In this assignment I will be writing an analytical account of the interview I carried out on 01 March 2019 (Appendix A). My aim is to show how my interviewees’ perspectives differ from my own in relation to equality, participation, and inclusion. In what follows, I reflect on the themes arising from the interview and explore personal, conceptual and theoretical perspectives relating to these themes. It is important to note that what arose was not always what was expected. In essence, the themes arising from the interview that were, in a sense, of a more predictable nature were inclusion and equality. In addition, the notions of othering, policy, and the rights of children were relevant and emerged powerfully from the interview.
My interviewee is a colleague who works within a class who do not have any children who require additional support. However, she is also a parent of a child who attends the school and has previously complained about her child receiving a lack of support within an after-school club. This was because two children who normally have a one to one adult do not have one due to a lack of funding. She feels her child doesn’t receive the same level of support because the teacher must spend time managing the children with additional needs rather than working with the rest of the class. She believes these children should be removed from the club.
For the purposes of this assignment, my interviewee will be named, Alison Brown. Alison is 30 years old, Caucasian with one child aged 6 years old. I am a 29-year-old male, Caucasian who teaches PE within the same work environment and who also works as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in a Year 1 class. I chose Alison as my interviewee because she has strong views on the equality of all and that each child should be given an equal level of support. Her view is that, Teaching Assistants (TA) or LSAs should be utilised for every child’s benefit of learning, not just that of one child due to that child having a disability and if a one to one isn’t supplied then the children should be removed from the class to learn in smaller groups or attend a Special School. In contrast, I believe that children who require additional support are entitled to receive that support within any school environment to further their learning without the need for them to be excluded from the class or clubs. I believe that to be inclusive, you don’t need to offer each child exactly the same level of support.
Before the interview I considered the ethical implications that may arise from undertaking such an interview and in preparation for this, I read through the British Research Association Guidelines (BERA, 2018) to make sure myself and the participant were covered. In accordance with this, all names have been changed. The participant was happy to be interviewed, they understood why and they understood the topic that was discussed with them. It was noted prior to the interview that they could withdraw at any time and that their anonymity and confidentiality would always be respected with the change of name. It was agreed with the participant that they were able to receive a copy of the TMA if they wanted and they were made aware of where the data was stored and how it would be disposed of (BERA”,2018).
Firstly to take the notion of inclusion; delivering a personalised learning approach and responding to children’s diverse needs with a variety of resources and teaching styles is an effective way to be inclusive. This is a perspective that I take a positive view towards as I believe all children have the right to a varied and adapted curriculum. As guidance from ‘Disability Equality’ (Children’s Society”,2008″,p.15) revealed, students found teaching more significant and inclusive when it was focused on their interests (Unit 14″,5.2). As seen at Bangabandhu school, they found that using various teaching approaches, tasks, materials, and activities were a key component of developing an inclusive learning environment (E214″,Audiovisual material Bangabandhu);(Unit 11″,2.5.2). In answer to question ‘4’ (Appendix A), Alison exclaimed that “if teachers had extra time to evaluate their teaching to match the children’s interests and needs then children might take ownership of their learning and not feel excluded”. For example, Scott, a pupil with physical mobility needs attending Bannockburn, described the rich learning experience that he gained by being included by the teacher in group learning with his peers (E214″,Audiovisual material Bannockburn). As Liz Crow (2010″,p.138) advocates, adopting this inclusive approach, supports individuals to move away from oppressive attitudes associated with the medical and tragedy models. Alison stated that she felt, “children will all respond differently to a range of methods of teaching and teachers, therefore, should be prepared to try alternative ways of working”. I, in fact, agree with this view as in my experience some children are more responsive to lessons tailored to their interests and the teacher should try and accommodate this. However, I believe that they should still be integrated into the classroom as it is beneficial for the children to be part of a social constructivist learning environment where their friends are also learning. For example, through the use of learning partner’s as seen in Aspen 2 (E214″,Audiovisual material Aspen2), as a way of developing interesting discussion and learning from their peers. Furthermore, children at Bannockburn (E214″,Audiovisual material Bannockburn) were supported to attend as many mainstream classes as possible with, ‘only very limited time in a small group’ away from the classroom. I feel that this approach is beneficial to the children’s overall feeling of equality and as ‘Julie’ (Hart”,2010″,p.254) advocates, is appreciative of the diversity of all learners. By restricting this access, a child might be hindered in the construction of their self-identity, which reaffirms the importance of implementing a social model approach that recognises the disabling barriers within our attitude and environment (Crow”,2010″,p.125).
Moreover, teachers can use differentiation to try and ensure that work is at an appropriate level, which in turn can help children remain within the classroom (Hart”,2010″,p.254). Perhaps in contrast to the above, Alison stated, when answering question ‘B’ (Appendix A) that she felt if children with additional needs remained within a classroom setting that they became a “burden” on the teacher and “could take vital support away from other children”. Alison said, “removing a child from the classroom can have a benefit on all concerned”. I have noticed at times, Alison’s perspectives seem to be contradictory; which shows the vast opinions and sometimes confusing themes within equality, participation, and inclusion. In my opinion, this type of teaching (while essentially excluded from the class) does have its benefits as the child can learn in a more focused environment. However, I respectfully disagree with this perspective as I believe, even if additional support is needed, that the child can remain within the classroom and not labelled as an ‘other’ by regularly leaving the classroom.
The other has a broad range of meanings. Hat Rosenthal (2002) believed it meant ‘any other person’ (Unit 16″,3.0). However, it is rightly believed that the other is defined by the majority imposing its rule upon the minority, which therefore means the other is not just to be seen as any other person but those who are being positioned as inferior or dangerous (Unit 16″,3.0). This is a view also shown by Alison, who stated that “children who require additional support or who have behavioural difficulties ‘play-up’ in class” and “cause disruption to the learning of other children”. This assumption shows that she feels children with additional needs are ‘inferior others’ (Unit 17″,2.2). Many teachers moderate their responses to behaviour on the basis of whether they see particular children or adults as insiders or outsiders in their classroom (Unit 16″,3.1). This again is reflected in Alison’s comments, whereby she stated that “as a new TA or child, you are expected to know the teacher’s expectations if you don’t then you soon learn how she likes to run her classroom”. This shows that othering does not just happen to children but can happen to staff and is an idea that Alison agrees with. As Spratt et al (2010″,p.285) state, this can reinforce the socially constructed divide of ‘us’ and ‘them’, which can be damaging to people’s well-being and doesn’t fit my idea of an inclusive setting. This is a view also held by Ager on OpenExchange, who stated that ‘the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide is still embedded in the system and until this is addressed there cannot be true inclusion’ (Ager”,2019). This made me rethink my own perspective and it is surprising how often I see this staff divide happen. Alison’s views are similar to that of ‘Suzanne’ from Archer’s Court, as they both use the term “feel sorry for them” when talking about children with additional needs or disabilities (E214″,Audiovisual material Aspen2). I feel that this system of segregation is unsupportive to the development of inclusion (Rix et al.”,2010.p.285).
This above is in contrast to my views and I would have to respectfully disagree with Alison’s perspective, as I see and treat all children and staff as equal. Once a child or adult is subjected to these exclusionary opinions they can ‘keep themselves on the margins’, causing a loss of confidence and possible exclusion from class activities and social situations (Unit 16″,3.1). However, I do see that sometimes staff can ‘other’ children out of care and support and perhaps Alison’s viewpoint of segregation is born out of trying to be supportive (Unit 16″,3.1). I would recommend Alison reads the school’s curriculum policy, as it gives a clear breakdown on how to ‘support a child without risking that child becoming excluded’ (School A”,p.4).
This brings me to the third notion of ‘policy’. There are many policies and guidelines put in place within schools, which are implemented with the intention of preventing discrimination and to promote equal opportunities and inclusive education. Since the Children Act 1989, it has been a statutory requirement for local authorities to work in partnership with children, parents, and staff (Unit 9″,1.1). However, quite often it will be the governing board who take the responsibility of formulating the school’s policies opposed to the teachers who generally spend the most time with the pupils and will, therefore, possess greater knowledge regarding the specific needs of the children. I believe that to improve the learning of all it is important for everyone to work collaboratively (Unit 12″,2.0). All staff should assert their knowledge and policy opinions through the notion of ‘inclusive leadership’ (Unit 19″,p.175). Arguably, the key characteristics of inclusive leadership include a willingness to engage in critical dialogue, evaluation and commitment to involving all stakeholders in decision making. Alison’s response’s seemed to have mirrored this view because when answering question ‘b’ (Appendix A), she stated that “instead of just the senior leadership team deciding policy, if everyone worked together to build policies, then a setting will be well on their way to being truly inclusive”.
I agree with Alison’s view on this theme as I believe that all notions of leadership should concern not only senior management but must also be spread throughout the school (Unit 19″,3.1);(Visser”,Cole and Daniels”,2010″,p.45). It is essential that a school is seen as a ‘critical mass of staff’, that are committed to the value of inclusion and see everyone’s voice as important, reviewing policies where necessary to become even more inclusive (Visser”,Cole and Daniels”,2010″,p.45). As a teacher will be required to adhere to these policies it makes sense that they attempt to make contributions as they will ultimately be the ones who will work in accordance with them.
Lastly, the notions of children’s rights and equality were prevalent throughout our interview. It is true to say that, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, therefore, my perspective is that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind (Unit 5″,4.1). However, many believe that this is only when certain conditions are met. In our interview, when asked questions, ‘c’ and ‘e’ (Appendix A), Alison expressed that “all children should be given an equal right to the same level of support, even if they don’t have additional needs or an EHC plan” and she feels that “other children’s best interests are not always considered if they don’t receive additional support”. Alison’s response here was similar to that outlined in the Charter published by the Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education (CSIE”,2004). The CSIE argues that genuine inclusion can only be identified when all children are educated together (CSIE”,2004). However, others would argue (Garner and Gains”,2000) that a more pragmatic, ‘responsible inclusion’ stance might be a better response to the diverse needs and situations of children.
This is a view that is agreeable as I believe that to achieve inclusion, it is essential that all children are listened to and have a voice. As stated by The Children Act, 1989, it is a statutory requirement that the wishes and feelings of children and young people are heard (Unit 1″,3.0). However, when children are identified as having additional needs and receive extra support, this can be misunderstood as not equality because they are receiving personalised help to further their learning. Alison’s perspective was that “if one child is receiving this personalised support, then all children should as well, for it to be truly equal and inclusive”. “If they need this extra support then they should attend a special school, where the classes are smaller and every child has personalised support”.
In contrast to this view, my perspective is that even when a child is identified as having special educational needs, they have a right to learn within any educational setting (Unit 5″,4.2). Which is backed up by the UN Convention on the rights of the child that a ‘child who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to express those views freely’ (Unit 1″,3.2);(Article 12″,UNCRC”,1989). To some extent, I agree with Alison’s perspective that children should be treated equally and given support that will help to further their learning, however, equal support can be hard to achieve and is left down to the teacher’s workload and ability to differentiate their lesson’s (Hart”,2010″,p.254). Though these contentions have relevance and are plausible, my experiences of the course so far lead me to conclude that if children need further assistance, any school has a role to play in inclusion and to respond effectively to that child. I tend to be in agreement in this area though Alison’s own negative opinion towards special schooling has challenged my assumptions.
To conclude, it is very difficult to show true inclusion as each person has a different opinion of what being inclusive is. Through my experiences of the course so far it is apparent that mine and Alison’s perspectives form only a small part of the bigger picture. All aspects of being inclusive overlap and interlink. They do not function separately as stand-alone practices; if a focus is given to one theme, then there is risk of neglecting other important aspects of being inclusive. Education can be both exclusionary and inclusive (Unit7″,p.2). This is why it is ‘vitally important to establish first and foremost the young person’s right to be included’ in all environments, no matter what peoples interpretation of inclusion is (Hamill and Boyd”,2010″,p.135).
From my interview with Alison, it was apparent that she felt equality was vital, however, it seemed that she felt equality was achievable only if certain children were segregated or excluded. She seemed to ‘other’ many children that didn’t fit into her ideas of equality but agreed that children’s voices and rights should be heard. Our interview flowed well throughout, so I would conclude that it was successful. However, I believe that, although my questions promoted good discussion, they seemed to elicit similar answers each time which made it difficult to pick up on themes and at times Alison contradicted her previous opinions which again, made it difficult to understand her perspective. In regards to our compared perspective, I think it was clear that we heavily disagreed on a wide variety of discussions, however, at times our opinions overlapped.
If I was to undergo the interview again, I would perhaps choose an interviewee that worked within a different sector, which would give me a better overall opinion of Equality, Participation, and Inclusion within society.