Education and dialogues: models of inclusive policy in post-compulsory education

Published: 2019/12/09 Number of words: 3239


More recently inclusion and inclusive education policy have experienced a revival in the vocabulary of post-compulsory education. In the vocabulary inclusion and inclusivity have been used to describe a philosophical thought in which equality of access and participation in the entire range of mainstream education and training are sought for, hitherto, marginalised groups and individuals. They have also been used to characterise another set of philosophical thoughts in which education and training are conceived of as a part of national economic policy and inclusion is viewed as a component ingredient of national economic competitiveness. Moreover, the meanings of inclusion and inclusive education have also been used in relation to the management of cultural diversity and cultural disengagement. Cultural disengagement is articulated as a critique of recent policy directions and of the implications of these directions for cultural diversity. Here inclusion and inclusive education are seen a process through which disengaged cultures are reintegrated into society. Accordingly, the objective of this essay is to describe some of the models of inclusive policy discourses in the UK.

The social policy model: education as a social policy

The 1944 Education Act provided for Adult Education. The Act invested Local Education Authorities with statutory obligations aimed at securing ‘adequate provision for the further education of adults beyond the statutory initial education’. However, the Act was silent about what constituted adequate provision. Nor did the Act indicate the means and approaches to securing that adequacy. Consequently individual LEAs derived the interpretation of these statutory obligations. The impact of individual derivation of statutory obligations was that the nature, range, volume and quality of provision varied across LEAs.

Moreover, LEAs conceptualised adult education in terms of discretionary social and leisure services. Indeed, much of the curricular programmes made available were orientated towards social and leisure activities. Furthermore, and more importantly, who was included or excluded was independent of perceived educational needs. Rather, access was partly determined on the basis of normative gender role and the ability to benefit and partly discretionary, means tested and a function of the LEA area in which individuals happens to be domicile. Theses social policy intentions of the model were usurped in the White Paper; Education and Training for the 21st Century (DFE 1992: Vol. 1). Thus the model is the dominant influence on State educational policy formulation and the thoughts espoused in the White Paper came to underpin the utilitarian valuation of education as a commodity.

The humanist and equalitarian model: education as a social democratic agenda

In the late 1940s the issues of who was given access or denied access to further education and to specific curricular programmes came under scrutiny by a series of studies (see for example Barlow 1946), which cast doubts on the notion of innate ability, which is measurable by intelligence testing. The studies argued that innate ability was not a fixed quantity and that it was possible to improve intelligence test scores by tuition.

These studies directed attention to the fact that there were factors other than innate ability which determined whether or not individuals and groups progressed to further and higher education. The findings of the studies argued that innate ability theses were protectionist and that they exclude a large proportion of the population from participating in education beyond compulsory education stage. The studies concluded, firstly, that girls were less likely to progress to further and higher education because parents were less likely to make financial sacrifices to enable their daughters to continue education beyond the statutory age. Secondly, that people from poorer homes were less likely to stay on because of financial pressures. Thirdly, those individuals, particularly girls, were not given equal access to the entire range of curricular programmes because sixth form schools streamed girls into general curricular programmes and were less likely to offer girls access to science. Fourthly, the studies argued that the State should provide financial support to families to enable girls and students from poorer families to progress to further and higher education.

Although the government did not act on these findings, they nevertheless undermined the notion of fixed innate ability and introduced the issues of class and gender into the debates about access.

The issues of the social, economic and cultural backgrounds of participants in further education were moved forward in the 1970s when Clyne (1973) and Russell (1973) argued respectively that the nature and volume of provision were not coterminous with access and participation. They argued that the fact that adult education services have been made available does not mean that the services were equally accessible. The structures and the philosophies that underpin the provision of post-compulsory education, they argued, marginalised individuals and groups, particularly the working class, speakers of other languages, black people, the unemployed, disabled people and people with literacy problems. These groups, the Reports argued, were the groups who needed the services most.

Thus the model visualised access to and participation in further education in terms of equality and democracy in which inclusion was, on the one hand, part of a social democratic agenda and, on the other hand, part of a liberal – progressive and humanist agenda. The objectives of inclusion in post-compulsory education were to empower marginalised groups and equip them with the analytical capabilities to comprehend, interrogate and participate in the cultural and political life of the wider society. Here inclusive policy was part of a system of change for marginal groups and through them, the society.

The national economic competitiveness model: the demand for new curricular order

The humanistic stance of the equality model contributed to its own overthrow. For humanism engendered a focus on the Liberal Arts within the ranks of providers of further education. That focus provided the ammunition for the technocratic discourses which had its roots in the post-war reconstruction and subsequent human capital formation. Thus from the beginning of the post-war period education and national economic competitiveness have occupied the same space in national development plans. Reports issued from 1945 onwards, see for example, (Percy 1945; Barlow 1946; Robbins 1963), have stressed the need to expand educational provision. The reports not only saw education as a national asset, but also they argued that improved access was in the interest of national economic development and that social and economic barriers which prevents progression beyond the statutory age amounted to a wastage of the nation’s human resource.

While these earlier reports saw scientific, technological and technical education at post-compulsory level as a counterpart of national economic competitiveness, they did not seek to increase scientific, technological and technical education at the expense of broad based education. As the authors of the Barlow report argued:

“For we attach the greatest importance to the atmosphere of an association of men and women which takes all knowledge as its province and in which all branches of learning flourish in harmony…… In particular we would deprecate any attempt to meet the increased demand for scientists and technologists at the expense of other subjects…..or give preference to science students over arts students in such matters as military service”

(The Barlow Report: 11)

The critical discourses that led to the hegemony of technical education over broad based education and the shift from liberal – progressive model to predominantly economic model gathered momentum (Burt, C. 1969; Lynn, R. 1970) prior to and in the aftermath of Ruskin College (Callaghan 1976). The discourses peaked in the economic depression of the 1980s in a series of critical reports which contested education and, indeed, inclusive policy founded on progressive agendas. The reports, (Coopers and Lybrand 1985; DfE 1986) were in most part a reiteration of the issues that were raised in the Black Papers (see for example Cox C. B. and Dyson A.E 1969).

The reports focused attention on skills, the role of education in delivering these skills and the means and methods of securing these skills. Britain, the reports argued, was complacent in the face of chronic skills shortages. Britain’s workforce was less skilled and less flexible than those of its European competitors. Consequently Britain was increasingly unable to compete. Education and the Educational Establishment were to blame. Britain’s education and system of qualifications were haphazard and unclear; were not clear and readily understood by employers; were duplicated; and were collectively afflicted by gaps and overlaps.

Moreover the reports argued that Britain’s education system was producing unemployable people; was too preoccupied with knowledge based curriculum rather than the skills and competence required by employers; and that the educational system not only contained too many barriers to access, but also that it lacked clearly defined progression routes. If Britain is to meet the challenges posed by the marketplace, the reports concluded, it needs, first, to open the educational system to a competitive market. Second, it needs to combat skills shortage through a program of mass inclusion designed to persuade older people, black people and disabled people to participate in further education and hence the labour market. And third, Britain needed to establish national education achievement targets in terms of foundation learning for young people and lifelong learning for adults.

These reports were lent academic legitimacy in terms of technological, economic, demographic and cultural changes. In addition, change is articulated in terms in which adult education has been proposed as individual insurance against the hazards of life in a society that has been made risky by scientific advances (Cassels 1989; Murray 1989). According to these arguments technological advances, particularly IT, have led to globalisation. As a result international economies have become more competitive and national economies have come under threat. In order to meet the challenges of international competition British industries must become more efficient by shifting from a centralised Fordist bureaucracy to a flexible post-Fordist system of organisation. Post-Fordism, the arguments continued, would change the contents of jobs. It would render skills transient and would ultimately lead to a demand for multiskilled and flexible workforce, able to change jobs in accordance with the demand of the labour market. In addition, education and educational institutions must transform themselves into flexible post-Fordist organisations, able to respond to changes in the needs of the labour market. Britain, however, would be unable to bridge its skills gap because it faced demographic problems due to shortfalls in the cohort of young people entering the labour market. In order to close the demographic gap Britain needs to engage in a program of inclusion and lifelong learning designed to prepare older adults for the labour market.

Apart from the model’s hostility to the education professionals, which it accuses of mismanaging education, the model is not detrimental to inclusive policy. Indeed, the central thesis of the model was a demand for new curricular order which is directed at the needs of industry. That is to say, the model established a causal relationship between inclusion in specific curricular programs, skill acquisition and national economic competitiveness.

However, the model embeds a cultural shift in terms of the means and approaches to inclusion. In the former case the model is an appeal to a competitive education market through, on the one hand, the eradication of the academic – vocational divide. And, on the other hand, the model breaks down the monopoly of traditional providers to decide what constitutes education and qualification. In the latter case the model conceptualised education in terms of learning and individual utility consumption schedules. Accordingly individuals can demand and consume learning to suit lifestyles. Inclusion, then, becomes part of a consumer culture designed to create self-reliant and self-contained individuals, with a portfolio of skills attested by nationally accredited qualifications acquired through periodic and cyclical processes of self-inclusion.

The multiculturalism and cultural disengagement model: education as a cultural palliative

A deliberate policy of inclusion raises a number of problems for cultural pluralism and multiculturalism. For a start, a national policy aimed at constructing an inclusive education in a pluralist context suggests an opposite national occurrence: exclusion. Thus the first fundamental problem involves the nature of the relationship that exists between the component cultures implicit in cultural pluralism. That is, does pluralism attach equal weights and valuations to the cultural elements embedded in each of its constituent cultural parts? If it does not, which of the cultural components is hegemonic?

Given that education is more or less instrumental towards the transmission of cultural repertoires in order to enable members of a consanguineous population to survive and thrive. It follows that education must transmit and reinforce the cultural repertoires that have been culturally defined as imperatives to consanguinity. Therefore, the second fundamental problem relates to what pluralist education transmits. In other words, whose language, values, knowledge and beliefs are been transmitted and into which groups and individuals are to be included?

There have been attempts to unravel these problems. The attempts have sought to explain the relationships between the constituent cultures in pluralist Britain as one in which the largest and more powerful indigenous culture predominates, sets the rules of acculturation and use coercive incentive induce minority cultures to acculturate. It is argued that although state provision of education is presented as neutral, it is, in fact, the linguistic power, values and knowledge constructions of the dominant culture that are transmitted. The mechanisms of transmission are, first, the educational system and the learning contexts, which are claimed to reflect only the values of the dominant culture. Specific cultural groups are held to be averse to these contexts. Accordingly it is claimed that inclusion and participation would be ensured through modification of the learning contexts.

Secondly educational professionals, who are claimed to be members of the dominant culture, have erected barriers within and without the learning contexts. Cultural disengagement and non-participation are therefore a problem of the management of the learning contexts. Accordingly, inclusion and participation are ensured through curricular and institutional reorganisation. Third, the problem of cultural disengagement is perceived to have derived from the values and attitudes of the dominant culture and from the way the dominant culture has constructed certain cultural characteristics as the norm. Non-participation is, according to this perspective, a problem of inequality of opportunities. Participation would be ensured if policy and planning starts from an inclusive standpoint.

Alternative approaches to educational policy and policy-making?

The approaches to inclusion implied in the above discussions are, on the one hand, equalitarian, humanistic and modernistic. And on the other hand, they are value based, institutional and economic. Nevertheless, they have number factors in common. The first factor is the assumption that cultural disengagement and non-participation are self-imposed. This assumption enables policy makers to advance the argument that the disengaged cultures are to blame for their rejection of the dominant culture and that rejectionism is subversive to fundamental values and institutions, particularly educational values and institutions. The second factor is the assumption that the members of the disengaged cultures are essentially passive and homogeneous. Accordingly the policy solution is posited that were policies, plans, systemic and institutional arrangements to be reformed, then ergo inclusion becomes a reality. The implication of holding this assumption is that it suffers the reverse of the defects it is attempting to remedy, that is to say, it is a methodological flaw. Moreover, given that cultural conflicts underpin cultural disengagement, then it should follow that attention must focus, first, on how groups deploy cultural elements as an organising factor for the underlying ethnocentric identity. And, second, that attention should focus on how these cultural elements react with monocultural policies in order to lead to disengagement.


The modelling of policy simplifies the realities of educational policy and educational policy- making because policy and policy-making, be they educational policy or otherwise, do not fit neatly into demarcated boundaries. Instead the boundaries are permeable, have overlaps and trade-offs.

The models demonstrate that educational policy offer opposing ideological visions of the roles of education in contemporary society. The first two models offer a mix of social and liberal democratic agenda. Its arguments are that the State owes a duty of care to use its money to provide social support for the weak and poor in the society. The third model is Right-wing libertarian agenda. Its argument is rational economic arguments. The fourth model is compensatory and social palliative. Its argument is that education is a management tool for managing diversity.


Burt, C. (1969) The Mental Difference Between Children in Cox, C.B. and Dyson, A.E. (eds) Black Paper 2: The Crisis in Education, London, The Critical Quarterly Society: 17 – 20

Cassels, J. (1989) Demographic change and the marketplace in Blandford, D. and Jameson, A. (eds) Building Partnerships in Education, Cambridge, CRAC

Clyne, P. (1973) The Disadvantaged Adults, London, Longmans

Coopers and Lybrand (1985) A Challenge to Complacency: Changing Attitudes Towards Training, London, MSC/NEDC

Department for Education and Science (1973) The Russell Report: Adult Education: A Plan for Development, London, HMSO

Department for Education and Employment Department (1991) White Paper Education and Training for the 21st Century Vol. 1, London, HMSO

Department for Employment and Department for Education and Science (1986) Working Together, Education and Training, London, HMSO

Department for Education and Science (1963) Committee on Higher Education: The Robbins Report (HC Vols. XII – XIV), London, HMSO

Lynn, R. (1970) Streaming: standards or equality in Cox C. B. and Dyson A.E. (eds) Black Paper 3: Goodbye Mr Short, London, The Critical Quarterly Society: 29

Manpower Services Commission and DES (1986) Review of Vocational Qualifications in England and Wales, Sheffield, Manpower Services Commission

Ministry of Education (1946) The Barlow Report: Report of the Special Committee on Scientific Manpower (HC Vol. XIV), London, HMSO

Ministry of Education (1945) The Percy Report: Report of the Special Committee on Higher Technological Education, London, HMSO

Murray, R. (1989) Fordism and Post-Fordism in Hall, S. and Jacque, M. (eds) New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s, London, Lawrence and Wishart

The Rt Hon. James Callaghan (1976) The Ruskin College Speech in Ahier, J. et al (eds) Diversity and Change: Education, Policy and selection, London, Routledge

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