What does fully inclusive practice mean and how will you know if the service you have chosen for your child is inclusive?
The SEND Code of Practice demands that '‘All children are entitled to an education that enables them to; achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, and become confident young children with a growing ability to communicate their own views and ready to make the transition into compulsory education. (Early Years) providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities. These arrangements should include a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEN. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised – identifying need at the earliest point, and then making effective provision, improves long-term outcomes for children. All those who work with young children should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early. In particular, parents know their children best and it is important that all practitioners listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child’s development. They should also listen to and address any concerns raised by children themselves''. (5.1 – 5.5 SEND Code of Practice 0-25 years July 2014)
As a parent or carer of a young child with special educational needs and/ or disabilities you will need to ask some questions in order to understand how your child’s needs will be met. First impressions count, but good information is key when deciding on suitable services for your child.
When visiting a service you should consider the following:
How welcoming is this service?
Do they have a member of staff identified as a friendly and welcoming first point of contact for families? Do they make everyone from their local community feel welcome; children with additional needs or impairments, Gypsy Roma Travellers or asylum seekers? Do they consider the specific language, literacy or cultural needs of the families in their area? Can you see that they celebrate differing cultures within the service? Will they involve you along with staff, committee members as well as members of the local community? Did you feel like you could belong there?
How inclusive does the service feel?
Look around - do boys and girls receive the same amount of attention? Are the children encouraged to resolve their own disputes? Do the staff understand that they may have to act as an advocate for the children in their care? Would your or your child’s accessibility requirements be met there? Do the staff recognise the impact that a disability or impairment can have on a child’s learning? Are they open to you helping them to better understand the difficulties your child may face?
How inclusive do the service polices and procedures seem?
Have a look at the service policies and detailed procedures. Is there a policy for inclusion; if not does inclusion feature in all of the service policies? Has anyone else been involved in the writing of these policies, e.g. other parents and staff? Can you see if outside agencies or the local community have contributed to the development of these policies? Is there a SEND policy and is it clear on how the service will challenge stereotypical approaches to special educational needs? Do they have a behaviour policy? Ask the manager or SENCo how they work with staff and parents to ensure approaches to managing behaviour are kept positive?
Is the diversity of your local community accurately reflected in the service practice?
Are the staff aware of how many different cultures, ethnic groups, minority groups, faiths, backgrounds, family compositions make up your local community? Can you see that planned activities and events take into account the diversity of your local and the wider community? Can you see what support is offered to an individual who communicates using sign language or how children with English as an additional language are supported?
How inclusive are the service resources?
Do their resources (such as books, toys, games, role play and activities) effectively reflect the variety of groups within your local area in; languages, skin tones, gender, physical and cultural differences and so on? Do these resources portray black, ethnic minorities and, disabled people in non-stereotypical way and in everyday situations? Do the staff encourage the children to explore the concepts of same and different, and celebrate differences? Do the resources match the ages, stages and abilities of the children within this service? Are there enough resources to go around so that they can be easily shared? Can you see any specific resources provided to suit an individual child’s needs such as motivator boxes, visual timetables or choosing boards? If your child is going to require additional funding or specialist equipment, ask how the service will go about applying for this?
Early years providers will also provide answers to the following questions in their individual Local Offers. For example, how do they keep children safe from harm? Do they have a named and trained SENCo? How do they identify when a child needs additional support, and know what kind of support they should be providing? Do they know where to go to get help and advice if they need more support?
Some useful links
Services for Young Children area inclusion co-ordinator service has further information for early years settings.