Saturday, June 02, 2018

Take me to the river ...

As a vocal supporter of state education and an employee of the state to provide such a service, I feel that when it comes to opinions about where things are going right and where they’re going wrong, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. I don’t know everything but i like to think I’ve got more than a rudimentary grasp of the facts.

In schools at the moment, there is a lot of talk about the impact of inclusion whereby there’s is a presumption of mainstream and every child should be catered for in their nearest school unless there is a well documented reasons why not. As the parent of a child who will almost certainly require more support than many, I’m delighted as I think that she will benefit greatly from being in a mainstream environment and, let’s face it, the opposite of inclusion is exclusion and that doesn’t sound great.

There are children in our classes who battle daily with all manner of issues. Crappy home life, poverty, hunger and who make it into school each day. Old Mr Maslow would rightly point out that they’re not  going to be in the right mental space to learn but as spaces go, the structure, consistency and safety of a school classroom is hopefully better than the shitstorm of the rest of their life. They may not behave as the majority behave and they may have huge gaps in their learning but I strongly believe that a mainstream setting is what they need.

But I have an issue with the word, or indeed the perceived definition of the word ‘mainstream’.

I’ve seen mainstream defined as the middle ground between full inclusion and special schools which is about as broad a definition as you can give. To my mind, however, I feel that this mainstream has been made to be more like a canal than a river.

A canal is a solitary channel down which everything flows at the same speed. Calm, still waters carrying their load from one end to the other: a picture of Victorian ingenuity and industrial efficiency.

A river, on the other hand, meanders it’s way through the landscape, skirting obstacles, speeding up, slowing down and, more importantly splitting and braiding. The rushes and rapids, the pools and islands don’t stop the river being the river. They provide alternate routes to the same destination.

The state has a duty to its children’s to provide them with an education but that doesn’t mean a one size fits all solution. For some people, canals are blissful, serene, idyllic and rivers are unpredictable and wild but why do we all have to to travel by canal?

Could we not create mainstream solutions that contain the channels and islands of rivers?

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