This report considers recent research evidence related to inclusive education, and equality of opportunity, in relation to social class and how it affects children aged 7 years and below within the English educational system. A definition of inclusive education relevant to early educational practice will be offered. A literature review will be undertaken, that will principally examine the size of the social class differences amongst young children, and will go on to consider a case study of inclusive practice that was implemented at one English primary school.
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Recommendations for future research are made.
Since the publication of the Plowden Report in 1967, it has been apparent that social class has a profound effect on the educational achievement of primary school children. In the past two decades, there have been a number of specific legislative changes that have altered the shape of primary school education. With the Education Reform Act(1988), schools have been required to undertake standardised testing of7 year old children in English, Mathematics and Science subjects.
Furthermore, schools have been required to publish controversial ‘league tables’ of performance, alongside national averages, in their school prospectus publications. There have been several policies introduced to reduce the effects of deprivation on young children including Sure Start, and a planned widening of availability of nursery education all in the name of ‘inclusive education’ (Barnes, Belsky,Broomfield, Dave et al, 2004, p 46-9). Indeed, Geertz (2001) has argued that New Labour policy makers strive to “make all families like middle-class families, or at least the ideal-typical middle class family of much educational research” (p 7).
However, there is surprisingly little empirical research evidence available on inclusive education, or equality of opportunity in early educational settings, with most studies focussing on secondary school children. This is also regrettable since Sammons and Sees (1998) have clearly shown that at the age of seven, prior attainment accounts for 26-43% of variance in national assessment results (p 389 – 407).
Therefore, early teaching support of children with special educational needs, or affected by poverty or difficult personal circumstances would appear to be of immense importance to prevent children who start school behind their peers from falling further behind as their school careers progress. This report will critically assess available empirical studies related to the education of children aged 7 years and below within the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it will examine theoretical and philosophical perspectives on early inclusive education, and make recommendations for further research.
The search strategy employed for the literature review involved searching electronic bibliographical databases for relevant research and policy papers related to the topic of inclusive education,
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