The professional role of the class teacher is continually changing. It has long been expected that teachers should effectively accommodate all children regardless of their needs, with strategies and practice differing within and between settings to ensure that all children learn. However, recently more specific and detailed guidance has emerged that focuses on understanding the range of children’s needs (Hanko 2003). Instead of expecting children to ‘come up to standard’ or otherwise be segregated, an emphasis is now on schools to adapt and be flexible in order to accommodate, fully integrate and include every child (Tassoni 2003). Every Child Matters (ECM) details how it is the legal responsibility of the class teacher to ensure its five outcomes ensure inclusive pratice for all pupils. Evidence of this is apparent within the Early Years Foundation stage (EYFS), where meeting and understanding the diverse needs of children is highlighted. Based on the Childcare Act (2006), the EYFS aims to provide every child with the best possible start in life and with support to fulfil their potential (DCSF 2008b). The statutory guidance states:
‘Providers have a responsibility to ensure positive attitudes to diversity and difference – not only so that every child is included and not disadvantaged, but also so that they learn from the earliest age to value diversity in others and grow up making a positive contribution to society’ (DCSF 2008:9).
Having such an understanding enabled me during my placement experience, to be particularly objective and critical with regards to how well the class teacher raised attainment and met the classes’ diverse needs. During the experience particular attention was played to the teaching strategies’ and practice in place within the setting, the learning environment and how the class teacher personalised learning. For the benefit of this assignment many of these observations regarding the inclusion of diverse needs were focused on two specific children, one of whom was identified as having a Special Education Need (SEN). A child has a special educational need if he has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for him (Education Act 1996). This is the case for the observed child as his disability hinders him from making use of educational facilities that are generally beneficial to children of the same age (Appendix 1). Whilst the second child was learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) as he came from an Eastern European background and had recently moved to the country and school. Like the child with SEN he required additional support to ensure understanding during the school day as well as making him and his peers aware of cultural diversity and how this was valuable to society (Appendix 2). This critical review will begin by reflecting on inclusive teaching practices and strategies to meet diverse needs. As the observed class was a foundation stage class, a significant strategy seen to be effectively used was that of ‘play’ and its various multifaceted and multifunctional forms. It could be seen through observation that all barriers of communication between children were removed, as they played freely and interactively together. Both the child with EAL and the observed child with SEN had developed ways of communicating with other children in the class to ensure that they were fully included, the majority of which time was without the aid or support of the class teacher or teaching assistant. Interestingly this idea of play is deep routed in historical theory, with the observed practice relating significantly to the beliefs of Vygotsky. He emphasised how play creates a zone of proximal development, where children behave beyond their age and above their daily behaviour (Vygotsky 1978). He believed that play makes children become more confident enabling them to experiment with language and their bodies in ways that perhaps they would not have done,...
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