Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

4 Challenges and benefits of delivering inclusive education

A number of factors can make it difficult to achieve inclusive education in practice, as you will learn in the next activity.

Activity 7 The difficulties of delivering inclusive education

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch Elaine Cowin, a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), at an inner-city primary school, discussing some of the challenges she faces in her day-to-day work. Then complete the table below, reflecting on the challenges and benefits of delivering inclusive education.

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Transcript: Video 5

Schools face a lot of challenges in delivering inclusive education, I think, starting off from things like funding because a child may come to your school with an educational health care plan, and that may be partially or fully funded. But even when it's fully funded, that doesn't actually cover all of the costs that it costs a school to provide something like a learning support assistant to support that child the whole day.
It may come with enough money to fund them for 3/4 or 4/5 of the amount of money that it covers. But you can't hire somebody for 3/4 of a day. You have to fund them for the whole day. So schools are financially run at a loss if they take children with educational health care plans. And that can add up.
If you only have one or two, then school budgets can manage that because they have certain allocated funding for doing that. But that doesn't grow with the amount of children with needs that you have. That's a fixed amount of money. So there's no financial incentive for schools to accept children with educational needs like that. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. You're running at a loss, sometimes quite considerably. And my school, particularly, struggles financially with that.
I think at the forefront of our ethos as a school is that we want our children to know that children with special needs are a part of our community and that they have as much right to be in our community as anybody else. And I also see the benefit for that, for all the children. It helps develop a real sense of empathy and understanding of everybody. And I also think it makes teachers better.
Essentially, if you're teaching children with special needs, you have to be a good teacher. You have to teach something well. And that impacts everybody. So there isn't anything I've learned from teaching children with special needs that I haven't been able to use for other children. So it's actually had great, positive benefits for our whole school.
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Table 1 Challenges and benefits

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Table 1 Challenges and benefits (completed)

There is not enough funding to cover the full costs of educating some children with special educational needs and disabilities in mainstream schools. This means that inclusive schools can find themselves running at a financial loss.Elaine says that to effectively teach children with special education needs and disabilities, you need to teach well. This means the quality of teaching can be very high in inclusive schools, which benefits all students.

In Elaine Cowin’s experience, delivering inclusive education has benefits for the whole school. She argues that it can lead to higher quality teaching which impacts positively on all students. But you may have been surprised to hear about the funding issues which can mean schools who are inclusive run at a financial loss. Currently, it seems that for some schools, there are simply too many disincentives at play to enable them to deliver what is actually national – and international – education policy.


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