Mainstream Education

“One of the aims of inclusive education is to improve the learning outcomes for children with special educational needs who otherwise would be educated separately” (Florian et al, 2001 in Rose et al, 2001, p.134). Recent research findings recommend inclusive education in a mainstream setting for children with Down syndrome, accompanied by focused interventions, for optimal progress (Buckley, Bird & Sacks, 2006).

With regard to planning for the education of students with special needs in mainstream classes, “teachers must understand not only the content of the curriculum they are providing, but also the way in which different pupils learn and the variety of strategies they might use to deliver the curriculum to all their pupils” (Lorenz, 2002, p.43)

The inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream classes does not ‘just happen’. It requires careful planning on the part of all concerned:

For the teacher of pupils with special educational needs, investigation of alternative teaching methodologies, exploration of adapted resources and reconfiguration of materials has become a feature of day to day classroom management. Decisions about what works in the classroom, with which pupils and using which approaches, have become part of everyday life for the teacher who is concerned to achieve success with pupils who face major challenges with learning
(Lingard, 2000 in Rose et al, 2001, p.166)

For schools to implement a successful programme of inclusion for children with special educational needs, it is necessary to be aware of the importance of, among other factors, striking a balance between ‘in-class’ and ‘out-of-class’ support, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that each child’s needs are addressed in an appropriate fashion. Having drawn on the results of various research studies, Westwood (2003, p.4) contends that as a very minimum, the following ingredients are required if students with special needs are to be successfully included in the regular classroom with appropriate access to the general curriculum:

    • strong leadership on the part of the school principal
    • development of a whole school policy supportive of inclusion
    • positive attitudes in staff, parents and children towards students with disabilities
    • commitment on the part of all staff to work collaboratively and to share expertise
    • development of mutual support networks among staff
    • regular assistance from paraprofessionals (classroom aides, SNAs)
    • effective links with outside agencies and services
    • adequate resourcing in terms of materials and personnel
    • regular training and professional development for staff
    • close liaison with parents
    • where possible, parental involvement in a child’s educational programme
    • adaptation of curriculum and teaching methods (differentiation)