Question 2: Do you agree with these principles?
Yes/no responses – all respondents
The above question was asked in relation to the Introduction section in the document. The key principles that underpin the guidance are:
- Improve outcomes and support the delivery of excellence and equity for all children and young people
- Meet the needs of all children and young people
- Support and empower children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, practitioners and communities
- Outline an inclusive approach which identifies and addresses barriers to learning for all children
The responses to this question split between those providing responses on the drafting of the principles and those that commented on how the system was currently working in practice. Respondents from organisations were more likely to comment on the drafting of the principles and individuals more likely to comment on what is happening in practice and concern about the implementation of the principles.
A large majority of those that responded to this question agreed with the principles (77%). Of those that provided commentary with their response the main reasons given for this were that they thought that they were theoretically sound and that they were the right aspirations that we should be striving for from the education system. Respondents welcomed the fact that they were child centred and focussed on the learner and that there was reference made to ensuring that all those involved (children and young people , parents and carers, practitioners and communities) felt supported and empowered.
Many respondents provided comments to improve the clarity of the principles. There were a wide range of views expressed but there were a number of areas where opinion clustered. Respondents mentioned the importance of including partners such as social work, health and third sector organisations and emphasised the importance of creating collaborative partnerships. It was felt to be important to reflect and build on children and young people's strengths as well as meeting their needs. It was thought that ensuring that children receive appropriate support and planning to ensure a positive transition from school should be included within the principles. It was felt to be important to ensure that the presumption of mainstreaming was reflected in the principles however it was also felt that when describing inclusive approaches that this was not used interchangeably with mainstreaming. A child feeling included was important no matter what setting a child was in, whether a mainstream school or special school. It was also felt to be important to make links with the National Improvement Framework, Headteachers Charter and Getting it Right for Every Child and thought given how to link with these agendas.
The majority of the respondents, who agreed with the principles and provided commentary with their response, caveated their responses by raising concerns about implementation and how the system currently operated. They agreed with the principles but had concerns they were aspirational and did not reflect current practice within schools. Views were expressed that some children were not getting the support required to meet their needs and that because of the way the presumption of mainstreaming was being applied children were sometimes not in the correct setting to meet their needs. It was felt that this could have an impact on, not only children that required additional support, but for all children in a classroom because teachers did not have time and resource to provide appropriate support to the class as a whole. The main reason given for this was a lack of resource and this included sufficient numbers of teachers and support staff, access to specialist supports, specialist provision within local areas and the physical environment of schools (busy open plan environments, lack of space for breakout/calm down areas). The attitudes and ethos of professionals was seen as crucial and that there had to be more training put in place to support teachers and support staff.
Some respondents did not agree with the principles. The majority of that sub set did not comment on the principles themselves but on the issues around implementation of them and the feeling that they did not reflect the current reality of practice within schools. Broadly the same issues were set out as those covered in the paragraph above.
Of the minority of the respondents who provided further commentary as to why they disagreed with the principles themselves, the most common concern was that the principles were felt to be too complex to be achieved and required further thought and development. It was felt that the application of presumption of mainstreaming could sometimes mean that children were not in environments that were best to support their needs and that the requirement to provide additional support for pupils, whilst also balancing the need to support other children in classes could cause resourcing issues for teaching staff.
Individuals, particularly teachers, reported that they often did not feel supported and empowered but could feel overwhelmed and not listened to by senior managers and local authorities. Parents expressed similar concerns of not feeling they were working in partnership with teachers and that their opinions were often not heard.