PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesParticipation
Participation (general)

The Social Science Research Unit has a stream of work on Perspectives and Participation which is described in detail on the Institute of Education website

This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI Centre

School culture
Paid adult support
Special educational needs

This knowledge page summarises the findings of systematic reviews into the question of what schools can do to become more inclusive, in the particular sense of maximising the participation of all students in their cultures, curricula and communities. The concern is with responses, not to one group of students or another, but to student diversity per se. It describes what schools can do, not merely to maintain the presence of students in school but to maximise their participation in school life.

School culture

  • Some schools are characterised by an 'inclusive culture'. Within such schools, there is some degree of consensus amongst adults around values of respect for difference and a commitment to offering all students access to learning opportunities. This consensus may not be total and may not necessarily remove all tensions or contradictions in practice. On the other hand, there is likely to be a high level of staff collaboration and joint problem-solving, and similar values and commitments may extend into the student body and into parent and other community stakeholders in the school.[1]
  • The extent to which such 'inclusive cultures' lead directly and unproblematically to enhanced student participation is not entirely clear from the research evidence. Some aspects of these cultures, however, can be seen as participatory by definition. For instance, respect from teachers towards diverse students may itself be understood as a form of participation by students in the school community. Moreover, schools characterised by such cultures are also likely to be characterised by forms of organisation (such as specialist provision being made in the ordinary classroom rather than by withdrawal) and practice (such as constructivist approaches to teaching and learning) which could be regarded as participatory by definition.[1]
  • Schools with 'inclusive cultures' are also likely to be characterised by the presence of leaders who are committed to inclusive values and to a leadership style which encourages a range of individuals to participate in leadership functions.[1]
  • Such schools are also likely to have good links with parents and with their communities.[1]
  • The local and national policy environment can act to support or to undermine the realisation of schools' inclusive values.[1]

Paid adult support [2]

  • To see a knowledge page on this topic, click here.

Special educational needs

To see a knowledge page on this topic, click here.


1. A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-level actions for promoting participation by all students  (2002)

2. The impact of paid adult support on the participation and learning of pupils in mainstream schools  (2003)

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