04 SES 15 A, Financing Inclusive Education: Implications for the Implementation of Inclusive Education
European policies on inclusive education show a general trend from a focus on disability and SEN towards a focus on the development of quality of education for all learners (Meijer and Watkins, 2016). Nevertheless, their implementation is challenged by the fact that, in many countries, conceptualization of inclusive education has grown out of discussions around specialist segregated provision or integration (Meijer and Watkins, 2019) and has produced confusing and sometimes contradictory overlapping of policies.
This becomes particularly visible in funding models. Recently, Meijer and Watkins (2016) basing on some comparative analysis conducted by the European Agency state “finding the best ways of financing special needs and inclusive education was and still is a challenge many European countries are facing” (716). In fact, several scholars have investigated the relationship between resource allocation and the implementation of inclusive practices (e.g. Parrish, 2014; European Agency, 2016).
In many countries, besides a general orientation towards inclusive policies, specific funding tracks for specific student groups considered eligible of special education exist. In literature, this is described as the Input Model of Funding (Meijer, 2003): funding is based on the identification of learners’ needs on the level of schools, municipalities, or local regions. Already at least by one decade, data in different European countries show that this funding model implies some risks for the development of inclusion (Ebersold and Meijer, 2016). In fact, countries with such a model document at increasing request for funding by means of growing identified needs. Furthermore, the increased funding is often used for “outsourcing” strategies: identified students are delegated to specific professionals or, in some systems, are placed in special classes or schools (Ebersold et al., 2019).
For this reason, many countries currently are moving towards funding models that combine the Input model with the Throughput Model (Meijer, 2003), where funding is based on stable formulas and on the condition that specific services will autonomously be organized by a school, a municipality, or a local region. The latter model is a form of funding that leaves to schools the responsibility to organize support, without connecting it to an official identification of Special Educational Needs. Therefore, it is potentially considered less at risk of labelling processes and more supportive for school autonomous choices in the implementation of inclusive practices (Ebersold et al., 2019).
In our symposium, the special education funding models of four different countries will be presented and discussed with the respect to the implications for inclusive practices. The countries differ for their history in inclusive policies: Norway and Italy have since the 1970ies a “school for all” and almost no special schools, while both Ireland and The Netherlands share the co-existence of inclusive experiences and special settings (schools and classes). They also differ in the way throughput and input funding models are balanced.
Referring to the framework of “educational governance” (Altrichter, 2010), in the symposium four countries will be presented and put into a comparison looking at the way inclusive education and funding are organized with a multilevel perspective that considers national, local regional and single school dimensions, the different involved actors (ministries, local authorities, headmasters, teachers, parents) and the interactions between them. Specifically, for each countries the following elements will be considered: 1) Inclusive education policies; 2) Funding models; 3) Educational consequences of the funding models. Pros and Cons of the different funding models within the different contexts in terms of implementation of inclusive education will be discussed.
Altrichter, H. (2010). Theory and Evidence on Governance: Conceptual and Empirical Strategies of Research on Governance in Education. European Educational Research Journal, 9(2), 147-158. Ebersold, S., and C.J. Meijer (2016). “Financing Inclusive Education: Policy Challenges, Issues and Trends”. In A. Watkins and C.J. Meijer (Eds.), Implementing Inclusive Education: Issues in Bridging the Policy-Practice Gap, 37–62. Bingley: Emerald Group. Ebersold, S., Watkins, A., Óskardóttir, E., and C.J. Meijer (2019). Financing Inclusive Education to Reduce Disparity in Education: Trends, Issues and Drivers. The Sage Handbook of Inclusion and Diversity in Education, 232-248. European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2016). Financing of Inclusive Education: Mapping Country Systems for Inclusive Education. Odense, Denmark. Meijer, C.J. (2003). Special Across Europe in 2003. Trends in Provision in 18 European Countries. Middelfart: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Meijer, C.J., and A. Watkins (2016). “Changing Conceptions of Inclusion Underpinning Education Policy.” In A. Watkins and C.J. Meijer (Eds.), Implementing Inclusive Education: Issues in Bridging the Policy-Practice Gap, 1–16. Bingley: Emerald Group. Meijer, C.J., and A. Watkins (2019). Financing Special Needs and Inclusive Education–from Salamanca to the Present. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 23(7-8), 705-721. Parrish, T.B. (2014). “How Should we Pay for Special Education?”. In B. Bateman, J.W. Lloyd and M. Tankersley (Eds.), Enduring Issues in Special Education: Personal Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
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