Designed for diversity
The National Framework for Inclusion challenges teachers to think deeply about their role in promoting equality and social justice
Inclusion is a term which is often used when referring to practices within modern education, but while the basic sentiment is self-explanatory, the process of achieving fully inclusive schools can prove challenging for teachers.
A huge amount of understanding and support is therefore needed for teachers to be able to successfully embrace inclusion in Scottish classrooms.
Inclusion is an ongoing process to enhance the participation of all children in the life and learning of the school, while also acknowledging and addressing issues that may create barriers to participation.
As school communities become increasingly diverse, teachers are called upon to work creatively to respond to the rights of all children by providing learning opportunities which are available for everybody.
And as closing the attainment gap continues to be one of the biggest issues in Scottish education, inclusive education is a national priority.
This is why, in 2007, the Scottish Universities Inclusion Group – formerly called the Scottish Teacher Education Committee Inclusion Group – was established.
A working subgroup of the Council of Deans, each of the eight Scottish Universities involved in teacher education is represented on the committee. Its purpose is to promote and support teacher education for inclusion. Teachers need to be well prepared and appropriately supported throughout their careers if they are to develop and sustain inclusive practices that enable them to respond positively to the diversity of children and young people in our classrooms.
With the support of the Scottish Government, the group – which has received international recognition – developed the National Framework for Inclusion, which aligns with the GTC Scotland Standards for Registration.
Inclusion is about recognising that everybody is different, but everybody has an equal right to be involved in learning
The framework identifies the values and beliefs, professional knowledge and understanding, and professional skills and abilities to be expected of teachers throughout their careers in terms of inclusive education.
Dr Jennifer Spratt, Chair of the Scottish Universities Inclusion Group, said: “In designing the framework we identified the GTCS Standards we thought were linked to inclusive practice.
“To try to help teachers and student teachers think about these things, we drafted a series of questions to help them interrogate their own practice. “The fact that they are questions rather than instructions is very much in line with the role of teachers as reflective practitioners.”
The Scottish Universities Inclusion Group works to ensure that teacher education programmes across Scotland embed inclusion in their initial teacher education courses; support teachers at all stages in their careers to recognise, value, and respond positively to the diversity of children in schools and draw from contemporary research; and challenge, where appropriate, practices or attitudes that act as barriers to inclusion. Its understanding of inclusion takes an open ended view of learning, believing that all children can improve their capacity to learn.
While recognising that any learner may require additional support at some stage, inclusive schools would seek to provide support in sensitive ways that do not stigmatise or mark children out as different. “Inclusion is very important in today’s education,” explained Dr Spratt.
“We are seeing that schools have got an increasingly diverse population and teachers are required to respond positively to that diversity. “Inclusion is about recognising that everybody is different, but everybody has an equal right to be involved in learning and participation in school. It’s important to support children with difficulties, but it’s important to do that in a way that doesn’t mark them out as different.
It’s about the dignity of the learner.” She added: “It’s challenging and it’s an ongoing practice. It permeates life all the time. We are trying to help teachers think deeply about what they do.”
Dr Margaret Sutherland is one of the practitioners trying to help teachers to think deeply about what they do. An expert in the field of high–ability studies, she co-ordinates the masters in Inclusive Education: Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Glasgow, where she uses the framework for teachers at all stages of their careers and across all kinds of provision.
She said: “One of the things that’s really unique about this framework is that all the universities involved in teacher education came together for a common goal. “Inclusion can often be misunderstood. It doesn’t deny differences, it’s about a whole range of issues that might create barriers to learning, and how we support these people as they access education.
"The framework is a series of questions which helps teachers, throughout their career, to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it and so they can bring about greater equality and social justice.
“The teachers I have worked with are very committed to the idea of inclusion. That’s not about throwing everyone into a mainstream school, it’s about a rights based model.”
But she stressed that even though the enthusiasm and commitment is abundant in teachers across Scotland, they need support in order to make inclusion happen.
Inclusion can be misunderstood. It doesn't deny differences, it's about a whole range of issues that might create barriers to learning
“One of the things we are very keen on is that notion of empowering teachers through learning and helping teachers to understand their practice and be up to date and current and be able to critique and analyse what they are doing,” explained Dr Sutherland.
“I have yet to find a teacher who doesn’t want to get on board with that.
“We have made huge progress and steps forward around the issue of inclusion. If we don’t continue to think about going down this route of inclusion, I would worry greatly about what we are doing as a society, and the messages we are sending out to some individuals within society, and not just in relation to education.”
Lauren Boath, lecturer in Physics Education, School of Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee, uses the framework to encourage secondary science students to think about how they make their teaching inclusive. She encourages student teachers to explore the idea that any learner may need additional support at some point in their learning career.
She said: “I find the National Framework for Inclusion particularly helpful because it provides a range of challenge questions through which student teachers can examine and reflect on their practice, and which I can use to prompt thinking and as the basis for discussion.
“It helps student teachers to develop a more concrete understanding of inclusive practice.
“I discuss where we are in Scottish education, including ‘closing the gap’, and challenge them to consider who they want to be as teachers; to consider with each interaction and each learning experience where they might be creating barriers rather than overcoming them; and to plan their learning and teaching, underpinned by a drive to make a difference.”
For more information about the framework, visit: