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Research report

From exclusion to inclusion

Mel Ainscow, Alan Dyson and Sara Weiner

With a specific focus on children with special educational needs (SEN), this review addresses the forms of classroom practice that can help all children to participate, focusing on elements of inclusive education and the implications for schools and school leaders.

This paper reviews the international literature on the development of effective ways of including children and young people with special educational needs in schools. It addresses three overall questions:

  • What forms of classroom practice can help all children to participate and learn?
  • How can such practices be developed?
  • What does this mean for school organisation and leadership?

The analysis of the literature suggests six key ideas:

  • Schools need to understand clearly what is meant by inclusive education.
  • Inclusive classroom practices involve overcoming barriers to student participation and learning.
  • Engaging with various kinds of evidence can encourage teachers to develop more inclusive practices.
  • Additional support for individual students should be carefully planned; those involved require appropriate training.
  • Inclusive schools can take many forms, but they all have an organisational culture that views student diversity positively.
  • Leaders have a central role in working with their colleagues to foster an inclusive culture within their schools.

The literature suggests that supporting students with special educational needs, and other groups of vulnerable learners, depends less on the introduction of particular techniques or organisational arrangements, and much more on processes of social learning within particular contexts. The use of evidence as a means of stimulating experimentation and collaboration within a school is a central strategy.