In this report the researcher aims to demonstrate a critical understanding of the principle that early years settings should provide for the needs of all children, including those with sensory and learning needs, gifted children, and children from remote and nomadic populations, children from linguistic, ethnic or religious minorities and children from other disadvantaged or marginalised areas or groups. For the purpose of this report, the researcher will use the term ‘Children with Special Educational Needs’ to refer to the above groups.
The researcher will provide a critical awareness on how theoretical models have changed ways of thinking about inclusive practice and the implications of this on legislation and policy making.
The researcher will demonstrate a critical appreciation of the requirements of the law in relation to work practice and to evaluate how early year’s settings can accommodate a wide range of diversity. Recommendations for future practice will be provided. 1.1
The setting which is referred to in this report is part of the Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector offering care and education for children aged from two to eleven years. The setting is located in a village and is fully accessible to all. The children who attend the setting are predominately White, British and from working families. 2
A Definition of Inclusive Practice
The term ‘inclusive practice’ has come to mean many different things. It could be said that it is in fact a contestable term used to different effect by politicians, bureaucrats and academics. ‘Inclusion’ is not a single movement; it is made up of many strong currents of belief, many different local struggles and countless forms of practices. (Clough, 2000) Similarly as Booth (2000) illustrate, definitions of inclusion are contestable. What is meant by ‘inclusion’ varies from culture to culture, society to society, institution to institution and individual to individual. Inclusion is about attitudes as well as behaviours and practices. The attitudes of young children towards diversity are affected by the behaviour of the adults around them and by whether all children and families using the setting are valued and welcomed. Inclusive settings recognise and celebrate diversity. Furthermore, inclusion is not optional: children have defined entitlements in this area and settings have legal responsibilities. Arguments for inclusive practice are well documented and rest on notions of equality and human rights. Much more than a policy requirement, inclusion is founded upon a moral position which values and respects every individual and which welcomes diversity as a rich learning resource. At a time when the educational landscape is rapidly changing, with settings having to provide for children of increasingly diverse abilities and family, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, respect and equal commitment to all children seem more important than ever. 2.2
Historical and Current Perspectives
In recent decades, the view of inclusion has changed in Western cultures. Rather than segregating children from marginalised groups in separate classes and schools, the ideology of inclusive practice has taken hold. Inclusive practice is about fitting provision to meet the needs of all children. This means that the Early Years system is now responsible for including a large diversity of children and for providing a differentiated and appropriate approach for everyone. The ideology of inclusion should not be viewed as a new phenomenon – indeed, its origins may be traced back to the early 1900s and the welfare pioneers who believed in a non-segregated system (O’Brien, 2002). Pestalozzi, for one, did not only provide education for abandoned children but also made a point of providing schooling for girls. Similarly, Rousseau, though focusing on the education of boys in particular, set out the principles of educating girls as...
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