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Week 1: Thinking about inclusive education

3. What does it mean to be excluded?

We can all be excluded at different times in our lives. This may be because we are new to a situation or are in some way different to the majority group of people we are interacting with. Sometimes we might be excluded by a lack of shared understanding or language. Even an environment or resources can exclude us if we don’t know how to use them. Being excluded can limit our opportunities to learn or participate. It can also affect the way that we feel about a situation and can damage our confidence and motivation.

Understanding why children feel excluded can help us to think about ways to include them. Children with disabilities are at greater risk of exclusion. They may be socially excluded because their disabilities are obvious to others and people treat them differently. However, some disabilities are hidden, and these children may be excluded because people are unaware of the adaptations they need to help them access learning.

Children with disabilities are especially at risk of being excluded from reaching their potential and participating in society (Worldbank 2020). Children with disabilities can be defined as:

… those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

(UN, 2006)

Many children with disabilities may not attend school, but those who do may also feel excluded whilst attending school if their needs are not taken into account. Overcoming exclusion is important because:

education is the gateway to children’s full participation in society – transition into adulthood, opportunities for employment, and engagement with their communities.

(UNICEF 2018).

Reflection point

Who do you think of when you hear about a child with disabilities?

What kind of impairments might be hidden or invisible?

Most people have felt excluded or ‘left out’ at some point in their lives. This could be as obvious as being unable to enter a building or not being allowed to join in with an activity. It could also be much less obvious, such as feeling excluded because you do not understand all the words that are being used in a conversation. The first activity asks you to think about any experience you may have of being excluded and what factors contributed to this.