Discuss the differences between ‘integration’ and ‘inclusion’. What does the ‘Salamanca statement’ mean when it talks about a ‘welcoming school’ in context of inclusion?
The educational setting for primary school years is a context in which contemporary debate over matters of inclusion and integration finds its focus. Such debate is significant for future generations, in that schools continue to be societal microcosms, as well as transmitters of social values from one generation to the next. Within Ireland’s educational setting, the topical notion of inclusion not only refers to tolerance of difference, but encouragement of meaningful interaction between and among groups noted by difference of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and members of the traveller community. [INTO, Armstrong et al 2004:2, 8]
To reiterate, inclusion is not merely about eradicating prejudice, but about building vibrant educational communities which incorporate the value of each individual and the particular cultural and socio-economic backgrounds pupils express. Such a noble ideal is warranted as it is consistent with the global trend towards fostering more inclusive societies, and in the case of Irish primary schools, an imperative, since in these schools, teachers “work with the largest class sizes in Europe and we have the lowest per capita investment.” [Armstrong et al 2004:8] In a simple sense, the principle of inclusion “reflects the importance of matching the diversity of the local population, both transient and permanent, in the pupil population of the school.” [INTO, Crowley 2004:12]
The measure of level of inclusivity in Irish primary schools can be seen in terms of demographic analysis of who proceeds to post-primary educational settings and with what academic success rates. The reason comparative assessment is one viable measure of inclusivity, is that learning is the heart of the educational enterprise, and as such, while pupils may be accepted through multi-cultural admission policies and school public relations exercises, the student’s academic, pastoral and social experience in a given school community, will be reflected in how they progress through the educational challenged designed and offered to them. Tailoring educational experiences is as much about inclusion as intake policies and public relations is. Inclusive social ethos, as well as inclusive and broad ranging curriculum that discourages ethno-centrism and validation of a shared community life, is the needed school culture that will create truly inclusive schools.
The equally significant concept of integration is an out-working of inclusion, usually referring to the policy of having the presence of all pupils in the ordinary classroom, [INTO, Crowley 2004; 19] and even more fundamentally, having all types of children at ordinary schools. The background to integration involves ways schools and school districts have traditionally managed children with learning difficulties and disabilities. While anti-discrimination legislation has shunned educational discrimination against such children, a dearth of sufficient resources has meant in practical terms, children with learning difficulties and disabilities have not been integrated into ordinary classes, but have instead been marginalised and experienced school in a separate and parallel manner to mainstream pupils.
Emanating from a UNESCO & Ministry of Education and Science Proposal in 1994, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action noted the desirability for European bodies to update its 1990’s concept of integration, which sought to give disabled students access to mainstream schooling, to a more enlightened and thorough-going concept of integration, captured succinctly by the simple phrase ‘education for all.’ [D’Alessio 2004 in INTO, Armstrong et al 2004:28] The Salamanca Statement underscores the right of every child to receive education, have their unique qualities and abilities acknowledged, be positioned within an education system whose curriculum can accommodate this diversity of needs and include those with special needs within regular schools. [UNESCO 1994: viii, ix] Moreover, this forward looking statement recognized that regular schools pursuing an inclusive orientation stood the best chance of “combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building inclusive societies and achieving education for all.” [UNESCO 1994: ix] Importantly, the Salamanca Statement also urged governments to make budgetary and legislative priorities to ensure nations provide inclusive education. [UNESCO 1994: ix] Furthermore, it recognised the need for educators to be at the vanguard of thought concerning inclusive education, by “stimulating the academic community to strengthen research and networking and to establish regional centres of information and documentation.” [UNESCO 1994: xi]
Embedded within the Salamanca Statement is the paradigm for the welcoming school, which, among other qualities, “encourages and facilitates the participation of parents, communities and organisation of persons with disabilities in the planning and decision-making processes concerning provision for special educational needs.” [UNESCO 1994: ix] Such a starting point for developing school culture is of paramount importance in the quest to build the inclusive school. All relevant stakeholders must be involved in the formulation of the school culture and students themselves must imbibe the spirit of the welcoming school, in order for the diversity of peers to feel the sense of inclusiveness. In actuality, the test is whether all students feel they belong to the particular school community and have inculcated a sense of ownership, so that they feel their school community is their family to protect.
This acknowledgement of the need for a whole school approach to achieve education for all, notes that schools can be a series of interlocking communities, which service multiple needs of a diverse demographic. The proceedings of the joint conference of the Irish National Teachers Organisation and the Equality Authority in 2004, concentrated on the essential components of how to build inclusive schools, starting with a description of the welcoming and friendly school. Amongst the foundational principles identified, is the notion of the child centred educational process, by which is meant not child devised, but due consideration given to the educational and social needs and interests of the child in each policy and curriculum decision made. Furthermore, the ownership of fostering inclusive education must be shared by school principals, teaching staff, parents, school governance, and ultimately the students themselves.
One practical dimension to creating the welcoming school is the extent to which the physical environment and resources of the school exclude or include every student. Students with physical disabilities are the most overtly affected sub-group in this respect, when school principals may need to reconfigure teaching spaces, student access on school campuses and relative user-friendliness of items such as pathways, stairs, rails, bathrooms, lockers and door handles. If remodelling is needed, the budget resource allocation may require additional Federal funding, to enable the physicality of a school community to not be one of the impediments to inclusion. [INTO 2004:29] When parents make requests for special provisions either for specific disabilities to be aided or for bilingualism to be supported, (as two of the most common expressions of diversity), school principals and their budgetary committees must be sympathetic and supportive. Additionally, staff training must invest in maintaining an up to date body of knowledge regarding best practice for promoting inclusiveness in schools. This can mean becoming cogniscent of strategies to involve parents actively in the pedagogical process, being confident through training on how to use student and family background as a pedagogical strength, and knowing how to individualise teaching programs so that students, where appropriate, have up to date individual learning programs, which inform how children are educated.
There is a salutary point that inclusion can in the name of political expediency, sometimes be used as a coverall term, belying its actual intention to bring real education to all. Armstrong and Barton in Green (2006:26), note that the closure of special needs schools in the name of inclusive education may be a matter of economic convenience, lacking the follow through to ensure the transitional arrangement for students impacted by such moves, receive improved educational access and experiences. A long term study over 10 years, found within mainstream schools, children with poor oral communication skills, received limited support and were disenfranchised by traditional unmodified curriculum. [Green 2006:26-7]
The acid test of inclusion, as noted above remains the extent to which all children feel a sense of belonging to their school community and a sense of relative ownership, even in the tender primary school age years. In the extensive surveys of 750,000 school age students in Scotland over 3 years, “friendship and feeling included are essential. Without these, children and young people think it is impossible for a school to be genuinely accessible.” [Children in Scotland 2007:4] Clearly, while academic progress is one key marker of the success of inclusion so is the healthy social connection children establish with their school. For further progress to be made in achieving genuine inclusion in education, “support packages need to take into account social times as well as teaching times to be truly effective.” [Children in Scotland 2007:4] In the process of catering for the needs of children with disabilities and other more overt expressions of diversity, some commentators decry government recommendations to spend more money investigating the status of special schooling, and instead direct funds to equipping mainstream schools with further adequate resources to better service diversity in education. [Barton 2005:6-7]
One delicate balance for integration as a sub-set of inclusion is that while the goal of equality of opportunity and access to education services and resources is being ardently pursued, the prospect that some students, regardless of their demographic of physical makeup, will excel at different levels. In other words, the goal of equity must not inadvertently end up delivering a uniformity of mediocrity of attainment. In the ideal situation, “inclusive education is not an end in itself but a means to an end. It is about contributing to the realisation of an inclusive society.” [Barton 2003:13]
Barton, L. (2003) Inclusive education and teacher education: A basis for hope or a discourse of delusion, available at
Barton, L. (2005) Special Educational Needs: an alternative look. (A Response to Warnock M. 2005: Special |Educational Needs – A New Look), available from
Children in Scotland (2007) Access All Areas, What Children and Young People Think About Accessibility, Inclusion and Additional Support at School http://www.childreninscotland.org.uk/docs/pubs/access_all_areas_v4.pd
Green, H. (Ed.) 2006, Small is Beautiful, Warm and Toasty, The School of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, The Magazine of the Institute of Education: University of London, Issue 4, Winter 2006, available at
INTO 2004 The Inclusive School, Proceedings of the Joint Conference of the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation and the Equality Authority, available at
UNESCO (1994) The Salamanca Statement and Framework For Action on Special Needs Education