What is inclusion?

If you ask a room full of teachers ‘what is inclusion?’ you will undoubtedly get answers that follow a similar theme… ‘everyone included’.

It’s not wrong. It’s just not accurate. It’s also not very helpful.

When we test this definition of inclusion we quickly find it to be problematic.

This current definition is binary. It suggests either everyone is included or they’re not. Either a school is inclusive or it’s not – It doesn’t reflect the pragmatic nuance of schools and individuals.

Mainstream schools, through no fault of their own, cannot currently be expected to educate the wonderful breadth of strengths and needs we see in the pupils across our schools.

However, as Nicole Dempsey highlights ‘there is no such thing as children and SEND children, only children’.

If a school cannot ‘include everyone’, can it be inclusive?

Perhaps a better definition of inclusion is one put forward by Mel Ainscow: ‘The process of removing barriers and increasing participation’

All of a sudden, our definition shifts inclusion from an outcome to a process.

Under this definition, schools have the agency to become increasingly inclusive. Moving along a continuum, instead of being held to an unobtainable ideal.

It gives us permission to make more inclusive decisions on a daily basis.

Implementing the adaptive tweaks, which remove barriers and increase participation, are the engine room of SEND inclusion in schools.

The best examples are often unglamorous, small decisions that accumulate over time, made by teachers who know their pupils well.