Essay on Social Justice and Inclusion

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Inclusion and teacher's agency as contributing factors in the development of a socially just classroom for children with additional support needs.

Introduction.

Modern classroom requires an innovative approach to both learning and teaching where children with additional support needs can fully participate in education with their peers without feeling alienated or marginalized. The implementation of government legislation aiming at more inclusive classrooms, allows teachers to become socially just 'agents of change' promoting ways of working intended to mitigate inequalities in education stemming from external causes (Florian and Black-Hawkins, 2011). This study focuses on the additional support needs of learners and the problems they may be facing while accessing mainstream education, exploring changes to national policies and legislation introduced throughout the years to alleviate the problem of exclusion and improve the attainment of ASN pupils. It identifies the most commonly occurring barriers to learning for children affected by adverse factors simultaneously proposing how individual pupils can receive extra help or additional support they require without being treated as different or less apt than others. The inclusive pedagogical approach is viewed as a concept within the broader theory of the teacher's agency in promoting social justice (Panti, 2015). It is different from other attitudes towards learning in that it accepts learners' idiosyncrasies and differences without imposing mainly individualized approaches in response to such differences making learning more inclusive and socially just in the process (Panti and Florian, 2015).

Defining additional support needs category

It is imperative to first establish a precise characterization of who comprises the additional support needs category, as it is necessary to have a clear picture of possible problems and limitations, they might be facing concerning education. The term 'additional support needs' (ASN), introduced into law in 2004, replaced the former 'special education needs' definition as a result of a dire need for a suitable and appropriate designation without negative connotations (Peer and Reid, 2021). To the category of children and young adults requiring additional support, we can include those learners who are experiencing an array of conditions that make it more difficult for them to learn than their peers (Scottish Government, 2004). In Scotland, the umbrella term of ASN is used to define those children who are exhibiting signs of physical and sensory impairments, as well as social, behavioral, and emotional difficulties (Barret et al., 2015). Furthermore, new categories have been included that refer to pupils' social and family situations, those involving children with English as an additional language, looking after individuals, and those with disrupted learning (also known as travelers' children) (Peer and Reid, 2021). Having established the definition of ASN and who is included in it, the next paragraph will deal with legal policies and laws implemented by governing bodies to recognize and address the problems that children and young learners from ASN groups might be facing and introduce measures to help with integration and inclusion in the variety of educational settings. Â

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Additional support needs and inclusion in Scotland

Social justice policies regarding children with additional support needs can be classified as having inclusion principles at their core. There has been a continuing commitment to include all children in mainstream schooling by Scottish education legislation (Riddell, 2009). Presumption of mainstreaming is included in Section 15 of Standards in Scotland's Schools, Etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, determined that every child in Scotland must have access to mainstream schooling as a part of an inclusive approach to education unless it was deemed disadvantageous to the educational needs of that child or other children with whom the child would be educated (Peer and Reid, 2021). What followed in ensuring greater inclusivity for children and young adults was the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (the ASL Act) that brought about an extension to the definition of additional support needs to include children who not only have disabilities but also suffer from difficulties in learning resulting from social disadvantages (Tisdall and Riddell, 2006). Additionally, the Equality Act (2010) aimed at the protection of people with disabilities and prohibiting any forms of discrimination, regardless of whether they stem from physical or mental health problems (Lockwood, Henderson, and Thornicroft, 2012). It also defined disability as a 'physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities' (Office for Disability Issues, 2010). What is more, under 2010 legislation, all educational service providers are required to introduce appropriate alterations to facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities by providing extra and supplementary aids (Riddell and Weedon, 2014). Having established what constitutes the ASN category next chapter deals with possible problems and obstacles that occur when ASN children experience in mainstream classrooms.

Additional support needs and barriers to learning

Because the category of ASN comprises such a vast array of conditions and impairments, it would be beyond the scope of this paper to present them all, along with the impact they have upon children and young people in the classroom. Instead, the following example constitutes the most common examples of implications and problems affecting children of the ASN group in accessing fair and inclusive education. Firstly, there has been a notable increase in the incidence of numbers of ASN pupils in schools with concurrently reported reduction of funding and school budgets (Kewin and Janowski, 2016; National Audit Office, 2016). As a result, classroom teachers are expected to take responsibility for the academic achievement and attainment of all pupils within the classroom in an inclusive setting. It results in jeopardizing teachers' efficiency and competence and eventually contributes to teachers' abandonment of the profession on account of it being perceived as unrealistic, stressful, and unrewarding (Harpell and Andrews, 2010). As far as pupils from the ASN group are concerned the impediment towards inclusion may, on rare occasions, stem from teachers' opinions concerning integration. Teachers sometimes develop negative attitudes and associations towards the inclusion of children with ASN into the mainstream classroom on account of the process occurring without adequate guidance and a lack of sufficient in-class support (Titone, 2004). They feel inappropriately trained to accommodate children with ASN entrusted in their care and lack the necessary resources for the implementation of inclusive education (Burke and Sutherland, 2004). Moreover, irrespective of extra support requirement the problem of 'repetition of exclusion' appears, where pupils with ASN are included in the learning but excluded from taking part in collaborative or group activities because they were given activities differentiated in such a way that they become isolated from the rest of the class despite being physically present (Slee, 2010). Specific ASN types necessitate tailored approaches or at least a fair level of training on the part of the teacher to successfully facilitate inclusion into the mainstream classroom. For instance, individuals with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) quite often are excluded from attending regular lessons because of developmental disorders which create significant barriers to their participation and socialization with others. According to Jordan (2005) children with autism to benefit from classroom education should be taught to react to social signals and cues, they would have to be instructed in turn-taking and rudiments of social interaction with other children belonging to the same learning group. This would entail teachers acquiring substantial knowledge of ASD to promote inclusive practices in the classroom along with other members of the school community participating in the educational effort. Another group from the ASN category is visually impaired pupils. Children affected by this sensory impairment face significant challenges participating in mainstream schooling as they have restricted or non-existent means of accessing the curriculum via a visual medium and instead, they must use extra hearing or haptic aids to learn (Davis and Hopwood, 2002). It also requires an introduction of an additional program of study that would allow pupils to access the regular curriculum through learning Braille, improving keyboard skills and dexterity, use of speech recognition programs, and developing life skills (David and Hopwood, 2002). The following chapter explores possible approaches to learning allowing for greater inclusion for children with ASN.

Teacher's role in ensuring inclusive and socially just education

To fully support children and young learners in receiving socially just school experience a new method for inclusion of individuals with additional support needs was in demand. The concept of inclusive pedagogy or inclusive pedagogical approach was established to address pertinent questions about how individuals can receive additional support or extra help they require without being treated differently from the rest of the class (Florian and Black-Hawkins, 2011). Within this innovative pedagogy aimed at the inclusion of all learners and enactment of social justice principles, the classroom teacher provides the opportunity for meaningful participation and involvement in the lesson for everyone without exclusion or marginalization (Florian and Beaton, 2018). As often happens within a classroom, children who are regarded as requiring extra support in learning are provided with additional or different tasks and activities. However, implementing principles of inclusive pedagogy urges teachers to develop procedures where all members of the class can access the same learning without ability grouping or being sent out for additional support (Barret et all., 2015). The modification of what is occurring in the classroom results from changing the focus from perceiving a child as lacking or failing to the teacher's responsibility and ability in choosing an appropriate method of enabling the participation of all members of the class in the learning community on equal terms (Booth and Ainscow, 2011). The responsibility for the learning of all children within a class falls upon a teacher enhanced by other school employees where necessary or feasible. In the inclusive pedagogy model, teachers should refrain from delegating responsibility for pupils to support learning staff or behavior practitioners and instead are required to develop new ways of collaboration with and through other professionals to facilitate the learning of children, at the same time avoiding the stigmatization that is often associated with certain more conventional concepts of supporting children (Spratt and Florian, 2014). This approach addresses possible adversities that children might be facing by respecting the dignity of every young learner in the classroom (Barrett et all., 2015). Moreover, concerning socially just education, the General Teaching Council for Scotland introduced professional standards that teachers are required to explore and adhere to whilst developing and improving their professional practice (GTCS, 2012). In the document containing standards for full registration and career-long professional learning published by GTC Scotland, teachers can find essential principles and models of practice that directly relate to inclusion and social justice. Under the 'values and beliefs' section of the professional standards, some of the points are particularly pertinent to the inclusive model of teaching and state that education professionals must be committed to 'the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable practices' and must respect the rights of all learners following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (GTCS, 2012). Additionally, it also mentions that teachers must recognize children's social and economic circumstances, individuality, and specific learning needs and consider barriers to learning which is particularly relevant to the ASN context in question. Also, in the context of ensuring that children receive a socially just school experience new national curriculum was developed in Scotland introducing changes to the position of teachers and learners. Curriculum for Excellence, implemented in 2010, placed teachers as agents of change utilizing both social justice principles and an inclusive approach to learning to promote fairer classrooms where all children are accepted and appreciated (Education Scotland, 2012). In its innovative design, CfE places learners at the center of educational effort with a great deal of personalization and choice intended for better inclusion of all pupils regardless of their background, ability, or personal circumstances (Reeves, 2013). CfE is perceived as granting greater autonomy to learners and allowing teachers to tailor learning for pupils' individual needs in the whole class context which has the potential to improve engagement and motivation (Priestly and Minty, 2013).

Conclusions

A contemporary Scottish classroom is a welcoming place for children coming from a variety of backgrounds, with different skills and abilities. New policies developed to tackle the problem of inclusion, such as the Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2004, have been critical in establishing more socially just practices in schools. However, as a result of an increasing number of pupils with ASN and a shortage of staff trained in specific ASN categories, it was necessary to implement a new inclusive pedagogical approach. It places children at the center of learning and acknowledges teachers as agents of change and social justice. It suggests that teachers must be viewed as capable agents, whose assumptions of students' learning capacity, choice of pedagogy, and methods of collaborative practice have a substantial impact on students' attainment.

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