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Inclusive education: knowing what we mean (Wales)
Inclusive education: knowing what we mean (Wales)

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3. Transforming learning

Who is to be included?

Some critics have seen the focus on students with disabilities and difficulties in learning as distracting from the real issue – that is, the processes of inclusion and exclusion that leave many students, not simply those with disabilities, unable to participate in mainstream culture and communities (Booth, 1996). Such processes have an impact on many students, not just those with ‘special educational needs’.

Further, studies have shown that the experience of multiple disadvantage (e.g. disability, poverty, poor health) has a cumulative deleterious effect on educational outcomes, though the interplay of different ‘disadvantage’ indicators is very complex and nuanced and different combinations of inhibitors have different effects (see DfE 2019).

In line with this way of thinking, the study of inclusion should be concerned with understanding and confronting the broader issue of marginalisation and the consequences of this process for marginalised groups. There is a range of groupings of learners who might be included here:

  • traveller students
  • mature students
  • those living in poverty
  • minority linguistic students
  • ethnic groups.

It is very likely you can think of others, particularly those in your schools. The point is that we cannot consider these groups in isolation if we are aiming to make real changes in the way education works (Dyson, 2001).

At the same time, we need to be cautious about labelling groups as ‘vulnerable’ as many of those groups may not regard themselves as ‘vulnerable’ and will be articulate, resilient, engage in self-help and have excellent ideas regarding the conditions that would most benefit them.

Activity 5: Experiences of marginalisation

In your experience, what groups have you observed as likely to experience marginalisation? How has the learning context either contributed to or addressed that marginalisation? You may want to think about general groups of pupils in your school who are ‘different’ in some way from the majority. Your examples are likely to go beyond disability and learning difficulty, and may include, for example, students with linguistic and social differences.

If you are completing this learning in a group setting, once you have some ideas, spend some time explaining your examples to a friend. Does he or she agree with your analysis?

Record your thought in the box below. You can download all the comments you capture in the course by using ‘download answers’, which appears when you first save a comment in the course.

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Your experiences will depend a great deal on the location of your school: homogenous school rolls are increasingly rare. You may have students who speak a different language at home from the one in which they learn at school (i.e. not Welsh or English), practise a religion which is not represented in the community, come from traveller families, or have had extremely distressing experiences before joining the community in Wales. Are these groups understood within your school so that they can be participating members of the learning community?