There are times when it feels as if inclusive education has not progressed in the past 25 years. Numbers of pupils with SEND, including those with EHCPs, were higher at the beginning of 2020 than 2019 (Office for National Statistics, 2020), yet headlines suggest the education provision appears to be failing some of these learners. There are children and young people struggling to access support until after they have been excluded (Devlin, 2020) and many children and young people did not return fulltime to school after the March lockdown (BBC, 2020).
The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education was written 25 years ago by participants representing governments and organisations. They believed that “Special needs education – an issue of equal concern to countries of the North and of the South – cannot advance in isolation. It has to form part of an overall educational strategy and, indeed, of new social and economic policies. It calls for major reform of the ordinary school” (UNESCO, 1994, np). A review by UNESCO (2020) shows that some substantially successful work has happened in the UK and internationally but recommended six further actions to address more recent global issues. On reading these actions, it is clear that the BA in Special Educational Needs, Disability, and Inclusion is part of the solution to these global challenges.
My bold claim starts from the design of the degree as a possible pathway to teaching, giving students the opportunity to spend time in both mainstream and specialist inclusive school settings. We recognise that teacher training will not be right for all of our alumni, but we are sure that many will progress into successful careers as teachers and school leaders. Thus, we are addressing Action 3: “Ensure that teachers are supported in promoting inclusion and equity” (UNESCO, 2020, p37).
Throughout their degree, the students will “Establish clear definitions of what is meant by inclusion and equity in education” as outlined in Action 1 (UNESCO, 2020, p37). Modules in the first year include ‘How Children Learn’, considering why language is often used to suggest that some children learn ‘normally’ whilst other learners do not. In each year, the students will consider broader inclusion such as language, culture, and displacement (considering looked after children). We at the Carnegie School of Education align with UNESCO in our desire to “eliminate social exclusion that is a consequence of attitudes and responses to diversity in race, social class, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, migrant status and ability” (UNESCO, 2020, p24).
Moreover, we will be preparing students to lead change to address Action 5: “Structure and manage education systems in ways that will engage all learners” (UNESCO, 2020, p37) and Action 6: “Involve communities in the development and implementation of policies that promote inclusion and equity in education” (UNESCO, 2020, p37). The students consider how to collaboratively work with different stakeholders, look at ‘Global Perspectives on Inclusive Education’ and consider how to respond to ‘Contemporary Issues in Inclusive Practice’.
The review paper ends with a key thought: “…educational improvement is technically simple but socially and politically complex. It is not that difficult to define the actions that are needed in order to provide high quality education for all children and young people. The big question is: do we have the will to make it happen?” (UNESCO, 2020, p38).
At the Carnegie School of Education, we have the will to make it happen and the BA in Special Educational Needs, Disability, and Inclusion is part of our pledge to ensure our graduates provide the highest quality education for all children and young people.
or contact our acting Course Director, Esther Cummins on email@example.com.
BBC News (2020) SEND students not back full-time according to charities. [Online]. Available from: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-55133088> [Accessed 16th December 2020]
Devlin, K. (2020) Special educational needs support 'offered after exclusion'. [Online]. Available from: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-54613655> [Accessed 16th December 2020]