The journey travelled – A view of two settings a decade apart
Inclusion has long been recognised for its “in-betweenness” (Corbett, 1997). It is generally recognised as an ongoing process (UNESCO IBE, 2008), an active process “that may never end”(Flem and Keller, 2000). However, the sense of a messy compromise, mixing inclusion and exclusion, can be seen in contrast to a more fluid concept of “continuous struggle” (Allan 2008). The messy compromise is in evidence in policies around those groupings and issues associated with diversity (Black-Hawkins et al 2007) rather than in the hoped for “assault on oppressive vestiges of the past as a way of contributing to alternative futures” (Slee and Allan, 2001, p176). Policies on inclusion have been compromised by the range of marketisation policy initiatives. Within England, for example, this has included the traditionalist national curriculum, standardised testing, league tables and the investment in and development of a range of independent and alternative provision (Slee, 2006, Rix, 2011) resulting in increasing segregated and selective provision (Rix, 2006; Barron et al, 2007). This has coincided with on-going and disproportionate referral of certain ethnic groupings and social-classes to categories for intervention and treatment (Slee, 2008). Intended as a transformative concept, the term ‘inclusion’ and its underpinning lexicon have become subsumed by those within ‘special’ education (Rix, 2011), and within many countries is simply an option within the overall system.
Against this background of compromise and disatisfaction, this study aims to examine how two schools with clear inclusive aspirations and intentions have weathered the last decade. Drawing upon two research visits ten years apart in which the schools were filmed and members of the school community were interviewed, this study reports on their perception of the journey travelled.
Four two-day visits were undertaken to a secondary school in Scotland and a resourced unit within a secondary school in the south-east of England. These visits involved a small film crew and two academic researchers, and were undertaken in 2002 and 2011/12. They resulted in interviews with over 60 members of the school communities, involving teachers, parents, pupils, management and support staff. The interviews took the form of responsive, extended conversations (Rubin & Rubin, 2004). The academics also produced reports and edited the film materials as the basis for teaching modules at the Open University. The data from the interviews was subjected to a thematic analysis derived from grounded theory (Corbin and Strauss, 2008) which both informed the narrative of the edited films and informed the focus of subsequent visits and interviews.
There have been some significant shifts in direction and emphasis in all the schools as they have engaged with the process of developing inclusion and participation. In both cases there had been clear evidence of a shift away from practices which were previously seen as being a route towards greater inclusion. The causes for these shifts were political, economic and social. In both settings people recognised much that had changed for the better, much that had not changed at all, and much that had created greater segregatory pressure. The final impression is closer to that of a messy compromise with outside pressures rather than a continous struggle with internal change.
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