Developing a whole school approach to inclusion

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The concept of inclusion seems like a clear and straightforward construct; simply put, include everyone. As simple as it sounds, schools are finding it increasingly challenging to embed a consistent whole school approach to inclusion with increasing number of students with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms with a greater complexity of need.  The challenges presented raises these questions for educators:  

  • How do we best support these learners?  
  • How do we manage the increasing complexity of need? 
  • How do we ensure there is consistency across the school?  


The answers may lie in the school’s philosophy of inclusion.  


Inclusive practice  


The emergence and development of inclusion within schools has impacted the classroom we see today. Over the years policies and legislation has aimed to create a more inclusive education system, from the Warnock Report (1978) to the most recent SEND Code of Practice (2015). Furthermore, the recent SEND green paper appears to aim to further develop the constructs around inclusion with a focus on accountability and universal streamlining of processes.   


Inclusion is a concept that has no formulaic construct or universally adopted model; its diverse application and interpretation have impacted how it is implemented within schools (Liasidou, 2012). Its definition has not only been shaped by the agenda of those making the policies but also by the cultural and social constructs of the time.  

Inclusion within education is a constantly evolving concept, with more recent policies aiming to ensure that a holistic approach is taken to inclusive practice, where a student’s right to learn is not discriminated against based on factors such as a disability, special needs, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.  


However, while polices and legislation place an imperative on schools to consider the issues of inclusion, how can school leaders realise the vision of a truly inclusive school?  


The principles of a whole school approach to inclusion  


To ensure that inclusion is truly at the heart of its ethos, a school must have a philosophy for inclusion. Every member of the school community must truly believe in what they are aiming to achieve and consistently strive to embed their vision for inclusion into their practice.  Inclusion must be a core element of the school’s priorities and development plan.  


School’s need to consider the following levels of inclusion: 


Community: Developing social inclusion within your setting by ensuring that your school creates a community where all students feel a sense of belonging.  


Connection: Developing emotional inclusion within your setting by ensuring that your school embeds emotional literacy into its practice. 


Contribution: Developing intellectual inclusion within your setting by ensuring that learning is accessible for all students.  


Contemplation: Developing spiritual inclusion within your setting by creating a climate that is safe, tolerant, and accepting.  


Comprehensive: Developing a whole school approach that considers the ‘whole child’ and is receptive to their emotional, physiological, and cognitive needs.  



Hannah Hamid 

Senior Inclusion Adviser 




  • Department for Education (2015). Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 20/10/22] 
  • Department for Education and Science (1978) Special Education and Needs: Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People (The Warnock Report). London: HMSO 
  • Liasidou, A. (2012) Inclusive Education, Politics and Policymaking. New York: Continuum. 

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