All Different, All Together, All Involved, All Successful

What is “Inclusion”?

“Inclusion” – a current buzz word. In education, raising achievement and promoting inclusion are the two principal goals emphasised by government. Yet there are many different interpretations and understandings.

For decades, parents and educationalists have talked about the pros and cons of “integrating” children with special needs in mainstream schools. Recent international legislation now specifies this as the normal or default expectation. However, children can be physically located in a mainstream school without being truly integrated into the life of the school.

Educationalists then re-conceptualised Inclusion as requiring effective functional access to the mainstream curriculum for all pupils (students). This demands great efforts from teachers to differentiate (individualise) the curriculum for pupils of very different abilities and starting points. This was coupled with the idea of social and emotional inclusion in the school l community – pupils with special needs had to feel and be treated as if they belonged.

As if this was not difficult enough, the concept of Inclusion continued to expand, linking to the wider notion of Social Inclusion throughout society. Not only were children to be educationally included, but also their parents and other family and community members. Both children and adults had to be offered opportunities to effectively access learning, and to do this successfully and actually achieve. Learning in school was increasingly seen as only one possible venue and source for learning, as many different forms and formats of learning became available. The expansion of online sources and the rediscovery of the concept of “full service” and “community” schools led to the notion of the “virtual school” serving the whole community..

A large agenda. More simply, Inclusion is about valuing diversity and overcoming barriers.

Case studies

Billesley Primary

Project Coordinators: Jan Millington (HT), Sharon Knight (DHT)

PL method: Same-age peer tutored Paired Writing

Initial Objectives:

  • Raise writing standards
  • Especially within Year 5: historical topics: myths & legends
  • Using drama to stimulate
  • Year 5 to create co-composed books for audience Year 3 pupils.
  • Skill up the school staff and pupils in Paired Learning generally

Dame Ellen Pinsent

School Web Site:

Project Coordinator: Sylvia Rodger (HT)

This special school for children with moderate and severe learning difficulties is initially seeking to develop within-class peer tutored Paired Writing


  • Raise writing standards
  • Especially in creative/expressive writing (social-emotional agenda)
  • Especially in the lower end of the school (year 4 down)
  • Increase variety of writing
  • Increase vocabulary in and through writing
  • Develop cooperative (social, PSE) skills (esp. w. autistic spectrum & EAL pupils)
  • Develop skills to facilitate mainstream school placement
  • Skill up the school staff and pupils in Paired Learning generally

Fox Hollies and Queensbridge

Project Coordinator: Paul Roberts (DHT)

This project involves a special school for secondary children (Fox Hollies) with severe learning difficulty co-located on the site of a mainstream secondary school (Queensbridge). Some cross-school peer assisted learning occurred before co-location. This is expected to expand greatly in the future.

A joint in-service training day was held with the theme: “Everyone has something to give”.

The aims were:

  • Staff from each school to have an understanding of the variety of forms of peer assisted learning and to agree some common principles on how to apply it.
  • Staff to become aware of the range of peer assisted learning already occurring within and between the schools.
  • Every member of staff to begin to plan the further development of peer assisted learning within and/or between the schools in at least one of four strategic areas. 

Highters Heath Nursery

Project Coordinator: Sue Andrew (HT)

PL method: Parent tutored language and emergent reading


  • Improve quantity and quality of pupil receptive and expressive language
  • Improve quantity and quality of pupil emergent reading skills
  • Improve socio-emotional quality of communication and interactions between parent and child
  • Particularly young single disadvantaged parents. 


Routledge Falmer have published a book on Inclusive Education edited by Keith Topping and Shelagh Maloney

This book addresses that sub-set of the social inclusion agenda that is within educational contexts, including early years’ provision, primary and secondary education, further and higher education, and community education. It addresses inclusion issues arising from special educational needs and disability, but goes far beyond that to consider those arising from social class, socio-economic disadvantage, race, gender, and other factors. One practical reason for this wide scope is that these factors often interact, and consideration of only one factor in isolation can lead to faulty conclusions. The text integrates and bridges theorising and empirical research with accessible and clear evidence-based practice and policy guidance for workers in all educational contexts at all systemic levels.

Inclusive Education book information and ordering

Birmingham LEA has published a video pack titled “Learning from Each Other: Peer and Parent Assisted Learning”.

The booklet includes detailed reports from a range of Primary and Nursery schools outlining how they planned and developed their projects. There is also a useful planning proforma, evaluation guidelines and a comprehensive list of resources and website links. The accompanying DVD demonstrates a range of projects detailed in the booklet and includes theoretical background and research evidence from Professor Keith Topping. This is a useful resource to raise awareness and inform staff and parent training meetings. Further details:

Learning from Each Other information, costs and ordering

For the rest of the inclusion resources

Paired Learning

What is Paired Learning?

Paired Learning is a generic term for a group of carefully designed and well evaluated methods for use by peer, parent and volunteer tutors. These structured methods are usually deployed in the one-to-one setting (i.e. in pairs) rather than in groups, hence the name.

Different methods focus on core skills in areas such as language, reading, spelling, writing, mathematics and problem-solving, thinking skills, science and information technology. In addition to work in schools, the general design principles are also applied to family literacy and community education, and systems for peer tutoring in complex concepts and skills in university, professional and commercial settings.

Goals for Paired Learning methods always include:

  • High Effectiveness
  • High Cost-effectiveness
  • Ease of Replication
  • High Organisational Durability

Where does Paired Learning fit into Inclusive Practice?

Paired Learning methods involve the community in helping itself. The methods are structured and carefully designed to maximise success. They are evidence-based, and have been shown to be effective in a variety of contexts. They usually do not require significant extra resources.

Parents can be supported in helping their children, themselves achieving and growing in confidence and ability through this process. Families from all cultural and language backgrounds with all levels of capability in understanding, speaking and reading English can participate effectively in some way. Sometimes children can help brothers and sisters at home, or children help their parents or other family members. In the process, both parents and children learn something about effective parenting.

Peers who are the same age or older can act as tutors or other helpers for learners. These methods are carefully designed so that both the helper and the helped gain intellectually, socially and emotionally from their experiences. Tutoring is interactive and engaging – it fosters responsibility and gives the less energetic pupil nowhere to hide. Importantly, it offers a powerful means for differentiating the curriculum, crucial as the variety of ability in classes is constantly widening. Children with special educational needs often serve as tutors to younger children, thereby consolidating their own skills and boosting their self-confidence. Everyone has something to give.

Paired Learning methods are also very suitable for community volunteers wishing to give time to children and learning. These can include unemployed youth and parents (especially males), senior citizens, those involved with the justice system, and other helpers. Involvement can be in schools, after-school study centres, libraries, community centres, and so on.

While the standard evidence-based Paired Learning methods are widely applicable, the underpinning design principles can be used to create a framework for any kind of paired work in any subject or activity.

Where is it happening?

“Many local authorities (school districts) in the UK are strenuously developing their Inclusion policies, as has been the case in the US and elsewhere for some years. As ever, consistency of practice often lags somewhat behind aspirations.

Birmingham City local authority is worth watching. Birmingham is a very large multicultural city in the midlands of England – and is also the largest local authority in Europe. Birmingham’s Education Service has developed an Inclusion Consultancy and Inclusion Strategy.

The latter includes a Vision for 2020, which specifies peer tutoring as a central feature of the authority’s forward thrust for Inclusion, stating “peer tutoring will be a common feature of all learning experiences.”