PublicationsSystematic reviewsPromoting participationPromoting participation - headteacher
A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students: head teacher's perspective

This review is a sift of educational literature and research reports on inclusive education to identify significant evidence relevant to schools:

  • becoming more inclusive by maximising the participation of all students in their cultures, curricula and communities;
  • identifying strategies and wide-ranging actions which schools can take to make themselves more inclusive.

The review reports significant evidence showing that successful schools have:

  • inclusive cultures;
  • a high level of staff collaboration and joint problem solving in a participatory culture;
  • leadership which promotes shared inclusive values and encourages individuals to participate in the leadership function;
  • good parent/community links;
  • a local and national policy environment that supports inclusive principles.

The report raises some important issues for schools:

  • The ethos of a school is exemplified through the head teacher and senior management team; the adoption of inclusive values within a school demands an open-minded, questioning attitude which evolves in the school community through their leadership. It is a culture based on a basic entitlement that all children be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential in a range of areas. These values are crucial to the development of schools.
  • Can the appropriate values and cultures be 'trained' into school senior managers, as the report suggests? Certainly professional relationships based on trust and respect evolve over time. However, such attitudes may be fostered in management training provided by the National College for School Leadership and within the National Professional Qualification for Headship and other head teacher training opportunities.
  • The external policy environment has a significant impact on the adoption of inclusive values. Our school is involved in a joint university-Local Education Authority research project on inclusion which has been a catalyst for a positive change in our knowledge and perception of a broader perspective of inclusive education. However some national initiatives, such as Performance Management, and some of the other new statutory roles come between senior managers and teaching staff, and adversely affect trusting and open relationships. The government fixation with target setting and performance tables is contrary to the inclusion in the mainstream of children who may have previously been in special educational needs establishments.
  • Inclusion costs money. If mainstream schools are to differentiate to meet a wide range of varying needs in a broad range of curricular areas/objectives, then resources need to be acquired.
  • The report talks about 'structural barriers' in schools - but what exactly is meant by this? Expertise and the development of appropriate teaching strategies that enable participation are not only crucial to the adoption of inclusive values but are context-related. Our school has evolved features of organisation and classroom practice, such as setting and the adoption and development of second wave strategies, which may appear discriminatory. However, we feel that these enable staff fully to utilise specific skills and allow focused differentiation. Are these 'structural barriers'?
  • The review implies that schools should build close relations with parents and communities based on developing a shared commitment to inclusive values, but this is not straightforward. There has been a significant change in employment patterns in which both parents/carers are in employment. This has been encouraged by national initiatives which promote school-based child care. Over the last ten years there has been a significant change in parental involvement in our school; we now have few parents who are prepared to work in school, attend Parent Teacher Association meetings etc, and even fewer who are prepared to discuss issues such as inclusion. Any change in national consciousness in this respect will need changes in national policies and public awareness raising.
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