in terms of OFSTEDs notions ofacademic achievement, nor should it be countenanced solely as a process thatachieves full inclusion. It seems essential that inclusion be firmly located withinthe sphere of individuals and their needs.The importance of the childs voiceDuring recent years, childrens rights to mainstream educational placement havebeen brought to the fore by legislation, such as the Children Act (1989), SENDA(2001), the Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) and the UN Convention on the Rightsof the Child. In addition, legislation has also placed a duty upon adults to ensurethat children involved in this process have their views taken into account (May,2003). Some writers have quite rightly argued that a prerequisite for successfulinclusion is the maintenance of a dialogue between those involved and thosewho experience this process (Jones, 2005; Rogers, 2007). Regrettably, though, itis becoming apparent that some childrens voices are being drowned out byinclusion policies dominated by adults. In a recent study (Hodkinson, 2007a) Iwas dismayed to observe that, when questioned, a majority of mainstreamchildren had no conception of what inclusive education was and, moreworryingly, they held extremely negative views of disability and disabled people.Evidence of this kind should make us question whether inclusion is actuallypossible without all stakeholders, firstly, understanding what inclusive educationis and, secondly, ensuring that all those involved have positive attitudes towardits implementation. I would suggest that it is crucial for all children, families,support staff and teachers to be educated about its principles and for all
  7. 7. participants to have their views heard and taken into account. For this reason, Ihave come to believe that time and resources would be better spent supportingactivities (see Jones, 2005) and co-operative learning programmes that wouldactively enable children and adults to form and express their views aboutinclusion, rather than being wasted on further legislative measures.Inclusion conceptualised in this manner, therefore, would become a catalystrequiring schools and society to identify and overcome the barriers that inhibitindividual childrens choices and ability to achieve their full potential (Hodkinson,2007b). I would suggest that inclusion should seek to diminish the controllingpower of state, institutions and society, and replace them with an understandingof individual value, respect and a commitment to the development of self.The current position: examination of the barriersto inclusive educationEarlier in this article, the three principles of inclusion in the National Curriculumwere detailed. An examination of these principles suggests that the Governmentperceives the barriers to inclusive education as being related mainly to the locusof the school and that the responsibility for overcoming these barriers is in thehands of teachers (DfES, 2004). This viewpoint, I suggest, is simplistic andsomewhat contrived, because it is observable that many of the barriers toeffective inclusion are in practice to be found within the loci of Government andlocal authorities as well as those of schools.The locus of the GovernmentInclusion in the English educational system is essentially a political process(Booth et al., 2000) and it is observable that it has become, at one level, a keycomponent of governmental planning (Corbett, 2001). Problematically, though, inrecent times the Government has pursued a powerful inclusion stance on a top-down implementation basis (Coles & Hancock, 2002). Regrettably, while theGovernment has been well versed in the language of inclusion, I suggest that thistop-down approach may actually be responsible for many of the barriers that areprecluding some children from interfacing with mainstream provision.The previous Labour Government wanted us to believe that inclusion is intendedto ensure that educational provision offers an opportunity for children to achieve
  8. 8. their full potential. This is a very laudable reason. However, I would questionwhether in practice this was the previous Governments only motivation forincluding all children within mainstream education. To support this premise weneed only examine the words of a previous Minister of Education in relation toCurriculum 2000:‘. . . the education of children with special educational needs . . . is vital to thecreation of a fully inclusive society . . . We owe it to all children . . . to develop totheir full potential and contribute economically and play a full part as activecitizens.’(David Blunkett, 2000, cited in Judge, 2003, p. 163)Blunketts statement is interesting because he employs inclusion with the caveatof economics. Inclusion in these terms, while promoting ‘a route to equality ofopportunity for all,’ is also about providing support for ‘a productive economy andsustainable development’ (DfEE, 1999). To those of a more cynical disposition, itmight appear that policy operationalised in this manner is not about fulfillingindividual potential but rather is grounded within a functionalist motivation.A second governmental barrier that seemingly bars the path of successfulinclusion is the curriculum and teaching practices promoted within our educationsystem. Through policies such as personalised education, the Government hasseemingly promoted inclusion. However, inclusive education does not seem tosquare with other policies, such as more selective education promoted within therecent white paper (DfES, 2005) nor with a National Curriculum and Strategiesthat place an emphasis on the whole-class teaching of literacy and numeracy(Judge, 2003). Rather than promoting inclusion, recent legislation, the inspectionregime and the metrics of accountability ensure that schools cannot fully adhereto inclusive principles and practices. The National Curriculum and Strategies arebecoming strait-jackets which serve only to restrict inclusion by discouragingschools from reflecting upon how changes in curricula and teaching mightcontribute to increasing the quality and extent of the participation of all learners
  9. 9. (Clough & Garner, 2003).A former Secretary of State for Education stated that:‘. . . we need to do much more to help children with special educational needs toachieve as well as they can, not least if we are to meet the challenging targetsexpected at school’.(Charles Clarke, cited in DfES, 2004, p. 16)This statement makes it abundantly clear that ‘policies of inclusion operate withina regime of accountability’ (Allan, 2003). This system of accountability should beperceived as one of the most serious challenges that inclusive education isfacing (Frederickson & Cline, 2002; Allan, 2003; Clough & Garner, 2003; Hanko,2003). The danger here may be that by linking inclusion to academicaccountability schools, whose reputation and financial viability are dependantupon surface success where league tables and examination results dominate(Hanko, 2003), will become wary of accepting children whose low attainment anddiscipline may depress examination and SAT scores (Frederickson & Cline,2002).For some writers, a further area of tension within current inclusion policies is thatthey do not go far enough. While the Government may be ‘firmly committed tothe principle of inclusion and increasing the proportion of children with specialneeds attending mainstream schools’ (DfES, 2004), it has stopped short of acommitment to full inclusion (Frederickson & Cline, 2002). This lack ofcommitment, though, should not be seen as a barrier to effective inclusion. Bystopping short of full inclusion, I would suggest that the Government isadvocating ‘inclusion by choice’ (Smith, cited in Tod, 2002). The premise of‘inclusion by choice’ is vitally important, especially when one considers researchwhich suggests that some children do not want to be forced into mainstreamplacements (Norwich & Kelly, 2004). This premise of choice is further supportedby Warnock (2005) who believes that the specialist sector, rather than beingseen as a place of last resort, should rather be regarded as offering a ‘more
  10. 10. productive and creative interpretation of the ideal of inclusive education for all’(Byers, 2005).The locus of the local education authorityEarlier in this article, it was suggested that the Government is a key stakeholderand thus creator of barriers to the inclusion of all our children within mainstreamprovision. However, it is invariably the local authority that translates legislationand initiatives into more practicable forms. In this respect local authoritiesperform two functions; not only do they create local policy but they also decide, inthe main, the level of funding for local inclusion programmes. These twofunctions seem crucial to the implementation of effective inclusive education.Regrettably, though, it would appear that inclusive education at this local level issuccumbing to the same difficulties suffered by integration (OFSTED, 2004;CSIE, 2005; Rustemier & Vaughan, 2005). It is apparent that local authoritiescurrent inclusion policies have resulted in some building new more inclusivespecial schools, others developing inclusive provision by transferring moniesfrom their special educational needs budget as well as those who no longerprovide special schools for certain categories of special educational needs(Coles & Hancock, 2002). This variety of implementation means that families areonce again faced with unacceptable variations in the level of support available(Audit Commission, 2002; Rustemier & Vaughan, 2005) and that, for somechildren, inclusion, like integration before it, has become placement withoutadequate provision (Corbett, 2001). While educational policy should advocateinclusion by choice, in reality it seems that some families are left with no optionbut the choice of inclusion.A further barrier placed in the way of the local authorities provision of inclusiveeducation is their complex funding arrangements (MacLeod, 2001). It isinteresting to note that a recent study (NUT, 2004) observes that 76% ofSENCos felt that their role was undermined by a lack of funding and 40%believed that there was not sufficient support for pupils with special educational
  11. 11. needs. This lack of funding is problematic for the successful implementation ofinclusionary practices. However, it would be unfair to lay the blame for thecreation of these barriers solely on local authorities. Many have been placed inan impossible position, in that not only do they have to continue the funding forStatements of Special Educational Need but are also required to provide furtherfunding to support early intervention and inclusive educational strategies for all.Moreover, those authorities which maintain a range of special provision and soprovide inclusion by choice are coming under increasing pressure to reduce theirreliance on high-cost residential placements (DfES, 2004). If local authorities arenot provided with adequate financial support to implement inclusive practices,then, rather than being a catalyst for inclusion they will be left with no choice butto impose barriers that will inhibit the development of successful practice.The locus of the schoolIt was suggested earlier that many of the barriers to inclusive education arelocated within the sphere of control of individual schools (DfES, 2004; Hodkinson,2007b). While this premise has been questioned above, there is little doubt thatthe last stop on the inclusion journey is controlled by the schools, their staff andlocal community that supports them. Inclusion, it is argued, is being stalledbecause educational institutions are not fit to include all children because of thebarriers of ‘lack of knowledge, lack of will, lack of vision, lack of resources andlack of morality’ (Clough & Garner, 2003).The last stop on the journey to successful inclusion, then, is dependent firstlyupon teachers attitudes to its implementation, and secondly upon theircompetencies to deliver this important initiative. Research studies suggest thatwhile a majority of teachers support inclusive education they do so withreservation (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Croll & Moses, 2000; Hodkinson,2005). Teachers, it would seem, will support inclusion if it relates to children withmild mobility or sensory difficulties (Corbett, 2001). However, some teachers donot have the same inclusive vision in relation to children who exhibit extremebehavioural difficulties (Hodkinson, 2005; OFSTED, 2004). Research suggests
  12. 12. that, for these children, teachers believe that exclusion would be necessary onpractical grounds (Corbett, 2001; Hodkinson, 2006). It would seem that if schoolsare to become inclusive, then it is crucial that they are enabled to develop anethos that not only enables all pupils to be supported but also provides for theneeds of teachers (Hanko, 2003).A problem in relation to supporting the participants of inclusion is that theliterature base indicates that the training for the teaching of pupils with diverseneeds is an issue that has inhibited the successful implementation of specialeducational needs strategies in the past. As far back as the Warnock Report(DES, 1978) the lack of specialist training was raised as an issue that wasstalling the successful implementation of special educational needs strategies.Twenty years later the Programme of Action (DfEE, 1998) again indicated theneed for teachers to undertake specific training and most recently it has againbeen noted that practice is still being inhibited by these same issues (DfES,2004). It appears that, despite continuing requests for the training of all teachersin the pedagogy of special educational needs, there remains a common feelingamong educational professionals that training, to date, has been ‘woefullyinadequate’ (Corbett, 2001).Conclusions: future challengesThe teaching and learning of children with special educational needs has beensubject to increased debate over recent years and it would seem that this level ofinterest through policy initiatives such as inclusive education will ensure, at leastin the near future, that this will continue to be the case. This level of interestshould be seen as beneficial, as it ensures that educational policy is questionedand analysed through the lens of the media and the camera of research.The future, though, still holds many challenges for both teachers and pupils.Hopefully, many more children with special educational needs and disabilities willbe taught alongside their peers in local schools. However, if we are to avoid themistakes of the past we must heed their lessons and guarantee that the
  13. 13. professional development of teachers and adequate funding for schools aregiven a high priority. Furthermore, I would suggest that if the prevailingeducational policy is to meet the requirements of children with specialeducational needs and disabilities in local schools it must, as a matter ofurgency, move away from the Victorian systems of accountability to ones thatallow local authorities, schools, families and individual pupils to work in apartnership where mutual trust and respect, not examination results, dominate.It is now time to develop a new vision for the education of children with specialeducational needs and disabilities that is supported by straightforward, co-ordinated and well-resourced policies. If educational policy is to achieve aninclusive consciousness, it must ensure that all children are enabled to achievetheir full potential. I would suggest that this can only be achieved by listening tochildren, their families and education professionals, and by ensuring thatinclusion is by the choice of the pupils and their parents and not by compulsion.References Ainscow, M. (1995) ‘Education for all: making it happen’, Support for Learning, 10 (4), 147–154. Direct Link: AbstractPDF(995K)References Allan, J. (2003) ‘Productive pedagogies and the challenge of inclusion’, British Journal of Special Education, 30 (4), 175–179. Direct Link: AbstractPDF(50K)References Audit Commission (2002) Special Educational Needs: a mainstream issue. London: Audit Commission. Barton, L. (2003) ‘Inclusive education and teacher education. A basis for hope or a discourse of delusion?’ Inaugural Professorial Lecture, London: London Institute of Education. Barton, L. (2005) ‘Warnock, M. 2005: special educational needs – a new look’, Centre for Disability Studies [online at Booth, T. (2000) ‘Inclusion and exclusion policy in England: who controls the agenda?’ in F.Armstrong and D.Armstrong (eds) Inclusive Education. London: David Fulton. Booth, T., Ainscow, M., Black-Hawkins, K., Vaughn, M. & Shaw, L. (2000)
  14. 14. Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools.Bristol: CSIE.Byers, R. (2005) ‘Editorial’, British Journal of Special Education, 32 (3),114–115. Direct Link: AbstractPDF(192K)ReferencesClough, P. & Garner, G. (2003) ‘Special educational needs and inclusiveeducation: origins and current issues’, in S.Bartlett and D.Burton (eds)Education Studies: essential issues. London: Sage.Coles, C. & Hancock, R. (2002) The Inclusion Quality Mark. Croydon:Creative Education.Corbett, J. (2001) Supporting Inclusive Education: a connective pedagogy.London: Routledge Falmer. CrossRefCroll, P. & Moses, D. (2000) ‘Ideologies and utopias: educationalprofessionals views of inclusion’, European Journal of Special NeedsEducation, 15 (1), 1–12. CrossRefCroll, P. & Moses, D. (2003) ‘Special educational needs across twodecades: survey evidence from English primary schools’, BritishEducational Research Journal, 29 (5), 731–747. CrossRef,Web of Science® Times Cited: 2CSIE (Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education) (2005) New SegregationStatistics [online at http://www.//]. Bristol: CSIE.DES (Department of Education and Science) (1978) Special EducationalNeeds: a report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education ofHandicapped Children and Young People (Report of the WarnockCommittee). London: HMSO.DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) (1997) Excellence forAll Children: meeting special educational needs. London: DfEE.DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) (1998) MeetingSpecial Educational Needs: a programme for action. London: DfEE.DfEE (Department for Education and Employment) (1999) The NationalCurriculum for England [online at] London: DfEE.DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2001) Special EducationalNeeds Code of Practice. London: DfES.DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2004) Removing Barriers toAchievement. The Governments strategy for SEN. Executive summary.London: DfES.DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2005) Higher Standards,Better Schools For All: more choice for parents and pupils. White Paper.London: DfES.Evans, J. & Lunt, I. (2002) ‘Inclusive education: are there limits?’ inK.Topping and S.Maloney (eds) The Routledge Falmer Reader inInclusive Education. London: Routledge Falmer.Frederick, K. (2005) ‘Lets take the special out of special needs’, Times
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