Equality and diversity and ways to promote inclusion with your learners

As educators it is all too easy to concentrate on our best and most promising students, as it is often easier to teach people with a natural aptitude for the subject. But, by doing this we unknowingly infringe other student’s human rights, by ignoring a student with a learning difficulty, you are not only turning your back on equality and diversity, but you’re also ignoring ‘inclusion’ in the classroom.

As per the Human Rights Act of 1998, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone for age, race, religion, disability or sex, further more; many of these have their own individual specific acts in place such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. (OPSI 2010) All students must be treated equally regardless of their individual needs or abilities, and as teachers, there must be an understanding and appreciation of students indvidual differences, each learner will have there own unique abilities.

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In 2001 the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act was created ensuring that any and all educational establishments made reasonable adjustments in order to facilitate learning for anyone with a physical, mental or learning disability; these can not only include changes to practice and additional further support such as a specialist teacher or LSA (Learning support Assistant), but also to equipment and the actual learning environment. (Directgov 2010) As we discussed earlier, it is important to always include all students in all lessons, regardless of their special or specific needs.

By ensuring that your lessons take in to account the whole classes learning ability across the board, no student should feel excluded due to their own individual learning ability; if a student has a special need due to a specific learning difficulty such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia or Autism then measures should be taken to facilitate learning for these individuals at the same level and ability as the remainder of the class, this can sometimes take the shape of an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

In certain circumstances special funding may be required for a student with a disability if they have to attend another institute to help with their learning, in such cases funding is available from the Learning and Skills Council. (Directgov 2010) Whilst as a teacher, you will need to make ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ for students with disabilities, it must not be at the cost of the remainder of the class as this can be misconstrued as ‘Positive discrimination’.

Positive discrimination can come in many forms, but in definition it refers to the preferential treatment of members of a one group over another, and it is generally unlawful. There are however, lawful exceptions in training and education when more time must be given to an individual, or further help due to their specific needs. (EDS 2010) Petty (1998), states that as a teacher we must be aware of favouritism, or forming assumptions of learners without actual prior assessments.

A ‘Teachers Pet’ will always be viewed as Positive Discrimination; our personal likes, dislikes, prejudices and stereotyping in an ideal world wouldn’t make any difference to our students learning, but without careful monitoring it is an easy trap to fall in to. Students should feel that they are all equally valued and recognized for their abilities and their efforts are assessed without bias.