1.3.3 Feeling safe and secure in school
As we noted above, children place importance on feeling safe and secure. This desire could be used as an argument both in favour of and against inclusive education. It is a fundamental characteristic of most conceptualizations of inclusive schools that they are places where all children can feel secure about being themselves. Opponents of inclusion might argue, though, that a fundamental problem in mixing children together is that they may be exposed to situations where they feel and experience the opposite of this.
This leads us to ask the question: how can schools develop this aspect of school life and counter experiences of isolation and bullying? In a survey of English primary and secondary schools, Audrey Osler (2000) asked children for positive suggestions about reducing bullying. Two factors were raised consistently: teacher–pupil relationships and the ability to participate in school life. Pupils suggested that teachers should:
give praise for good behaviour;
listen to pupils;
take trouble to sort out the underlying causes of disputes instead of just dealing with the immediate effects of violent behaviour;
recognize bullying, racial and sexual-name calling and abuse as real problems among pupils;
investigate before they punish;
show respect for all pupils.
(Osler, 2000, p. 54)
Activity: Comparing viewpoints, understanding perspectives
Think back over the children's voices and their views of their experiences of education that we have read in this course. How do your own views, as an adult, compare to those of these children?
Can you think of any other factors that might influence how they see school and their own place in school? What are the implications of the pupils' views that we have discussed in this course for education in segregated settings, and for grouping and streaming?
Write down your thoughts.
The children seemed to respond well to collaborative experiences, positive interpersonal relationships and a ‘safe’ school environment. School ethos, the ways teachers work with classes and the social setting of the school would all influence the extent to which children could become active participants in their own school lives.