In 1993, the Special Education Review Committee (SERC) Report addressed the issue of how best pupils with special educational needs were to be educated.
A central component of the SERC Report relates to the issue of educational placement i.e. what type of educational setting best serves pupils with special educational needs? These needs, among others, range from sensory impairments to autistic spectrum disorders to general learning disabilities.
Outlined in seven principles, the SERC Report championed the ideal of inclusion i.e. including pupils with special educational needs, whenever possible, in mainstream primary and post-primary schools.
In the intervening 20 years, in addition to influencing the formulation of policy, the SERC Report has also informed the framing of legislation and helped inform SEN-related decision making generally, not least in relation to investment.
As a consequence, there has been a considerable increase in the number of resource teachers and learning-support teachers, who address the needs of pupils with special educational needs, working in mainstream primary and post-primary schools.
Considerable investment has also been directed towards the provision of care staff in mainstream schools (Special Needs Assistants), in professional supports and in the professional development of teachers.
Aside from laudable principles enunciated in policy documents, inclusion also depends on the ‘hearts and minds’ of people.
Twenty years on from the publication of the SERC Report, it is opportune to ask, ‘How are we doing?’ in relation to inclusive education.
How committed are people generally, including members of the educational community, to the ideal of educational inclusion?
Has the dilemmatic nature of inclusion been adequately addressed?
These and other questions, relevant to the Inclusive Agenda, will be addressed at a Conference in the Boole Lecture Theatres, UCC, on Saturday 2nd March 2013.