A tide to lift all boats. What will it take to make inclusion possible?


As the waters subside, inconvenient truths surface. Following the devastating floods in northern Britain, evidence is emerging that inaction and underfunding on flood prevention contributed to the impact.

To many affected it seems incontestable that the absence of political will to prioritise investment in preventative measures in high-risk areas has been a prime cause of the damage we’ve seen over Christmas. What’s more, there’s every indication that the effects of climate change and a poor approach to managing uplands mean that severe flooding will become more frequent and, unless mitigated, be just as destructive.

‘Flood-Gate’ (as it should be known) has been an own goal for a Government priding itself on reducing both public spending and state interference. The effects of such ‘false economy thinking’ are now writ large across Yorkshire and elsewhere. The Environment Agency calculates it saves at least £8 in damage, loss and clean-up costs for every £1 spent on flood defence. To paraphrase Steve Richards in The Independent, no-one in Hebdon Bridge was bemoaning the ‘deadening hand of the State’ when they were salvaging sodden heirlooms from three feet of stagnant rainwater.

So what has the recent flooding got to do with inclusion?

The Twitter/blogosphere has been ablaze this weekend following a provocative blog by @iQuirky_Teacher on segregation and inclusion. @JulesDaulby‪ has rounded-up the best responses by SEND bloggers, but what’s missing from these excellent posts is a discussion of the very issues now at the heart of the flooding story.

Leaving aside the precise ‘version’ of inclusion to which we aspire, it strikes me that the only way we'll achieve system-wide change is via proper resourcing, matched by political will.

@AspieDeLaZouch‪ ‬has nailed how the prevailing obsessions of school accountability work against successful inclusion, while others have drawn attention to great inclusive practice. However, as with flood defence, a coherent and centralised response is surely fundamental to achieving meaningful improvement for everyone. Inclusion for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations is too BIG and too important an issue to be left mostly to piecemeal local responses, however effective.

@JarlathOBrien’s contribution gives the lie to why a coordinated national approach is so essential with his alarming stats on the social costs of exclusion (via @NancyGedge) and his recent TES article on the fragmented and variable approach to specialist provision, which can exacerbate the difficulties faced by many young people with complex SEND.

Successive governments have failed to commit to the widespread reform that could bring about a more inclusive education system and society. There’s no hiding the fact that achieving this will be challenging, expensive and will take time.

It requires ministers, at the behest of and in collaboration with educational professionals and families, to recognise that the moral and social imperative for change is not in opposition to, but entirely consistent with, economic aims.

It’s no coincidence either that a sustainable, inclusive system, in which all are valued and have opportunities to flourish, can only be achieved with commitment and action from every player at every level. 

Author Profile

Rob Webster

Rob Webster

Researcher/CPD lead at UCL IOE, London. Inclusion, SEND & teaching assistants. Views own

5 stories


Nancy Gedge Nancy Gedge @nancygedge 1 year ago
This is excellent Rob - and thank you for adding your words to the debate - and making me even more excited that you are coming to @NetworkEd2016 !
Beth B Beth B @beth 1 year ago
Totally agree with this. Many good things have come out of the SEN reforms, however leaving it to each LA to create forms and set own systems has fragmented even more what should be coherent across the country. We now have to deal with different systems when children cross LAs or live in a different LA to where they attend school. No joined up thinking at all.
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