12th October 2020
Traditionally, the consensus has been that students with additional learning needs do better in SEND specific settings. However, in recent years there has been a significant shift towards a more inclusive approach, with schools working to upskill their teachers in order to create more inclusive classroom environments for children with physical and learning disabilities that allow them to learn, develop and thrive alongside their peers.
An inclusive classroom makes learning accessible to every student, regardless of their abilities or limitations. It removes the labels that can be barriers to social integration for children with disabilities and allows everyone to be an equal and important member of the same community. Inclusion isn’t about placing a child with special educational needs in a general education classroom and expecting them to thrive – it’s about making changes system-wide to allow young people of all abilities to succeed in the same environment.
There are multiple examples and research projects that have shown there are significant benefits to creating inclusive classrooms. A 2007 review of 26 studies from across the world by the University Of Manchester found that over 80% of findings suggested that there was little or no impact on more able students’ academic success. In around 20% of the studies reviewed, it was found that having a young person who was less able in the classroom actually benefited the academic achievement and social development of other pupils.
In an inclusive classroom, general education teachers and special education teachers work together to meet the needs of all students.
Other benefits of an inclusive classroom:
There is also anecdotal evidence that suggests SEND students who are educated in inclusive settings are more likely to go on to Higher Education and get jobs – research into this topic continues as the sector moves towards creating more inclusive schools and there are further studies due out in 2021.
We’ve included some ideas below as well as some links to further resources which will help you take the first steps to creating a classroom that accommodates the needs of every one of its users.
Structural changes to schools are obviously major projects that require approval, but appropriate aids to movement and independence in lessons should be in place. For example, wheelchair users may require ramps to access all areas which can be added with relative ease. Installing a hearing aid ‘loop’ in schools is often one of the first steps a school takes to creating an inclusive environment and can be used by parents and guardians attending assemblies and plays too, extending the culture of inclusivity to the whole school community.
In your classroom, there are some simple changes to make the environment more welcoming to students of all abilities. For pupils on the Autism spectrum, consideration should be given to sights, sounds and even smells – overstimulating environments can cause unease and distress. Create a sensory-friendly area which you can adapt as you get to know the individual needs of your pupils.
Of course, the changes that you consider making will be determined by the individual needs of the pupils you’ll be teaching
Specialist SEN classrooms tend to have resources that are designed with specific physical or learning difficulties in mind. A general education school may not have the same variety of equipment available to them but there are ways you can make sure your teaching, from practical demonstrations to worksheets, is accessible to all members of your class.
One option for teachers whose class contains children with Autism spectrum disorders is to consider looking into using fonts such a Dyslexie, which are easier for some children (and adults!) to read. Some web browsers allow you to read all website text in a dyslexic-friendly font – read more about dyslexic fonts and how they can help learners here.
The SEN Resources Blog has some wonderfully detailed blogs on all aspects of SEND education
There are thousands of free SEND worksheets for teachers and homeschoolers available on Twinkl
There are some interesting and varied suggestions for equipment for inclusive classrooms here – we love the idea of a large table to create an inclusive space for group work
We’ve also got a Pinterest board for all of our pinned SEN Resources! Follow all our education-focused boards here
Ultimately, the responsibility for inclusion in a classroom falls on the teacher. Learning and adapting to each of your students’ needs and preferences as well as giving all pupils the chance to learn at the same pace is a challenge, but there are some small modifications you can make to your general teaching that can have a significant impact on the success and wellbeing of every single pupil in your class.
The shift towards creating inclusive learning opportunities for children of all abilities will hopefully continue to be a catalyst for change in both general education and in SEND settings, giving young people with special education needs a broader springboard for a successful and independent life.
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