Abstract

This assignment is the second piece of work required for the Current Issues in Education module. I have chosen to explore ‘Inclusion’ because this is an area in education that I encounter daily in my job role as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant in a Secondary School. ‘Inclusion’ is a large area in education and I have chosen to focus my assignment on pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). However, my starting point for this assignment is Callaghan’s ‘Great Debate’ speech at Ruskins College in 1976 and EAL pupils did not begin to increase in numbers until the late 1990’s. Therefore, I have begun my historical research looking at Special Educational Needs. ‘Inclusion’ is a familiar and accepted term used in mainstream school today. ‘Inclusion’ does not separate or segregate pupils, whether they are of ethnic minority, have learning difficulties, or have some form of disability, but this has not always been the case. I will review some of the key policies which have been introduced since Callaghan’s ‘Great Debate’ speech and analyse the impact these policies have had in contributing to education down the years and what it means for education now in the early years of the 21st century.

Introduction

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Inclusion is a relatively new term used in education but what does it mean?

In today’s society inclusion means being accepted, being integrated, not being segregated, being treated the same as everyone else, and equality.

Since the 1990’s England has seen an increase in migration and according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), statistics indicate “…approximately 4.8% of students taking part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2009) were born overseas” (NALDIC 2011). At first sight that seems to be an extremely low percentage, nearly 5% of pupils in English schools are classed as EAL but when you investigate further, the statistics show that “There are nearly a million pupils in English schools who speak languages in addition to English. Figures recently released by the DfE show the changes in the linguistic landscape in schools in England which have taken place over the past three years” (NALDIC 2011). I also read on the NALDIC website that there had been a significant increase in the number of Polish migrants between 2008 and 2011. In fact the population has almost doubled, from 26 840 to 47,135 “making it the fifth most widely spoken language in English schools” (NALDIC 2011).

There have been some radical changes in Education since Callaghan delivered the ‘Great Debate’ speech, beginning with the Warnock committee’s report leading to the process and debate of Special Educational Needs in 1978. This prompted a significant leap forward in education for the integration of pupils with learning difficulties that needed extra provision, but would benefit by remaining in a mainstream school.

From Debate to Inclusion. A Revolution in Education

It is difficult to find the exact time when the term ‘inclusion’ was first used in relation to mainstream schooling, let alone the introduction of the term ‘EAL’ (English as an additional Language). However, as I was reading the ‘Great Debate’ speech it was clear to me that Callaghan was recognising the unease felt by parents surrounding the informal teaching methods at that time and although these methods did produce some great results, this was not always the case when carried out by less experienced teachers (Eason, G 2005). In one particular paragraph of his speech at Ruskins College, he talks about teachers satisfying the needs of parents and industry and meeting the requirements of the needs of our children (Callaghan 1976).

I believe this was purely due to the type of employment available at that time which was predominantly industrial. Parents expected children to go work in the factories once they had left school. On the other hand Callaghan’s speech states “there is now widespread recognition of the need to cater for a child’s personality, to let it flower in the fullest possible way” (Callaghan 1976). Could this be the start of the government identifying the diversity of children, perhaps realising there was a need for change in how education was structured within the schools? He goes on to discuss the examination system and its pitfalls “especially in relation to less-academic students staying at school beyond the age of 16” (Callaghan 1976). This speech was the start of some of the most fundamental changes in Education.

The Warnock report in 1978 “laid the foundations for the introduction of statements of special educational need” (Silas). There was a great need for a change in attitude towards children who required additional provision and the Education Act 1981 attempted to address this. Local authorities had a duty to assess pupils and provide provision if required but they also had to liaise with parents (Education Act 1981). This gave parents a voice, allowing them greater access to information about their child and the systems in place. They had the right to intervene in the decision making regarding their child’s Special Educational Needs (Silas). This process did not come without its problems. Barnes (1991) makes the point that the process from the initial identification of a child with potential Special Educational Needs through to providing suitable provision was a lengthy process. This was “due to the uncertainty of its outcome” and the information required, in addition to the people involved (Barnes 1991 p36). The Education Act 1993 made some very important changes to reduce the time taken by local authorities in completing assessments for Special Educational Needs. “These changes are now consolidated in the Education Act 1996” (Love). This was because some of the children were not being catered for as it was taking up to 67 weeks for the whole process to be completed (ILEA 1985 cited in Barnes 1991 p36)

It was not until 1997, when a green paper was submitted titled ‘Excellence for all children: Meeting Special Educational Needs’, that ‘Inclusion’ was used, although it was still only limited to include Special Educational Needs. “The ultimate purpose of SEN provision is to enable young people to flourish in adult life” (DfEE 1997 p43). This seems to echo a point Callaghan was making in his ‘Great Debate’ speech. This paper outlines the changes schools will have to make to resource and provisions but insists that pupils with Special Educational Needs should, wherever possible, be able to be educated in a mainstream school alongside their peers (DfEE 1997 p44). I know that this can cause some heated discussion in today’s society. Parents want the best possible education and provisions for their child and think their child should be placed in a special school yet mainstream schools are able to cater for them. Booth (1999) argues that Inclusion is not just simply about children with Special Educational Needs, although he does recognise the limitations in the educational system to support SEN (Booth 1999 p164).

In 2002, Booth and Ainscow have a different view as stated in their ‘Index for Inclusion. “Inclusion is about minimising all barriers for all children in education” (Booth and Ainscow 2002 p3). For years SEN and EAL were treated the same, as Ofsted highlighted in their ‘Managing the ethnic minority achievement grant’ paper, “A few years ago English as an additional language (EAL) was confused with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in this school. We have put that right and now the focus is strongly on achievement.” (Ofsted 2004 p 9). Special Educational Needs pupils have been habitually connected with low expectations “disproportionately poor…twice as likely not to be in …employment” (NAHT). Unfortunately, this can sometimes be assumed for EAL pupils. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) estimated that by 2010 at least “one in five pupils will come from a minority ethnic background. Consequently there has been a fundamental need for a policy on EAL to react to the demographic and cultural changes” (deni 2005).

This is echoed by the Department for Education in their bulletin in March 1999 where their research studies have shown generally lower attainment from pupils whose first language is not English (DfE 1999, p 8). Bergin, a psychology student from Cardiff University found in the research that he had undertaken that pupils who are EAL were being placed in a special needs class just because of the language barrier (Bergin 2007-10 p31). EAL is under researched and appears to have been ignored and regarded the same as Special Educational Needs for some time. However J Cummins, an expert in bilingual education and second language acquisition, states that besides the child’s mother tongue language, children can generally acquire fluency in an additional language within 2 years, but to be academically proficient in that language can take up to 7 years. Cummings also pointed out how emotionally stressful learning a new language is (Teacher world 2006).

The Milton Keynes council outline in their guidance for supporting EAL (2004) that using Cummins ‘dual iceberg’ theory for understanding the complexities EAL pupils face can only be beneficial to a teacher in meeting their diverse needs more fully (MKC 2004, p 6). It is fundamental that teachers fully understand the requirements to improve attainment in EAL and do not treat it like SEN. To do this teachers must completely embrace inclusion within their classrooms and either use specialist help if available, or seek advice and be able to differentiate the work. From experience, I know that differentiated work can make a huge difference to a child’s learning and involvement in the lesson and allow the teacher freedom to teach.

Fortunately the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC), which was launched in the early 1990’s, provides specialised help and advice for teachers with a passion for supporting bilingual learners and a desire to help them raise attainment. This very useful website which is run by volunteers has all the latest news and policies surrounding EAL. I have used it and found it very helpful. Most schools have EAL support assistants that they are able to deploy where and when they are needed. This help has been made available due to an increase in government funding and has been available since 1996 (NALDIC). This funding was made available “to help meet the special needs of a significant number of people of commonwealth origin with language or customs which differ from the rest of the community”.

In 1999, DfEE Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) was introduced and given to schools in the local authority to spend on resources for EAL. The DfES (2004) provided schools with a clear and practical guide for the distribution of EAMG, stating it was “most effectively to support minority ethnic pupils at risk of underachieving and bilingual pupils” (DfES 2004). This grant was useful in providing much needed support in the classroom. In 2011 schools would still receive the grant but were given the freedom to choose how to use it (NALDIC). From experience, I know how important it is to have EAL support in the classroom, particularly when an EAL pupil has only just arrived in England. One of the challenges a teacher faces is finding the opportunity to create and share resources for EAL pupils, but if time can be allocated to do this it is also very rewarding to see a child flourish. “I have helped them to learn English and use it academically, which means that now anything is possible.” (Alexander 2009).

Conclusion

EAL is now being recognised by the government and schools and an understanding about the different needs between EAL and SEN is being acknowledged. This does not mean that some EAL pupils do not have SEN needs but the process for assessing EAL pupils should be followed and is outlined clearly in the ‘Guidance for Supporting pupils with English as an Additional language’ (Milton Keynes EMASS, 2004). There is not a nationally agreed curriculum for EAL pupils. However, these pupils should be given equal access to the national curriculum, a policy which was enforced in the 1980’s and as far as I am aware, this has not changed. Teachers attitudes to inclusion are key to EAL pupils being successful or failing, but not all teachers are confident and feel under prepared teaching EAL pupils. The use of support staff and generating suitable resources has a significant impact in meeting the needs of these pupils and raising attainment. It is the responsibility of all educators to help EAL pupils develop the English language but equally important that pupils remain fluent within their mother tongue language. It is essential that teachers remember just because a pupil is not fluent in English “does not necessarily reflect their cognitive ability” (Dixie, 2011)

References

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