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Inclusive Education: Laws and Policies

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Learning outcome 1: Demonstrate understanding of what is meant by the term Inclusive Education and its relationship to the Warnock commission of 1981.

Inclusive Education is a philosophy which challenges the traditional approach to regard disability and disabled people as an ‘after-thought’ stating that disability is a part of common experience of humanity. It is the approach which caused a shift that disabled people and people with learning difficulties could enter the world as equals (Brown, 1992). “Inclusion” in education means that it is unlawful to discriminate between on pupils on grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment etc. Thus all learners have the right to quality education. Under the inclusive model of education, students with special needs or learning difficulties study in the main stream schools along with other children. It differs from the previous concepts of ‘Integration’ and ‘Mainstreaming’ which are concerned with disability and special education needs and the implied learners change or become ready for mainstream.

The Education Act 1944 established that children’s education should be based on their age, aptitude and ability, describing eleven categories of ‘handicap’. The general philosophy at that time was that the child should fit the school rather than the school should fit the child. There they should attend special schools. Underwood Committee report, 1955 recommended provisions better schooling of maladjusted child and mentally challenged children by providing health services at school. Education (Handicapped Children) Act 1970, made provisions for discontinuing the classification of handicapped children as unsuitable for education at school. But most of the educational provisions for disabled children remained segregated.

Special Education Need provision was based on the 1944 Education Act, which called on LEAs to decide a child’s need for special treatment and appropriate educational measures i.e. children deemed “ineducable” were sent to special schools. By 1960 this terminology was changed as from ‘mentally deficient’ and ‘feeble minded’ to ‘educationally sub-normal’. Warnock report “provided a foundation for revolutionary changes in thinking about the educational needs of children with special needs” (Anon, 2004). The report was soon followed by the Education Act of 1981 which prevented any child from being education, regardless of impairment, and strongly supported main streaming and inclusion whenever possible (Kent, 2005). The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 detailed the comprehensive civil rights of all the disabled people including SEN students. Further the 1996 Education Act provided “a legal framework for the assessment and development of special education provision for children with special education needs”.

During 70s a number of laws were passed including Sex discrimination Act, 1975, Race Relations Act, 1976 and Warnock Report in 1978. The Education Act, 1981 incorporated the findings of Warnock Committee. But it was in 1997 when the incoming New Labour government made clear commitment to ‘the principle of inclusive education’ (DfEE, 1997, p.44) in its Green Paper, Excellence for All Children. The program of action (DfEE, 1998) promised changes in the legislative framework to promote inclusion as well as financial support for inclusion projects. The official documents such as National Curriculum 2000, Respect for All: valuing diversity and challenging racism through the curriculum (QCA, 2004a) and Inclusion: providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils (QCA, 2004b) embedded the concept of inclusion.

Introduction of so many laws in 70s were backed by social and political changes which were taking place in England during that time. The social issues relating to disability, health and social services changed because of global media coverage. The approach to work with children with special needs was favoured by behaviourist psychologists. Thus the attitude to special education in general started to change and their teaching seemed to be more accessible to teachers in mainstream schools. It was an era of recession and educational disenchantment. The conservative administration led by Thatcher, school reforms were moving up the government agenda (Gillard, 2011). With the globalisation of most of the economies, more and more migrants were entering the country and hence pupils from different communities were becoming a part of the schools. But it was found that all the acts were not followed by the schools and pupils were discriminated on the basis of disability, race and sex basis, thus the current system was not working perfectly. Therefore Warnock Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, Chaired by Mary (Later Baroness) Warnock was appointed.

The 1944 Education Act, categorised children with special educational needs by their disabilities. Many of them were considered as “uneducable” and pupils were labelled into categories such as “maladjusted” or “educationally sub-normal” and “given special educational treatment”. But the Warnock report was aimed of trying to include all children in a common educational framework and representative of broader international trend. It introduced the idea of special education needs (SEN), “Statements” of SEN, and an ‘Integrative’ which later on becomes ‘Inclusive’ approach, based on common educational goals for all children regardless of their abilities or disabilities: namely independence, understanding and enjoyment (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, 2005-06, p.11).

Thus the concept of inclusive education is the result of a wide number of factors and accompanied by various laws which were enforced time to time by the prevailing governments. But Warnock Commission was a turning point in the history of education in United Kingdom.

Learning outcome 2: Understand how learning outcomes are impacted upon by inclusion and league tables.

An old saying puts it’s very eloquently, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any bus will do’. Similarly if a teacher does not know what she or he is trying to achieve then any teaching method will do and if the students do not know where they are going, all they can do is blindly follow and trust teacher. According to the European Qualification Framework (EQF, 2000), “Learning Outcomes are the statements of what a learner knows, understand and is able to do on completion of a learning process”. These are a tool to describe and define a learning and assessment process which can lead to improved pedagogical practice in education and improved student learning practice. This approach communicates what they are expected to be able to do and the criteria that will be used to assess them.

Learning outcomes are the specific intentions of a lesson, written in specific terms describing what a student should know, understand or able to do at the end of the lesson. These lead to a more student-centred approach i.e. marking a shift from the content of the lesson towards its outcome. These are expressed in terms of essential learning for a lesson. Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), aids to write good learning outcomes as he identified six categories of learning – knowledge (lowest), comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (highest) which can be used at any academic level. First two are specifically related to knowledge and understanding while the remaining four involve intellectual skills. Besides this, they may be based upon – the needs of the learner, the needs of society and what the learner should know about a particular subject. The wording is generally as “students will be able to <action verbs>….” e.g. “students will be able to add two double digit numbers” or “The learners will be able to apply the scientific method to solve problems”. Thus these are written from the student perspective.

Learning outcomes are the most common section of the lesson plan i.e. the essence of the lesson. They focus on learning products and not the learning process i.e. they are stated in terms of expected student performance rather than what faculty intended to do during instruction. They are essential as they: define the type and depth of learning students are expected to achieve, provide an objective benchmark for formative, summative and prior learning assessment, and clearly communicate expectations to the learners. The essential components of learning outcomes are: students learning behaviour, appropriate assessment methods and specific students’ performance criteria/ criteria for success.

National Curriculum is an organised plan or set of standards or learning outcomes that defines the content to be learned in terms of clear, definable standards of what the students should know and be able to do. Learning outcomes do not usually specify curriculum, but more general areas of learning. Outcome- based education (OBE) is an education reform model which focuses on empirically measuring students’ performance based on outcomes. Learning outcomes figure prominently in the “backwards design” approach to curriculum development advocated by Wiggins and McTighe (2005). This approach begins by identifying the desired results or the intended learning outcomes followed by determination of type of assessment that would provide acceptable evidence that the intended learning outcome had been met.

Learning outcomes are generally related to a level and it is not appropriate to use the same learning outcomes for a lesson that may be may be delivered to students for different levels. In such situations, although teaching may be same but the learning outcomes and assessment should differ, relating to the relevant expected level of learning. Therefore for the inclusive classrooms, teacher writes three learning outcomes which are related to: what all students would be able to do (including SEN students, national average, above and below national average, gifted and talented), what most students would be able to do (including national average, above national average, gifted and talented) and what some students would be able to do (including above national average, gifted and talented). Teachers decide what material is to be covered and they teach. But learning outcomes are not within their control because it is not possible to force a learner to learn. Only a learner can control learning and therefore the achievement of learning outcomes (Gosling and Moon, 2001).

Dakar framework states that all aspects of education quality should be improved “so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in numeracy, literacy and essential life skills”. It is the school or the policy maker that decide to focus on limited domains and grade levels while others may focus on measurement of student knowledge on a wide range of domains and grade levels. Here comes the difference in the performance level of different type of schools viz. state-maintained or public schools as their focus areas and philosophy are different from each other. The other important aspects of learning outcomes are issues such as teacher education and physical facilities, stated goals and objectives of national education system (Gosling and Moon, 2001).

In nutshell learning outcomes form the basis for assessment as well as performance and they are different for every student even for the same learning objective because each child has different learning capability. They are the product of the teaching learning process and basis for the activities required to deliver a lesson to the pupils.

Learning outcome 3: Discuss the aims and objectives of the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) of 1995 and the role it played in inclusive education.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which has been now been repealed and replaced by Equality Act 2010, made it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disability in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport. Education is covered under Section (“Part”) 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The act made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled students and applicants in admissions, enrolments, student services and exclusions. The Act also places an anticipatory duty, which means that institutions should be anticipating what a disabled student might require. Lack of notice will not be a defence against a claim. Discrimination can be of two types – treating a disabled person less favourably for a reason relating to disability without justification and failure to make reasonable adjustments such that a disabled student is placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled student (Knox, 2002).

In 19th century there was great segregation of disabled people. Disabled people were rejected from work as well as from schools. They were viewed as worthy poor as opposed to the ‘work shy’ unworthy poor. They became dependent more and more on the medical profession for cures, treatment and benefits. Separate schools were set up that denied non-disabled people day to day experience of growing up with disabled people. The survey reports before Discrimination Act showed a great degree of prejudice, fear and discrimination towards disabled people in education and work (Rieser, 2002).

The Warnock Committee concluded that 20% of children in the school population could have SEN but 2% might need support over and above what a mainstream school could provide for. It recommended that there should be specialist provision for children with SEN which could protect the 2% and ensure that they received appropriate provision. This report radically changed the conceptualization of special education needs. It introduced the idea of special educational needs statements of SEN, an approach based on common educational goals for all children regardless of their abilities and disabilities. The report indicated that special education needs were important and an inclusive education system was needed. The Warnock report gave rise to the Education Act 1981 which attempted to address the situation. Further the government’s commitment to the inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream schools was reinforced by the Special Educational Needs & Disability Act (SENDA) 2001.

Inclusion and Inclusive Education are the buzzwords these days but behind the language lies a struggle for human rights. Pressure from human right activists and the Disabled People’s Movement forced the international community to adopt policy statements known as Salamanca Statement. The statement declared that every child has fundamental right to education and must be given the opportunity, every child has unique characteristics and abilities, and education system should be designed and implemented by taking into account wide diversity of characteristics and needs of students, pupils with SEN must have access to mainstream schools (Rieser, 2002). In UK, the Labour Government has adopted the Salamanca Statement and in Excellence for All and the Programme of Action has supported the development of inclusion. In 2001, Special Education Needs and Disability Bill were brought forward which extended the Disability Discrimination Act to education.

The Disability Equality Scheme introduced in 2006 formed a key part of a framework to assist schools in planning, delivering and evaluating action to meet the general duties of DDA. DfES provided resources to schools which set out the duties on schools and setting and provide detailed guidance (DfES, 2006). There is Disability Rights Commission Code of Practice which the schools are recommended to consult and this code illustrates how the act may operate in specific situations and improve general guidance on good practice in promoting equality of opportunity in a range of settings. The code does not include legal obligations nor is it an authoritative statement of the law. However, it is a statutory code approved by parliament and is admissible as evidence in legal proceedings under the act.

The greatest strength of this law is its generation of awareness which is a first step toward winning the battle against discrimination. The greatest weakness of this law is its recondite definition of disability. DDA define disability as health or mental impairment having long term effect on person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Further extension in 2005 included those with some mental illnesses and those suffering from cancer, HIV and MS (multiple sclerosis) but it did not encapsulate those suffering from depression. Although the definition is supplemented with a series of guidance but only a judge could make the decision as to whether or not a person qualifies as disabled. The act is meant to promote equality for disabled people but it does not make provisions regarding positive discrimination e.g. an individual in wheel chair might get a benefit that is not provided to another individual with learning disability or mental disability.

It was the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which revolutionized the education system in UK and forced people to change their prospective and vocabulary to address disabled people. The concept of inclusion is the outcome of this act as well as further amendments of the act. DDA has strengths and weaknesses but it was a mile stone towards inclusive education and equal rights to disabled people.


1. Anon. (2004). The development of education for children with special educational needs. Available at
www.socsci.ulst.ac.uk/education/scte/sen/articles 2. Bloom, B.S., Englehart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David Mckay. 3. Brown, C. (1992). The Inclusive Education System – A National Policy for Fully Integrated Education. The Integration Alliance (Disabled people and allies working for inclusive education), A member of British Council of Organisations of Disabled People. 4. DfEE (1997). Excellence for All Children. The Stationary Office. 5. DfEE (1998). Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Programme of Action. London: DfEE. 6. DfES (2006). Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in schools and early years setting. A DfES resource file. 7. Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Queen’s Printer of Act of Parliament (internet version). The Stationary Office Limited (hardcopy). London 8. EQF (2000). The EQF for lifelong learning. Office for the publication of the EC, ISBN 978-92-79-0847-4. 9. Gillard, D. (2011). Education in England: a brief history. Available at www.educationaengland.org.uk/history 10. Gosling, D. and Moon, J. (2001). How to Use Learning Outcomes. SEEC, London. 11. House of Commons Education and Skills Committee. (2005-06). Special Educational Needs. Vol. I, p.11. 12. Kent, N. (2005). Special Needs. Education Journal, August 2005, 88, pp.29-30. 13. Knox, J. (2002). The Special Education Needs and Disability Act: Guidance for Teaching Staff. Demos Project, www.demos.ac.uk 14. Potts, P. (1995). What’s the use of history? Understanding educational provisions for disabled students and those who experience difficulties in learning. British Journal of Educational Studies, December 1995, 43(4), pp. 398-411 15. QCA (2004a). Respect for All: valuing diversity and challenging racism through the curriculum. Online at http://www.qca.org.uk/ages3-14/inclusion/301.html 16. QCA (2004b). Inclusion: providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils. Online at http://www.qca.org.uk/ages3-14/inclusion/respect_for_all 17. Rieser, R. (2002). Disability Equality in Education. http://www.worldofinclusion.com/res/early/Early_Years_coursebook.pdf 18. Wiggins, G.P. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd edition). Alexandria, VI: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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