Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean
Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean

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Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean

3.5 Centre for studies on inclusive education (CSIE)

In an English context, the influence of the Salamanca Statement can be seen in the work of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE), which defines inclusive education as principally a human rights issue. CSIE's manifesto, Ten Reasons for Inclusion, states in its headline that ‘Inclusive education is a human right, it's good education and it makes good social sense’ (CSIE, 2004a). The manifesto then expands on the ‘human rights’ issue by providing a further list of imperatives:

  1. All children have the right to learn together.

  2. Children should not be devalued or discriminated against by being excluded or sent away because of their disability or learning difficulty.

  3. Disabled adults, describing themselves as special school survivors, are demanding an end to segregation.

  4. There are no legitimate reasons to separate children for their education. Children belong together – with advantages and benefits for everyone. They do not need to be protected from each another.

(CSIE, 2004a)

Elsewhere, CSIE poses the question, ‘Why do we need inclusion?’, and couches the answer in the terminology of human rights:

Because children – whatever their disability or learning difficulty – have a part to play in society after school. An early start in mainstream playgroups or nursery schools, followed by education in ordinary schools and colleges, is the best preparation for an integrated life.

(CSIE, 2004b)

Inclusive education is a moral imperative, it argues, because:

Disabled children have an equal right to membership of the same groups as everybody else. A segregated education restricts that right and limits opportunities for self-fulfilment. People with disabilities or learning difficulties do not need to be separated or protected.

(CSIE, 2004b)

While CSIE's focus is primarily on young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, the organisation's language is strongly resonant of the language of civil rights used, for example, in the United States in relation to equality of opportunity for black students since the 1950s. In particular, it echoes the crucial decision made in 1954 by the US Supreme Court, in Brown v. The Board of Education, which established not only that black children had a right to education but also that they had a right to the same education as that received by white children. In declaring that ‘separate can never be equal’, the Brown judgment led to a variety of affirmative-action policies in the US educational system, which had an impact not only on curriculum organisation and opportunities in US primary and secondary schools, but also on universities’ admissions policies.

In England and Wales, there have been no comparable judgments in the area of individual rights. Instead, the 1981 Education Act (which came into force in 1983) laid on local education authorities (LEAs) a ‘qualified duty’ to ensure that, provided certain conditions were met, a child ‘with special educational needs’ should be ‘educated in a school which is not a special school unless that is incompatible with the wishes of his parent’. It could be argued that the presence of such conditions, or ‘caveats’, has made access to a mainstream place in England and Wales not so much a right but a series of hurdles. Since 1983, individual children have surmounted these hurdles with varying degrees of success, depending on where they live, the nature of their disability or learning difficulty, and how articulate and persistent their parents have been. Recent changes in UK legislation, in particular the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, have removed all but one of the caveats, and have strengthened the rights of individual disabled children to participate more fully in all aspects of school life. However, recent case law has demonstrated that new legislation is at variance with other parts of the Education Act 1996. Parents seeking inclusive education for their children and who find themselves in dispute with their LEA are likely to need expert advice to find their way through a ‘complex and confused’ legal situation (ACE, 2004).

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