04 SES 16 C, Creating Sustainable Inclusive Educational Environments
This paper reports on the outcomes for students who experienced a strongly inclusive learning environment as a means for all to succeed. This Swedish lower secondary school dramatically improved its results, going from bottom of the league tables to top in three years. Whilst the students were in lower secondary school, a major school improvement activity that sought to raise student achievement through inclusive education was introduced. Previously, one in five students, judged to be in need of special assistance, were taught in small classes. These classes were removed and all students were taught together with in-class support. Inclusion was the norm and guiding principle, and students’ individual differences were explicitly used as a resource. The headteacher and staff consistently and emphatically communicated their intent that all pupils would succeed and the staff were supported with a programme of reading and seminars about inclusive education. The percentage of pupils leaving compulsory school having passed grades in all school subjects rose from 62% to 96% in three years. The paper offers the students’ perspectives on these outcomes and on their experience of an explicitly inclusive environment. The students were followed over a period of seven years, during their time at the lower secondary school and onto 33 different high schools. Social capital, with its emphasis on relationships, networks, norms and trust (Field, 2015), was used to structure interviews with students and was also used to analyse the interview data. Two elements of social capital that appeared to be strongly associated with the students’ success – trust and confidence – are discussed. The paper concludes with a consideration of the significance of the role of schools in cultivating trust and the risks associated with schools ignoring this obligation.
Field, J (2015) Social capital. London: Routledge.
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