Richard Rieser
Disability Equality


We seem to use integration and inclusion as synonymous. This is not helpful and it would be useful is we could agree what we mean by each of these. Integration of children with SEN in mainstream schools was described in the Warnock Report (1978) as:

Locational integration: Where units are on the same site as mainstream schools and disabled and non-disabled children can familiarise themselves with each other.

Social integration: Where children attending special classes and units socialise in the playground, at lunch and assembly.

Functional integration: Where there is joint participation in educational programmes, which requires careful planning of class and individual teaching programmes.

All forms of integration assume some form of assimilation of the disabled child into the mainstream school largely unchanged. Under 1981 and 1993 Act it was seen as conditional on the efficient use of resources, effective education of the particular child and not disrupting the education of other children. If any of these criteria were judged to be not met, the LEA would place the child in a special school. The needs of the child were met in a continuum of provision, but the needs of the child to be part of their community and local school were often ignored.

INCLUSION on the other hand, is about a child's right to belong to their local mainstream school, to be valued for who they are and be provided with all the support they need to thrive in the mainstream school. As mainstream schools are generally not organised in this way, it requires planned restructuring of the whole school. This should be seen as an extension of the school's equal opportunities practice and policy. It requires a commitment from the whole staff, governors, parents and children to include the full diversity of children in the neighbourhood. Inclusion is not a static state like integration. It is a continuing process of school ethos change. It is about building a school community that accepts and values difference.

Schools, in order to become inclusive, need to recognise that most of their past practice and thinking was based on a 'medical model of disability' which perceived the 'problem' as the impairments of the child and focused on how to make the child as normal as possible. The school that wishes to become inclusive needs to adopt a 'social model of disability' approach and needs to identify the barriers within the school's environment, teaching and learning strategies, attitudes, organisation and management that prevent the full participation of disabled children and are part of the social oppression of disabled people.
The best way of facilitating such whole school change is to hold whole-staff INSET run by disabled Disability Equality Trainers with recent experience of the education system. This should be followed up by a representative working group/monitoring group to work through the checklist below and regularly report back to all staff.

Pupils and school students need to be involved in this process through wholeclass discussion, assemblies and pupil councils. Parents of disabled children are often disempowered by professional interventions, which have threatened or broken their relationship with their disabled child. Parents for Inclusion are developing training to address this issue. The LEA, Social Services and Health Services need to provide the support and additional resources to the school to help overcome the barriers to inclusion.

The inclusion process is part of school improvement and developing more effective comprehensive schooling for all. Goals need to be built into the School Development Plan to be met over a 5 or l0-year time scale and their achievement needs monitoring.

Integration is a state

Inclusion is a process

Many inclusive schools have adopted four principles to guide them on their journey to inclusion.

  1. Disabled children and those with learning difficulties belong and have a right to the support they need in ordinary classes.
  2. All children with and without impairments benefit from inclusion, which is an important component of a quality education.
  3. All children have a right to an education that will prepare them for life in the community.
  4. The kind of teaching and learning which are good for inclusion are good for all children.


(Tends to emphasise) (Tends to emphasise) (Tends to emphasise)
Services to Disabled People Needs of Disabled People Rights of Disabled People
Categorising Disabled People Changing Disabled People Changing schools / colleges / organisations
'Special' / different treatment Equal treatment Equality - each receives support they need to thrive & achieve their potential
Disability is a problem to be fixed (in a special place) Disability is a problem to be fixed Everyone has gifts to bring
Services available in segregated setting Benefits to disabled person of being integrated Benefits to everyone, including all
Professional/experts Professional/experts Political struggle, friends & support
'Special' therapies Technique Power of ordinary experience
Categorisation & marginalisation Learning helplessness Assertiveness
Competition for parts of Disabled Person Technical Interventions Transforming power of relationship
Stress on inputs Stress on process Stress on outcomes; have a dream
Separate curriculum Curriculum delivery Curriculum content
Integration 'for some' is not desirable Integration can be delivered Inclusion must be struggled for