Newsletter Four

Newsletter 21, spring 2003

This edition of the Network Newsletter looks at the question 'can inclusive schools be effective in raising attainment?', the theme of the Ethos Network's eighth annual conference. We also look at inclusion in Albania, and at intercultural mediation in Italy. We highlight recent Ethos Network and Anti-Bullying Network resources, and the 'Positive Play Programme' video and booklet from Derbyshire. This newsletter is edited by Kate Betney and produced by Anne Clifford.
Can inclusive schools be effective in raising attainment?

"We must set aside the possibility of simple answers, and emphasise the complexity of the interplay between inclusion and achievement but also the semantic confusion around the term ‘inclusion’. There are four levels or aspects of inclusion; i) increasing the presence and decreasing the exclusion of potentially marginalised pupils including those with special educational needs of various kinds, ii) increasing social, curricular and learning participation, iii) increasing achievement and iv) enhancing life chances.

The balance of perceived advantages and disadvantages of inclusion in anecdotal evidence from teachers is about equal. The key positive factor seems to lie in favourable teacher attitudes towards inclusion. Exploring perspectives on ‘difference’ in learners, we find that the most helpful of these is that, ‘equity is the way to excellence’ - that by raising the quality of what is done in schools for exceptional or ‘different’ children, the overall quality of education for all pupils is also raised.

Research evidence suggests that there is some (not overwhelming) learning and social gain in inclusive schooling for pupils with SEN and that other pupils in these schools tend to do well. Good quality research had shown that, modes of communication aside, ‘different’ children do not require significantly different teaching, they respond to intensive high quality ‘ordinary’ teaching. Given the enormity of separating children from their peers and the clear evidence that youngsters who are excluded for disciplinary reasons do very badly thereafter and have impoverished life chances, the balance of evidence seems to be in favour of inclusive schools.

I do have some provisos. It seems that inclusive schools do best when their population broadly represents that of the general population and does not have disproportionate numbers of pupils requiring intensive support. This holds problems for schools in areas of greater disadvantage.

However, my current research in some English schools and my awareness of developments in Scotland, suggest that well-led, thoughtful schools with good staff relationships, enhancing school ethos, and identifying imaginative routes to engage and motivate pupils, are definitely heading in the right direction. Overall, I believe that in such schools the twin aims of being more inclusive and of raising pupil achievement are not incompatible.”

Adapted from Alan Dyson’s keynote conference address. Alan is Professor of Special Needs Education and Co-director of the Special Needs Research Centre at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


Alan Dyson

Alan D. Dyson
Professor of Special Needs in Education
University of Newcastle

Email :
Telephone : 0191 222 6943
Joseph Cowen House
School of ECLS
University of Newcastle
St Thomas' Street
Newcastle upon Tyne

Alan Dyson taught for 13 years in urban secondary and special schools. He joined the University in 1988, organising in-service activities regionally and nationally and developing the research profile of the School in special needs education. He has been co-director of the Special Needs Research Centre since its inception, was until recently Director for Research in the School and is a member of the University Research Committee. At national level, he is a member of the National Education Research Forum and has been a member of the National Advisory Group on Special Educational Needs throughout its lifetime. He is regularly invited to give keynote presentations and to work with policy bodies internationally.

Click to visit the university site.


The Scottish Schools Ethos Network held its eighth and largest yet annual conference on April 3rd in Dundee. Participant evaluations gave enthusiastic accolades to the speakers and displays, and to the signing choir of deaf and hearing youngsters from Powrie Primary School, Dundee and the percussion band and choir of Hazelwood School, Aberdeen. The photograph shows the signing choir from Powrie Primary School.


New staff member

Kate BetneyKate Betney joins both the Ethos Network and the Anti-Bullying Network as Networks Development Officer. Most recently Kate was Policy and Development Officer for the Scottish Parenting Forum, part of Children in Scotland. She has a post-graduate Certificate in Community Education. In a varied career she has been a Community Education Worker and a voluntary playscheme organiser.


Click for the next page!