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This essay will critically assess the economical, social, and political factors which may contribute to a practitioner’s ability to ensure inclusion for Tom in a mainstream education setting. Firstly, the social factors such as labeling as well as the practitioner’s attitudes and perceptions of disability will be discussed. Secondly, the professional training and current issues around funding will be explored about parent partnership. Thirdly, the current and previous policies around inclusion and what may prevent successful inclusion in a mainstream setting will also be discussed.
Practitioners’ attitudes and perceptions of a child have been found to significantly affect children’s perception of themselves and influence their overall attainment in school. If practitioners are biased toward children with disability, this can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, often resulting in a negative self-concept. This is a crucial matter as Tom is the only child who has down syndrome in his school. If the practitioners have shown any biased treatment towards Tom because of his disability, his self-esteem and perception of himself will be affected. Therefore, affects his school achievement. Practitioners have to ensure they maintain a positive attitude towards Tom’s disability to encourage positive self-esteem so that Tom can feel accepted within the mainstream inclusive environment.
However, Manrique et al. (2019) found that children who did not have a disability often are non-accepting of the differences which results in social discredit, and proved that children with disabilities will have disadvantages in an environment like this. In this case, Tom will most probably be at a disadvantage if peers his age do not accept him for being different just because of his disability. It can be argued that inclusive culture is one of the most influential aspects of inclusion as it includes the need for individuals to accept their differences and to ensure there is effective communication and collaboration among the students, practitioners, and parents in mainstream schools. It is also important because if the culture in the school is not inclusion-friendly, regardless of implementing policies or practices, then the outcome may not be successful (Reid, 2005).
As stated by Hodkinson and Vickerman (2016), inclusion highlighted that special educational policy uses deficit language, referring to weakness or disability. This type of language essentially produces a negative image and label toward individual differences among children. In this case, Tom who has down syndrome may be labeled negatively because he looks different in comparison to other children in his setting. Based on Woolley (2018), practitioners can remove the label of having a ‘disability’ by providing a positive environment and promoting inclusion where we develop a culture of acceptance for all needs.
One of the most significant changes in the replacement of statements of special educational needs (SEN) with Education Health and Care plans (EHC plans). This documentation is important as Tom’s needs need to be well monitored to ensure appropriate implementations and interventions were being delivered by the practitioners in his setting. With Tom’s mother having access to the personal budget, she will ensure that Tom receives effective provisions in the mainstream setting. However, since the school has no other children with down syndrome who attends, the practitioners may not have the appropriate professional training to deal with Tom’s condition.
Challenges occur when children have difficulties that are new to the school. In this type of circumstances, there can be a delay in implementing provision due to the lack of training and equipment and this may need additional support. Besides, local authorities are said to provide all they can to support schools and children with special educational needs in the most appropriate manner, providing the relevant training for practitioners (Digman, Carmel, Soan, and Sue, 2008). It is often argued that practitioners do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to work with disabled children in inclusive classrooms (Ofsted, 2008). However, Florian and Linklater (2010) believed that practitioners who may feel uncertain about how to respond to children’s disabilities, or not confident enough in making adaptations do not mean practitioners lack teaching abilities, knowledge, or skills. In this case, since Tom is the only child with down syndrome in his school, practitioners may not know how to implement strategies that are appropriate for Tom and the other children in the classroom as they have not encountered situations like this before. Moreover, this may be a challenging task for a classroom practitioner alone. Thus, having an expert who specialized in understanding the conditions of the down syndrome may be able to assist Tom in a mainstream classroom alongside the classroom practitioner. Before deciding to have a specialized expert look over Tom in the classroom, practitioners will need to work with parents to ensure that they are fully aware of the decisions that the school will make on behalf of Tom’s condition. This is why parent partnership is a crucial factor to consider.
In terms of funding, parent partnership is important as Tom’s mother needs to work together with the school’s practitioners to ensure that they implement the most effective provision for Tom. Parent partnership is crucial as it not only benefits the relationship between parents and practitioners but also benefits children who are in need. It could also make an impact on Tom’s learning and promote social as well as school inclusion. Tom’s mother needs to have good working relationships with the staff in school based on understanding and trust. This is to avoid miscommunications or unrealistic expectations of Tom’s achievements in school. Parentship with parents is a journey undertaken as an expression of certain values and principles. The school and the parents need to have mutual respect based on a willingness to learn from one another, a sense of common purpose, a sharing of information and decision making, and a sharing of feelings (Miller, 2000).
Political factors – current and previous policy around inclusion, factors that prevent successful inclusion in a mainstream setting
Vargas-Baron (2014) identifies that the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) provided a framework for action and in doing so created a focus on child’s rights, enabling Tom as a child to achieve his potential. At the time when Warnock Report (1978) was written, the term such as ‘handicapped’ was still used. The report promoted a move away from this negative terminology and there was indeed a shift in society’s perspective towards an inclusive approach for children with special needs and disabilities in the UK. In 1997, prime minister Tony Blair put the Salamanca Statement into practice, which indicated that the government supports the inclusive approach to education.