Part A Why are social justice and inclusion key concepts within Scottish Education?
As stated in the HM Governments Social Justice document;
“Social Justice is about making society function better – providing the support and tools to help turn lives around”
The government have looked into the reasons behind social injustice and have looked at ways in assisting the public this affects. They have recognised that they cannot value their success on measuring income transfer alone. They are aware that to make such changes occur they have to look at the full picture and assist in making life changes and improving the lives of the people affected also. Within this education plays a great part as this allows the government to tackle the issue not only from the present citizens affected but the future citizens, who instead of being penalized, may contribute greatly to our economy.
Thurow 1977 states that realistically the poor are poor due to failure in education due to inferior schools and troublesome family conditions, which in turn prevents them from fully engaging and attaining the education provided.
In this writing I will be discussing the Scottish Governments aim for social justice with the idea that inclusion for all will be beneficial in our Scottish education system. And with this, looking at the benefits and barriers to inclusive practice within the Scottish Classroom.
To tackle this the Scottish government have looked at Inclusion within schools as a way of tackling Social justice. Social justice and inclusion are fundamental components of the Scottish education policy and have an immense impact on all children within the classroom
With the introduction of the Childrens (Scotland) Act 1995 the Scottish government opened the gates for children rights to be acknowledged within the Scottish education system and be treated as an individual. This all came into action from the Salamanca Statement 1994. This was where 92 governments came together to discuss the further development for education for all, believing that basic policy changes where required to promote inclusive education, and that all children including those with special educational needs will be treated fairly.
Corbett (2001) believed that it was crucial to developing inclusive practices and policies to create a staff team who are interested in finding and learning from solutions rather than those more focused on the problem at hand. By gathering information and looking at the whole picture of the child external as well as internal of the school environment can help in the engagement of the child as they themselves will begin to feel safe and accepted within the classroom. School staff do face many challenges today in which they have to respond to with an abundance of curriculum, assessments, reports, government led moves towards performance indicators and achievement levels in pupils. With all of this to be considered within the daily workload of the teacher and school, the teacher still needs to find a direct and positive route to make sure that inclusion within the classroom is not forgotten and remains a key part in the school ethos and lesson plan. Inclusion is responding to individuals needs which take form in a wide variety within the classroom, all of which are required to be considered is specific disabilities, learning difficulties, gender, ethnicity issues, sexuality and poverty. Florian (2007) argued that for teachers to obtain a more inclusive practise they must be able to have respect as well as respond to the diversity of the individual pupil in a way which includes them rather than exclude them from what is available in the classroom. This is vital in most cases where that the focus must be taken away from ones who are perceived as “special” or “in need of additional support” and placed on focusing on the learning of the child within the classroom (Pollard, 2014).
Ainscow et al (2006) “inclusion is a process of increasing participation and decreasing exclusion from culture, curricula and community of mainstream schools.”
This itself can present a challenge to the teacher who is required to adapt and constantly renew their own pedagogic repertoire so that their lessons can be adjusted to varied learning styles (Corbett, 2001).
Additional support inclusion
The Scottish Education system has been changed in many ways over the years with legislations such as the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004, this legislation promotes the inclusion of pupils who are seen with ‘additional support needs’ and require the help and support for learning.
“All Scotland’s children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities that Curriculum for Excellence provides. Some children may need additional support” (Education Scotland.gov, 2018)
This along with Equalities legislation enforces inclusion for all no matter their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Additional support in schools protects those who are more vulnerable and have a higher risk of exclusion from mainstream schools.
Corbett 2001 believes that SEN (Special Educational Needs) has become a large concern to the public and has dramatically changed from the 1970s when this area of education was a low priority and more a medical issue, of minimal to no interest to the educators. With the change in Scottish education to include said ‘special’ children made the term ‘special’ itself redundant. Schools themselves now focus on additional support for the individual needs including a wide range of specific disabilities and learning difficulties but not forgetting additional support to assist those who require more of an academic challenge than their peers.
With the inclusion of pupils with additional needs allows the pupil to be one with their peers and feel part of the educational community within a mainstream school. (Allan, 2015) This idea however is hugely criticised, and the opposing argument is that this kind of approach could have a negative effect for the pupil within the classroom. It could in fact exclude the pupil or young person much further if they do not have access to the correct facilities or support which caters for their individual needs and in turn prevent them from achieving the best they can.
Previously children with additional needs have been educated out with the mainstream within a separate unit designed to cater for them but this in-advertently still labels them as ‘different’ amongst their peers.
Teachers themselves must view the pupil less than an obstacle or problem within the classroom but challenge themselves to adapt and alter their lessons and teaching to practice more of an inclusive pedagogy. And with the introduction of the Additional Support for learning (Scotland) Act in 2004 the educational community can put more of an emphasis on supporting the children who require such needs.
One way for educators to create successful inclusiveness for children with additional support needs would be to draw pedagogies from a diverse range of sources from previous ‘special’ education sector which should help guide them in connecting the child into a more meaningful learning environment. This will also support that inclusive classroom to exit beyond boundaries and create clear cut divisions between educational sectors which usually obstructs the fluidity of an open approach to teaching and learning. (Scotland) Act 2000 does assist educators and said children by stating that if the child in questions presence within the mainstream classroom environment is damaging to them or to others, they can be, with the complete agreeance from the child’s main carer, placed in a special provision. This alone is not the answer and appears to be an approach less taken in Scotland’s classrooms. (Bovair, 2000) advocates that the way forward is for educators to build on their skills and practices which in turn will adopt a positive practice within mainstream classes. This itself could include the use of small groups and individual teaching for support.
This change and adaptation of the educator’s practice could help the child or young person to inherit an inclusive mind-set and achieve a sense of uniqueness for the child and not just the assumption of their label.
One of the big challenges with creating an inclusive classroom is ability labelling. (Hart, 2007) Ability labelling can damage the pupil or young persons learning as it stops the teacher from accomplishing a professional commitment in making a positive change to said pupil or young person’s lives. (L, Florian, and J, Spratt) believe that it is fundamental that within the classroom that educators do not create assumptions regarding the child based upon their circumstances. When a child is based within their own ability group, for example the red group, it can be assumed by the practitioner that the child alone has a fixed ability from their birth, which in turn prevents the child from achieving beyond their normal boundaries. If this is continued, pupils begin to self-doubt and believe that they should remain within this ability bracket throughout primary and secondary school.
Social justice can be looked at as a simple human right in todays society with the focus on a fair distribution of resources regardless the persons race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or social class. The focus for the Scottish education authority is to break down such barriers which will affect the learner in classrooms. The approach required is to create effective strategies in order to improve attainment and achievement for pupils or young people who belong to a deprived area or have additional support needs. (Riddell, 2009) The Sottish education authority have worked in precedence for redistribution rather than recognition and have done so since the 60’s by making all schools co-educational except for one single-sex school in Glasgow.
(HGIOS, 2017) it is vital that practitioners are seen to be playing a significant role in the child’s academic journey, in creating a positive learning environment, even though they are not able to change or ease what they are aware of within the terms of the child’s life out with the classroom. Practitioners should be seen in assisting those in developing their skills to the best of their ability.
‘the persistent correlation between social class and educational performance indicates a chasm between national ideas and daily reality’ (Slavin, R. 1996).
Slavins own beliefs that children are having the ability to achieve is reflective from Vygotsky’s theory in social learning. The idea that when the child is placed with their own peers, they can work together and build on enhancing each other’s learning. This caters for all children no matter what their social background is and helps them create an inclusive and socially just safe space where they can achieve to the best of their abilities.
An area to discuss when considering social justice is closing the attainment gap. As the Scottish education authority are aware, children who live in high deprived areas struggle with school and achieve less than those from less deprived. A focus to tackle this is to look at the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. To do this the government have introduced the policy group IPRA and the Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland (2014-17), both of yet have still to accumulate data to provide the education system with further strategies (Sosu, E. Ellis, S. 2014)
It is importance for an inclusive pedagogical approach within the Scottish education classrooms, which ensures that all pupils are included within everyday practice. This alone is highly important if we are looking to close the attainment gap and allows the Scottish education authority to be one step forward in achieving this. By closing the attainment gap, we are providing tools and resources for children who come from less well-off areas and gives them a chance to improve their life’s and the lives of the ones around them. As much as this is a difficult task in a social and economic context, in doing so will allow the child to achieve their full potential academically. Therefore, to move forward productively and to overcome social justice, practitioners must create an inclusive classroom across Scotland. It is important for the individual teacher to adapt their professional practice so that they are creating such a classroom, but not only does the teacher have to do this but also the educational community surrounding the teacher must contribute also in this wheel of change.