The Inclusion Illusion: How Children with Special Educational Needs Experience Mainstream Schools

Robert Edward Webster

    Research output: Book/ReportBook


    Inclusion conjures images of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) learning in classes alongside peers in a mainstream school. For pupils in the UK with high-level SEND, who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (formerly a Statement), this implies an everyday educational experience similar to that of their typically-developing classmates. Yet in vital respects, they are worlds apart.

    Based on the UK’s largest observation study of pupils with high-level SEND, this book exposes how attendance at a mainstream school is no guarantee of receiving a mainstream education. Observations of nearly 1,500 lessons in English schools show that their everyday experience of school is characterised by separation and segregation. Furthermore, interviews with nearly 500 pupils, parents and school staff reveal the effect of this marginalisation on the quality of their education. The book argues that inclusion is an illusion. The way schools are organised and how classrooms are composed creates a form of ‘structural exclusion’ that preserves mainstream education for typically-developing pupils and justifies a diluted pedagogical offer for pupils with high-level SEND. Policymakers, not mainstream schools, are indicted over this state of affairs.

    This book prompts questions about what we think inclusion is and what it looks like. Ultimately, it suggests why a more authentic form of inclusion is needed, and how it might be achieved.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUCL Press
    ISBN (Electronic)9781787356993
    ISBN (Print)9781787357013, 9781787357006
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


    • inclusion
    • special educational needs
    • policy
    • marginalisation


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