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A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students: school governor perspective

A governor's experience of inclusion, i.e. the participation of all students in the cultures, curriculum and communities of their schools, is a mixed one of successes, tensions and contradictions. There are the high spots of integration of students with special educational needs, but also the difficult decisions concerning permanent exclusion and the restriction of opportunities on safety grounds. There is the added pressure of having to make these decisions in isolation, without awareness of how other schools are responding to similar situations.

In seeking to support schools in their drive towards improving standards and increasing opportunities for all students, we welcome the support from the research community in evaluation and synthesis of evidence on outcomes on the many initiatives in which schools are encouraged to engage.

The Report of the Inclusive Education Review Group is a welcome one for governors, because it increases our appreciation of the factors which make inclusion more achievable. It helps us understand which aspects of school action can make a difference and enables us to progress towards this aim.

The report draws attention to a number of studies which assert that an inclusive culture is characterised by a high level of staff collaboration and joint problem solving. There is some degree of consensus among adults concerning respect for difference and a commitment to offering all students access to learning opportunities. There is very considerable participation by all students in the school community. Leaders are likely to be committed to inclusive values and to encourage a range of individuals to play a part in school leadership. Links with parents and with the community may be strong. Also, because schools do not operate in a vacuum, local and national policy may act to support, or sometimes undermine the realisation of schools' inclusive values. Governors would welcome further explanation of these issues in future reviews.

The report recommends that action be taken to further the development of these positive characteristics. There is a role for national and local agencies, and some initiatives need to be taken within the school. Governors may wish, too, that co-operation between schools should improve in the interests of the students with special educational needs.

Further research is proposed, because inclusive education is a relatively young field, and more evidence needs to be collected to inform developments. Governors would certainly welcome a greater emphasis on outcomes. It would be very beneficial if this body of knowledge could be extended.

In all, this is an interesting report for governors, who will eagerly await its successors.

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