Ramjhun, Ahmad Faoud
Rhetoric and reality of inclusion: an examination of policy and practice in Southampton Local Education Authority.
The Open University.
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This research is about the policy and practice of inclusion in Southampton. Although inclusion is a process of increasing the participation of all children in learning, the focus is on those who are experiencing difficulties in, and are at risk of being excluded from, learning. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative methodology is used to provide a rich picture of the LEA'S context. The quantitative data illustrate the nature of the task if Southampton is to promote inclusion. The qualitative data provide the perspectives of key stakeholders who are either providers or recipients of education. Grounded theory methodology is used to identify themes and findings are tested against a theory based on Dyson's (1 999) model of discourses on inclusion. Southampton has taken steps to promote inclusion though there are variations in school practice. Nearly 99% of children are attending mainstream schools and there is evidence that they are consistently making progress in learning. However, increasing accountabilities and expectations based on pre-determined academic measures, risk making some of them more welcome and worthy than others. Some are at risk of being overlooked whilst others are excluded from the learning process. Whilst acknowledging successful practices in Southampton, the research identifies a number of key issues. These range from addressing inequalities and removing barriers and prejudices to providing the infrastructures, resources and training in schools so that all children are able to maximise their participation in learning. Key themes emerging from the research illustrate the growing influence of competition and market forces, the pressures in schools, the issue of human rights and the politics of practice. It is argued that LEAS have a role in changing attitudes and cultures in order to promote an acceptance of diversity and difference and the removal of perceived oppression and injustice. Inclusion will require such changes supported with insightful management. Southampton LEA offers a mixed picture in relation to the rhetoric and reality of inclusion. There seems to be commitment to its rationale though its realisation or implementation is considered to be problematic.
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