Inclusion is not a new idea, but has been rapidly gaining momentum within many disciplines internationally. Inclusive education is a term often associated with Special education, and children with additional needs. However, inclusive education is about ensuring that educational settings allow for meaningful participation by all learners. Each child has their own unique identity, ways of doing things, strengths and weaknesses. Ministry of Education [MoE] (1998) states that teachers “should recognise that as all students are individuals, their learning may call for different approaches, different resourcing, and different goals” (p. 39, emphasis added). This statement shows that all children may require differing approaches in education, and that learners with and without diagnoses require an educator that is skilled in the practice of inclusion. Key strategies such as early intervention, partnerships with parents/whānau, transitioning, and equitable teaching are practices that inclusive educational settings use to ensure that all children are provided for within the setting. Partnerships with parents/whānau and other professionals are key to ensuring that inclusion is achieved.
The rationale for inclusion has three main aspects: the ethical and human rights, educational and social benefits to all learners, and the legal requirement to include all children.
Inclusion is about ensuring that the rights of all children are met, that they can actively engage in education within their community. Uditsky (1993) extends on this sentiment, noting the importance that they student with additional needs is a welcomed and valued member within the setting. In order for children’s rights to be met, the setting must ensure that the child with additional needs has equality of access to all things that their peers have access to. This means that additional support measures must be in place to enable children to reach their milestones, educational goals, and to form and maintain social relationships with their peers (Sandall & Schwartz, 2002). Uditsky (1993) adds to this by suggesting that the child with additional needs moves through their education with their peers. Inclusion allows all children to be challenged to an appropriate level for each individual, providing support and extension where needed (Stainback & Stainback, 1996). Booth & Ainscow (2002) sum up the meaning of inclusion well, stating that inclusion “involves restructuring the cultures, policies and practices in schools so that they respond to the diversity of students” (p. 12). This includes teaching and assessment practices, as outlined by the New Zealand Curriculum. It states that learners with “special needs are given quality learning experiences that enable them to achieve, and students with special abilities and talents are given opportunities to work beyond formally described objectives” (MoE, 2007, p. 39).
It is legislated by the Treaty of Waitangi,...