The Development of Inclusive Schools and Communities

Submitting Institution

Canterbury Christ Church University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology

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Summary of the impact

This case study refers to a coherent and interlinked body of research, focusing on the development of inclusive and equitable schools and wider communities. The research has had impact of significance and reach, both in the UK and internationally, and this has taken two main forms. Firstly, through raising awareness and changing attitudes, the research has helped to change professional practice and improve inclusive provision in schools and communities in a range of countries. Secondly, the research has had impact on policy debates and development, nationally and internationally.

Underpinning research

The research which underpins this case study is a body of coherent and interlinked work by a group of researchers that examined:

  • the multiple barriers to participation and learning experienced by students with diverse educational needs;
  • the practices that contribute to overcoming these barriers;
  • to what extent such practices facilitate widening participation and social inclusion, improved learning outcomes and equitable school communities.

a) Professor Tony Booth (CCCU, 1999-2010), with Ainscow and Dyson from Manchester University, conducted the project, Understanding and Developing Inclusive Practices in Schools (2000-3), in the first phase of the ESRC's influential Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP). Research teams from three universities worked with 24 schools and three local authorities (LAs) to explore ways of developing more inclusive practices and increasing the participation and achievement of marginalised learners. This led to a change in the conceptualising of inclusion, more inclusive policy and practice and higher attainment (Booth, Ainscow & Dyson, 2006). Building on the findings of the research, the Index for Inclusion (hereafter the Index, Booth and Ainscow, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011) was developed and expanded as a research and development tool.

b) The Strategic Alternatives to Exclusion from School project (2006-2008), led by Professor Carl Parsons (employed CCCU, 1989-2010, CCCU Emeritus 2010-12, employed CCCU 2013 — present), complemented the TLRP project by setting out to explore whether permanent or fixed-term exclusions from school communities could be reduced. Working with three low-excluding and then five high-excluding LAs, this work demonstrated the influence that LAs have over school exclusion rates. The collaborative action research highlighted that, in order to reduce school exclusions and promote the development of equitable school communities, schools needed to collaborate with each other, families and service providers. It also led to greater monitoring of school exclusions (Parsons, 2009) and the development of strategic responses to challenging behaviour.

c) A series of research projects, led by Dr Ruth Rogers (Principal Research Fellow CCCU 2001-present), were closely linked to the development of inclusive communities, by exploring barriers to participation and social inclusion of young people on the margins. These included the experiences of looked after children in Kent and Medway, Transition into Further Education (2009-10), and their transition out of state care (Rogers, 2011); and the Greater London Authority research project, Near Peer Mentoring for Looked after Children (2011-2012), which investigated a mentoring programme in five London boroughs.

d) Internationally, the Lao PDR Inclusive Education project (1993-2009), on which Dr Peter Grimes (Principal Lecturer CCCU 2004-present) was a researcher and lead evaluator (2005-9), aimed to support the participation of all children in school, with a specific focus on disabled students, and to develop inclusive practices in 539 schools across the country (Grimes et al., 2011). The Equity in Inclusive Education project (2010-2013), led by Professor Petra Engelbrecht (CCCU 2010-present), focused on developing teachers' practices to widen participation and inclusion in Finland and South Africa, and the exploration of equity in southern African schools, within a cultural-historical framework (Engelbrecht et al., 2013).

References to the research

Booth, T., Ainscow, M. and Dyson A. (2006) Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion. London: Routledge. RA2, 2008, CCCU.

Engelbrecht, P., Savolainen, H., Nel, M. & Malinen, O. (2013) How cultural histories shape South African and Finnish teachers' attitudes towards inclusive education: a comparative analysis. European Journal of Special Needs Education


Grimes, P., Sayarath, K. and Outhaithany, S. (2011) The Lao PDR inclusive education project 1993-2009: reflections on a twin-track approach to the inclusion of disabled students. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15 (10), 1135-1152. REF2, CCCU.


Parsons, C. (2009) Strategic Alternatives to Exclusion from School. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books. ISBN 978185864647. REF2, CCCU.

Rogers, R. (2011) "I remember thinking, why isn't there someone to help me? Why isn't there someone who can help me make sense of what I'm going through": `Instant adulthood' and the transition of young people out of state care. Journal of Sociology, 47(4), 411-426. REF2, CCCU.


Booth et al.'s research led to the research and development tool:

Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011) The Index for Inclusion: Developing Learning and Participation in Schools. Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE).

Quality of the research

All cited outputs involved a rigorous peer-review process. Journal articles were published in highly rated academic journals and cited widely in scholarly publications and other sources (eg Index for Inclusion-related research has been cited more than 2,000 times on Google scholar. The reputation of this body of research on inclusion has resulted in numerous invitations for the group of researchers to present keynote addresses and papers at high-profile international conferences and seminars (eg AERA, BERA, World Down Syndrome Congress).

Funding awards

a) Understanding and Developing Inclusive Practice in Schools (2000-2003). ESRC: £466,786.63. Grant reference: L139251001. Final report, Ainscow, M. (2005).

b) Promoting Strategic Alternatives to Exclusions from School (2006-2008). Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: £80,000, + £40,000 from 5 LAs. Final report, Parsons, C. (2009).

c) Near Peer Mentoring for Looked after Children (2011-2012). Greater London Authority: £18,000. Final report, Rogers, R. and Apps, J. (2013).

d) Transition into Further Education in Kent and Medway: The Care Leaver Experience (2009-2010). Aimhigher Kent and Medway: £20,000. Final Report, Rogers, R. (2010).

e) A Quality Education for All: the Lao PDR Inclusive Education Project (2005-2009). Save the Children Norway and SIDA: £60,000. Final report, Grimes, P. (2009).

f) Equity in Inclusive Education: implications for teacher education for inclusion (2010-2012). National Research Foundation, South Africa: £8,000. Final report, Engelbrecht, P. (2012).

Details of the impact

The impact of this body of research has had considerable reach, nationally and internationally, and made a significant difference to UK and global professional practice and policy.

Impact on practitioners and professional services

Parsons' Alternatives to Exclusion project has had substantial impact within the UK. Findings were shared at the national conference in 2009 for local authorities, education leaders, Children's Trust managers and headteachers, where the project LAs shared their strategies to reduce exclusions.

This led to four regional workshops held across England between 2010-11, attended by over 200 people from 40 LAs. The North Lincolnshire Fair Access Protocol for schools in 2011 demonstrates this impact and the research was cited on the Access4Education organisation website in 2011 (1).

Booth et al.'s TLRP research recommendations, disseminated via the Index, have had considerable reach and significance, nationally and internationally. In the UK, Norfolk County Council has given every school advisor in Norfolk's 450 schools the Index 2011 edition, underpinning staff training and peer supervision (2). The Index has been translated into forty languages and examples of its international reach include its use in: supporting school developments in Norway (Nes, 2009); guidelines for an inclusive education approach in Hungary (3); anti-discrimination workshops for teachers in Serbia, 2008; a self-assessment tool to reduce barriers to participation in over 350 schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2012 (4); inclusive developments in 30 German early childhood settings in Cologne and Bonn (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2010). The Index has been used in South Africa as a framework to change negative attitudes towards disabilities (South African Department of Education, 2008); and in Australia to address inclusive education reform in schools in 2012.

In Lao, the Inclusive Education project (Grimes) adapted the Index and developed a national initiative which has had substantial impact. The project report, A Quality Education for All (5), for Save the Children Norway (2009) has been translated into Lao Lhoum, the majority language, and a copy given to every school in the Lao PDR. The research changed the landscape of educational provision in Lao, enabling most children with disabilities to attend mainstream schools by 2009, and helped practitioners move away from authoritarian pedagogy to develop innovative active learning strategies (see also UNESCO, 2010; WHO, 2012).

Impact on public debate and policy

Invitations to the researchers to serve as government policy advisors and consultants on inclusion, as a result of the research, have been considerable.

Parsons' research has had significant impact on policy debate; for example, it was included in the Commons Select Committee session in 2010 (6). Parsons presented evidence at the House of Commons Education Committee in 2010 and at The Office of the Children's Commissioner School Exclusion Enquiry in 2011 and 2012 (7). He is also a member of the national enquiry panel of the Office of the Children's Commissioner into school exclusions (Children's Commissioner, 2013).

Significantly, findings from the Strategic Alternatives to Exclusion from School research contributed to the initiation of the Department for Education `exclusion trials' in 12 LAs across England, beginning in 2012. These changes provide a better deal for young people who would otherwise be either permanently excluded, or placed in poor quality alternative provision (DfE, 2012). Parsons' ongoing involvement with key policy makers and the media (eg most recently (8)) has influenced the use of the term `redundant' in relation to permanent exclusions.

Booth's research findings, via the Index, have influenced and shaped policy debates and policy development. In South Africa, the Index helped to shape the development of inclusive schools (reported in Engelbrecht, 2011, REF2), a policy framework for the screening and assessment of children experiencing barriers to learning, and government guidelines for inclusive schools (9). Evidence of the ways in which the research has promoted equality and challenged traditional assumptions is found in: European policy analyses (eg EASPD, 2012) (10) and reviews of teacher education for inclusion (e. EADSNE, 2012); publications by NGOs (eg Save the Children, UK, 2008; Global Campaign for Education, 2012); as well as UNESCO publications (eg UNESCO, 2009).

Grimes is disability education advisor on the advisory panel to the European Equality Data Initiative set up by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Brussels (2013), and was asked to speak at the recent Symposium on Equality Data Collection hosted by OSF and European Network Against Racism (ENAR). The Lao Inclusive Education project (on which Grimes was researcher and lead evaluator) fed directly into the Lao PDR Inclusive Education policy and National Strategy, which paved the way for the reform of education in Lao. According to the Minister of Education in Lao in 2009 (5), this strategy has been a significant step towards fulfilling the obligations of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and has supported Lao PDR to work towards achieving its Education for All targets.

Rogers' work led to an invitation to sit on the Young Care Leavers' Strategy Group and to meet the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in May 2013. Her research has had impact in Australia and South Africa, being cited by social justice NGOs The Brotherhood of St Laurence ( and the South African charity Girls and Boys Town (

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Access 4 Education (2011) `School exclusions are redundant in England'
  2. Norfolk County Council (2013) School improvement for all in Norfolk,
  3. European Centre for Development of Vocational Training (2013) Hungary: promoting social inclusion through VET has become a priority.
  4. OSCE (2012) OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina promotes quality education for every child.
  5. Save the Children Norway (2009) A Quality Education for All: A History of the Lao PDR Inclusive Education Project, 1993-2009. (Also translated into Lao Lhoum.)
  6. Commons Select Committee (2010) Behaviour and Discipline in Schools. htm
  7. Office of the Children's Commissioner (2012) "They never give up on you" Office of the Children's Commissioner: School Exclusions Inquiry, March 2012,
  8. Times Education Supplement (2013) `Waiting for a sea change', Times Education Supplement, 29th March 2013.
  9. Department of Education (S. Africa) (2010) Conceptual and operational guidelines for full service schools.
  10. EASPD (2012) `Analysis of the use and value of the Index for Inclusion and other instruments to assess and develop inclusive education practice in P2i partner countries'. Brussels/Tilburg, Fontys OSO. Analysis-Index-for-Inclusion-ENG.pdf