12 Nov Select one peer-reviewed journal article written within the past FIVE years that discusses a major topic covered in EDF 1005. The article must be a minimum of three (3) pages in l
Professionals read and keep current in their fields by reading journal articles and relating them to their practice.
Directions: The student will select, read, and review ONE peer-reviewed journal article that relates to a major topic covered in the course competencies and specific topics from our textbook for EDF 1005. This includes curriculum, assessment, history, finance, ethics, or governance.
- Select one peer-reviewed journal article written within the past FIVE years that discusses a major topic covered in EDF 1005.
- The article must be a minimum of three (3) pages in length excluding cover and reference pages
- Include the following in a summary/reflection:
- Write a summary of the article.
- Write your opinion of the article’s viewpoint. Support your viewpoint with citations from the article and course textbook.
- Include how the article relates to our readings and discussions in EDF 1005.
- Attach a copy of the article with your summary and opinion/reflection.
- Use APA format to cite any ideas and reflections in your summary/reflection that are represented in the article. The writing lab at our campuses can also assist your with editing, APA formatting, and resources.
Changing policy and legislation in special and inclusive education: a perspective from Northern Ireland Ron Smith
It is now 15 years since the signing of the 1998 Belfast (or ‘Good Friday’) Peace Agreement which committed all participants to exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences, and towards a shared and inclusive society defined by the principles of respect for diversity, equality and the interdependence of people. In particular, it committed participants to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all. This is, therefore, a precipitous time to undertake a probing analysis of educational reforms in Northern Ireland associated with provision in the areas of inclusion and special needs education. Conse- quently, by drawing upon analytical tools and perspectives derived from critical policy analysis, this article, by Ron Smith from the School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast, discusses the policy cycle asso- ciated with the proposed legislation entitled Every School a Good School: the way forward for special educational needs and inclusion. It examines how this policy text structures key concepts such as ‘inclu- sion’, ‘additional educational needs’ and ‘barriers to learning’, and how the proposals attempt to resolve the dilemma of commonality and dif- ference. Conceived under direct rule from Westminster (April 2006), issued for consultation when devolved powers to a Northern Ireland Assembly had been restored, and with the final proposals yet to be made public, this targeted educational strategy tells a fascinating story of the past, present and likely future of special needs education in Northern Ireland. Before offering an account of this work, it is placed within some broader ecological frameworks.
PERSPECTIVE FROM NORTHERN IRELAND
© 2014 NASEN DOI: 10.1111/1467-8578.12081
Key words: critical policy analysis, special educational needs, inclusion, Northern Ireland, transitional society, dilemma of difference, transformative project
The broader context No matter the other similarities and differences between Northern Ireland (NI) and the other three nations of the UK, it is important to set NI educational developments in general, and inclusive education developments specifically, against the backdrop of almost three decades of political violence which saw over 3,700 people killed, and tens of thousands of people injured. The declaration of ceasefires by paramilitary groups in 1994 created an opportunity for political dialogue that led, in April 1998, to the Good Friday Peace Agreement. The Good Friday Peace Agreement represented an attempt at a fundamental shift within society, a shift away from a ‘culture of violence’ through the establishment of new democratic structures. It enshrined commitments to pluralism, equality and human rights for all as essential parts of the settlement. It is now 15 years since the Agreement, and, while it represented social and political possibilities of immense significance, to imagine that NI had crossed some invisible rubicon where social conflict magically disappeared would be naive. A realistic assess- ment of the present peace process suggests that peace remains as yet an unfilled dream. Northern Ireland is best thought of as a transitional society within which, as argued by Barr and Smith (2009), the concept of educational inclusion needs to make connections with the social and political environment writ large. In other words, it needs to be viewed broadly as a transformative project in pursuit of a society where there is equality among socially differentiated groups who mutually respect one another and affirm one another in their differences (Young, 1990). As Slee (2011) has argued, schooling ought to be an apprenticeship in democracy, and inclusion a perquisite of a democratic education.
Segregation features in almost every aspect of life in NI: people live, socialise, work and shop in areas where they feel safe (Leitch & Kilpatrick, 1999). Unsurprisingly, segregation also remains a distinctive characteristic of the school system. The vast majority of children and teachers attend schools that can be described as either Protestant (controlled) or Catholic (maintained) schools. There has been a trend towards integrated schools that are attended in roughly equal numbers by Protestant and Catholic students, although, currently, only 7% of the student population attend such institutions (DENI, 2014).
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Northern Ireland retains a selective secondary education system as a result of transfer tests which are no longer regulated by the state because of contentious and unresolved policy changes relating to selective secondary education. This means that, at the age of 11, children in NI are segregated at the post-primary stage by ability, and, in some cases, by gender. Prior to 2008 and the Good Friday Peace Agreement, NI followed a curriculum framework similar to the English National Curriculum. However, from that date, a revised ‘Northern Ireland Cur- riculum’ was implemented. This aimed to better provide access to the skills and competences perceived as more relevant to a twenty-first-century economy, provide a rich entitlement and greater choice and enable teaching to be adapted more readily to meet pupils’ individual needs and aspirations. The curriculum also includes the study of the Irish language in all maintained schools and Irish is the language of instruction in a small number of Irish-medium schools (Smith, Florian, Rouse & Anderson, 2014).
In recent years, policy initiatives in NI have prioritised issues of school improvement, raising standards, and addressing underachievement in literacy and numeracy (for example, DENI, 2008, 2011). International commitments to establish the ability to read and write as a basic human right (UNESCO, 2000) have been mirrored in NI by concerns to raise the literacy and numeracy stand- ards of all children and young people – concerns brought to the fore by a number of influential enquiries and reports critical of the extant situation (see, for example, House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, 2006; NIAO, 2006).
Special needs education in NI The philosophy underpinning educational special needs legislation and guidance in NI has historically closely mirrored developments in England. For example, the present framework was effectively outlined in the late 1970s when the English Government established a committee of inquiry, chaired by the philosopher (now Baroness) Mary Warnock, to undertake a review of special education policy and provision. The recommendations of the committee, outlined in the Warnock Report (DES, 1978), formed the basis of the the Education Scotland Act (1980) (SOEID, 1980); the 1981 Education Act in England and Wales (DES, 1981); and the Education Order (1984) in NI (DENI, 1984), which took place from January, 1986. These Acts attempted to shift the focus of special education away from the comfortable certainty of categorical handicaps towards a consideration of learn- ing needs and the overarching concept of special educational needs (Smith et al., 2014).
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More recently too, disability discrimination legislation has been introduced into the education services in NI through the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005. This enhanced the rights of children and parents by prohibiting discrimination against students – and prospective students – with disabilities. Discrimination was defined as failure to make reasonable adjustments, or the provision of less favourable treatment, for a reason related to the pupil’s disability. Consequently, similar to the situation in England, as described in this journal by Norwich (2014), schools as responsible bodies now have duties regarding stu- dents with disabilities alongside their responsibilities under the special educa- tional needs legislation.
There are 4,600 students in 40 special schools in NI and this represents 1.4% of the student population (EADSNE, 2012). Since 2003–2004, special school enrolments have remained relatively static. In addition, there are over 100 units in NI attached to primary or post-primary schools that provide mainly for chil- dren identified as having moderate learning and/or speech and language diffi- culties (Smith et al., 2014). The total population of students identified as having special educational needs has risen by approximately 2,000 every year since 2008–2009. Twenty-one percent of students in mainstream schools are placed on the special educational needs registers (3.3% having Statements of special edu- cational needs, and 18% at stages 1–4 of the Code of Practice; EADSNE, 2012). Schools in NI have yet to be designated as public bodies for the purposes of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998). Consequently, they are not pres- ently obliged to ensure equality of opportunity for all children when carrying out their functions, including assessing the impact of all school policies (Bryne & Lundy, 2011). Worryingly, similar to the situation in both the USA (for example, Donovan & Cross, 2002) and England (for example, Strand & Lindsay, 2009), there is some evidence that students from certain minority groups in NI are being labelled as having special educational needs at rates that are dispropor- tionate to their presence in the student population as a whole (Black, 2014). Consequently, as Kilpatrick and Hunter (2006) intimated, much remained to be done before the school system in NI could be said to be inclusive of all children.
Every school a good school: the way forward for special educational needs and inclusion Shortly after devolved powers were restored to a Northern Ireland Assembly (October 2009), the new NI Minister of Education initiated a process of public consultation on the policy text formally entitled: Every School a Good School: the way forward for special educational needs and inclusion (DENI, 2009, 2012a,
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2012b). Perhaps uniquely in the history of NI policy making, this policy text was conceived under direct rule from Westminster (April 2006) and consulted upon at a time when devolved powers had been restored to a Northern Ireland Assembly (October 2009). In April 2012, the Education Minister presented his recommen- dations, or ‘direction for travel’, to the Education Committee of the NI Assembly; however, at the time of writing, the final text remains unpublished.
The Way Forward consultation document, locally referred to as the ‘Fundamental Review of Special Educational Needs and Inclusion’, or simply ‘the Fundamental Review’, envisioned ‘a new stronger, more comprehensive, more robust, inclusive framework’ (DENI, 2009), and presented an extremely comprehensive range of policy proposals addressing issues such as: early identification; partnership working; capacity building; early years provision; improving the learning of all pupils; replacing the terminology of special educational needs with the (arguably) more inclusive idea of ‘additional educational needs’; re-naming SENCos as learning support co-ordinators; shortening the staged assessment and intervention process known as the Code of Practice; the co-location of multi-agency profes- sionals; replacing Statements of special educational need with Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSPs); introducing Personal Learning Plans; and, uniquely for a NI document, the desire to see a fundamental change in the way educational professionals conceptualised diversity in special needs education:
‘There is sometimes a perception within schools that barriers to learning need to be “fixed” (usually with additional support) to ensure that the child can “fit” in with a school’s way of working. Many educationalists are now coming to realise it is the school’s duty to ensure that the child is supported and makes the necessary progress. We wish to move away from the in-child deficit model to a much wider approach in which additional educational need is a concept in which SEN is an integral element. The proposals aim to encourage schools and other educational settings to recognise the diversity of pupils within their population and accept responsibility to address their needs without recourse to external assistance except in the more complex cases.’
(DENI, 2009, p. 7)
While the reasons for the Fundamental Review were overwhelmingly framed in instrumental terms (for example: the bureaucracy of the current special educa- tional needs framework, inconsistencies and delays in assessment and provision; the steeply rising cost of the provision for special educational needs; the year-on- year increase in the number of children issued with Statements; and the need for
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clear accountability on resource utilisation), the more value-based strains within the proposals provided much encouragement to practitioners and researchers who had long advocated for a genuine ‘re-visioning’ of the special educational needs task. On the occasion of the introduction of the Code of Practice in NI, some 25 years earlier, just such a re-visioning had been recommended by Alan Dyson and his team (Dyson & Millward, 1998). As part of their DENI commission to baseline the introduction of the special educational needs Code of Practice, they intimated that policy and practice in many NI schools were based on a model which was not fully aligned with the model implied by the Code. Discerning practitioners read this comment as suggesting that extant practice was under- pinned by a deficit model of special educational needs including: a narrow conception of special educational needs (relating principally to difficulties in literacy and numeracy); a tendency to respond to those difficulties outside the mainstream class (in withdrawal groups or ‘bottom’ sets); and undeveloped ideas of how children identified with a wide range of special educational needs could be supported throughout the school.
Third-way sensibilities: a source of continuity or discontinuity? People live their lives through the socially constructed meanings that are avail- able to them, and these meanings – ‘these discourses’ – are provided by those in positions of power, and they construct the realities within which we live (Bottery, 2000). With this in mind, Ball (1994) helpfully encourages us to appreciate the way in which policy texts exercise power through the production of truth and knowledge as discourse. Thus, in these terms, policies are primarily discursive; they change the possibilities we have for thinking ‘otherwise’ (Ball, 1994).
As suggested above, the present framework was effectively outlined by the Warnock Report (DES, 1978). However, despite this, it was still surprising to see just how closely aligned the NI proposals were to educational policy develop- ments in England as championed by the English Labour Party. In other words, they were closely aligned with New Labour’s ‘Third-Way’ project for creating a post-welfarist society through wholehearted commitment to a market economy supplemented by vigorous state intervention. For example, some of the text in the consultation document (DENI, 2009) reproduced, word for word, the New Labour position on inclusion, as described in their programme for meeting special edu- cational needs (see DfEE, 1998, p. 13).
While these continuities were fascinating, it was nevertheless their implications for the development of a more contextually appropriate and sustainable model of
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inclusion in NI that concerned some educationists – myself included. Embracing as it does the moral and ontological primacy of the person over claims of social collectivity, post-welfarist policy developments in England were felt to provide an inappropriate worldview for advancing the sorts of transformations in human relationships required for a society emerging from 30 years of violent ethnopolitical conflict. As Bottery (2000) starkly remarked, the first part of the third-way agenda involved accepting the reality of the market, while the second part meant devising policies that ‘bring the losers along’.
The fundamental review: contradictory and ambiguous discourses ‘It is important not to overestimate the logical rationality of policy. Policy strat- egies, Acts, guidelines and initiatives are often messy, contradictory, confused and unclear’ (Ball, 2008).
Many educational policies are incapable of successful implementation because they are ambiguous, and, as such, remain ‘impossible dreams’ (Morris & Scott, 2003). Consequently, if policy failure is to be avoided, careful consideration must be given to both the implementation process and the robustness of the policy text at the strategic planning stage. On Friday 9 October 2009, a group of academics and practitioners, including myself, met at the School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast, to consider the issues raised by the Fundamental Review. Our primary observations and concerns revolved around what appeared to be some very contradictory and confusing messages about the key overlapping and under- pinning concepts of inclusion, additional educational needs and barriers to learn- ing. Indeed, there was a concern that, without substantial clarification and re-writing, the proposals would simply result in a re-arrangement of the ways in which special educational needs were delivered – as opposed to the construction of a new form of education that was more equitable in itself and which promoted wider social equity.
Despite its stated intentions, we read this document as failing to escape the all-pervasive and highly individualistic child deficit gaze that locates the sources of all difficulties ascribed to children and young people within the individual. The evidence for this lay at a number of levels – both within the lines of the policy text, and between them. Most pertinently, considering how language structures people’s thinking, we commented upon the frequent use of language that, for example, referred to ‘children with barriers to learning’ or ‘children’s difficul- ties’. A content analysis of the policy proposals demonstrated that such language overwhelmed, to the tune of 3:1, alternative expressions that provided some sense that systems and contexts also served to limit and define young people’s school
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progress. Indeed, we were concerned that the first expanded discussion of the fact that barriers to learning and participation might also reside within school systems only appeared on page 19 of the proposals.
The extremely confusing discussion relating to the factors, or ‘barriers to learn- ing’, that give rise to additional educational needs only served to illustrate how the Fundamental Review failed to expunge the child deficit gaze. Beginning in section 3.4, the proposals attempted to account for these under four broad themes, that is, children with special educational needs, the learning environment, family circumstances and social and emotional circumstances. This broad conception of additional educational needs mirrored Scottish legislation and policy, which in turn reflected the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development model of special educational needs (OECD, 2000). We felt, however, that it was extremely unfortunate that, as depicted in Figure 1, the proposals could only illustrate these themes by reference to the characteristics of children. We found it impossible to map this view of barriers to learning onto a contemporary ‘inter- active’ model of teaching/learning, nor with an alternative model of special needs. Despite the evidence that special educational needs were related to the character- istics of socio-economic groups (as defined by ethnicity, class and gender; Slee,
Figure 1: Additional educational needs themes in the consultation document (DENI, 2009)
Children with special educational needs Learning environment
e.g. sensory, physical, medical syndromes, cognitive, learning, emotional and behavioural
difficulties, communication difficulties
e.g. children who have English as an additional language
Family circumstances Social and emotional
Additional educational needs
e.g. looked-after children, school-aged mothers, young carers, travellers
e.g. those suffering from bullying; recently bereaved
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2011), the stubborn maintenance of a highly individualised approach to children within these proposals was, we feared, also the logical outcome of the mainte- nance of a highly individualised needs-orientated view of resourcing.
The term inclusive education has unfortunately become sloganised and turned into a cliché which is used ubiquitously because it adds a progressive gloss to what people wish to say (Benjamin, 2002). When attempts are made to get behind the meaning of the word, little real substance, and/or confusion, is found (Allan & Slee, 2008). We were concerned then that these proposals ran the risk of engen- dering similar confusion about key concepts. Howes, Davies and Fox (2009) described six alternative and contradictory discourses about inclusion to be found within policy texts around the world, at least four of which were referred to in the consultation document. For example, the concept of inclusion was simultaneously located within a special needs and disability framework and, as increasingly accepted and understood internationally, more broadly as a reform that supports and welcomes diversity among all learners. There was also a feeling that the ‘school for all’ – or organisational paradigm – had at some stage been a source of reference for the proposals, but, in passage, had lost some of its original meaning. For example, within this paradigm, the concept of barriers to learning refers specifically to features of the school system that discriminate and exclude, whereas this was patently not the meaning intended within the consultation document (DENI, 2009), as demonstrated in the following extracts:
‘Inclusion is not simply about the location or placement of a child, inclusion means participation of children in the curriculum and social life of their educational setting’
‘We aspire to an inclusive education system in which the presumption is that children spend as much time as possible in a mainstream setting . . . however this does not presume the integration of all children into a mainstream setting’
‘Inclusive practices require us to think about the diverse needs of all children e.g. those with SEN, those whose first language is not English, those in AEP [alternative educational provision], children from the traveller community, LAC [looked after children], those who need help with literacy and numeracy’
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‘Development of a comprehensive approach based on the inclusive concept of the continuum of provision for a diversity of need in different settings’
It was surprising too that the terms ‘integration’ and ‘inclusion’ were used inter- changeably in this document. Since the concept of integration represents an assimilationist value position, this was something we were not expecting to find in a document designed to introduce a new inclusion framework. Finally, we noted that the new framework was centrally underpinned by the concept of a continuum of provision for a diversity of need in different settings. However, representing as it does a central idea from the Warnock Report – making minimal adjustments to match people with provision, as opposed to restructuring provision to suit a greater diversity of need – we were concerned that this concept had very little to do with the inclusive education movement.
Language matters, it simultaneously reveals and conceals meaning and sets the discursive frame within which policy is framed (Ball, 2008). In this respect, we were disappointed that, out of all the contradictory discourses of inclusion that were most visible in this document, stronger arguments could not have been rallied for the concept of inclusion as an educational project in pursuit, particu- larly in NI, of a transformed society; in other words, inclusion as a principled approach to education and society.
We were equally concerned about the contradictory messages within the consul- tation document with respect to the concept of ‘additional educational needs’ (AEN). Here, at least three different versions were spotted such that, when viewed more closely, it did not appear to represent a very inclusive idea after all. Most revealing was the view expressed on page 33 of the Impact Assessment Document (which accompanied the proposals), where it was suggested that the concept of additional educational needs referred to one in five of the child population – in other words, no different from the early Warnock Report (DES, 1978) view that up to 20% of students might, at some point in their educational careers, have special educational needs.
Contesting, bargaining and conflict
‘Policy is not treated as an object, a product or an outcome but rather as a process, something on-going, interactional and unstable . . . policies are contested, interpreted, and enacted in a variety of arenas of practice and the
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rhetorics, texts and meanings of policymakers do not always translate directly and obviously into institutional practices. They are inflected, mediated, resisted and misunderstood, or in some cases simply prove unworkable.’
(Ball, 2008, p. 6)
The ‘bureaucratic model’ of policy formation views the policy text (developed at the strategic level) as having paramount importance, and characterises any resistance to this policy (at a tactical or operational level) as irrational and a barrier to implementation (Dunsire, 1978). This artificial split between policy production and implementation creates a top-down conception of the policy process, as if policy can ‘get done’ to people (Smit, 2005). On the other hand, the ‘bargaining and conflict’ model accepts challenges and resistance to policy as rational, and views implementation as a process of mediating between competing interests (Barrett & Hill, 1984; Dyer, 1999). Policy should therefore be viewed as ‘a process rather than a product’ (Ozga, 2000), involving strategic interaction between multiple actors in a policy network (Sabatier, 1986) including those who may lie outside official policy making (Ozga, 2000).
The overall response to the public consultation amounted to 2,902 replies. Respondents chose to present their views in a variety of ways including comple- tion of consultation response booklets, documents, forwarding e-mails, letters and drawings (DENI, 2012a). As well as individual and group responses, the consul- tation attracted comments by way of a number of campaigns in relation to particular aspects of special educational needs provision. These related to provi- sion for children with Down syndrome, visual impairment, hearing impairment and those in special schools. Key policy actors were organisations such as the Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance (CDSA), the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council (NITC), and officers from the special education sections of the Education and Library Boards (which are similar to local education authorities in England and Wales). The following comments are based on my reading of the Summary Report (DENI, 2012a).
Across most respondent categories, the seeming lack of specificity with regard to funding caused most concern. The intention to transfer funding from the ever- expanding special education sections of the Education and Library Boards, to the schools themselves, exercised parents and teachers alike – albeit for different reasons. Despite the intention, however, the suspicion that the whole proposal was essentially a cost-cutting exercise appeared difficult to dispel.
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Parents of children having disabilities campaigned vigorously against the follow- ing elements in particular. First, they opposed the proposal to introduce a new and improved framework for meeting a wide diversity of educational need, based on the broader inclusive concept of additional educational needs. Here, the additional educational need element was thought to dilute the proposal for children with disabilities. Secondly, the proposal to replace the Statement of special educational need with a CSP caused great anxiety among parents of children whose needs might not be considered ‘complex’, and thus not requiring frequent access to multi-agencies external to the school. The lack of clarity about the threshold that would trigger one of the new CSPs, in tandem with the idea of schools themselves having delegated responsibility for meeting additional educational needs, led to the suspicion that significant numbers of children who currently had full-time classroom assistants mi
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