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Childrens attitudes towards Inclusion

by Rachel Watson

Nottingham University - unpublished dissertation




Page Number

1: Contents 58: Appendix 4.

2: Title and Abstract 59: Appendix 5.

3: Introduction 83: Appendix 6.

4: Introduction: Disability and Language

5: Introduction: Social and Medical Models

6: Introduction: Social and Medical Models

7: Introduction: Inclusive Education

8: Introduction: Inclusive Education

9: Introduction: Attitudes towards Inclusion.

10: Introduction: Attitudes towards Inclusion

11: Introduction: The Present Study

12:The Present study

13: Methodology

14: Part one: Questionnaire

15: Part one: Materials and Procedure

16:Part one: Results

17:Part one: Results

18:Part one: Results

19: Part two: Semi-structured Interviews; Materials

20: Part two: Procedure

21: Part two: Analysis

22: Part two: Analysis

23: Part two: Analysis

24: Part two: Analysis

25: Part two: Analysis

26: Part two: Analysis

27: Part two: Analysis

28: Part two: Analysis

29: Part two: Analysis

30: Part two: Analysis

31: Discussion

32: Discussion

33: Discussion

34: Discussion

35: Discussion

36: Discussion

37: Discussion

38: Discussion

39: Discussion

40: References



43:Appendix 1.

44:Appendix 2.

46:Appendix 3.

A Study Investigating Children’s Attitudes Towards the Inclusion of a Young Disabled Person into a Mainstream Class

The Social and Medical Models are two frameworks used to highlight ways of understanding Disability. The Medical Model regards Disability as the problem of the Disabled person, the Social Model regards it as a Social construct and believes educating all children in one system will change attitudes. The aim of the reported study was to compare attitudes towards disability of pupils educated with disabled peers and pupils with no disabled contact. 175 pupils participated in this study (82 from 'Inclusive' school and 93 from 'Mainstream' school). The study had two parts. In part one, (questionnaire) statements representing elements of the Social or Medical model were rated by pupils. Part two expanded on elements from part one and used semi-structured interviews to make sense of how attitudes came to be formed. Students from 'Inclusive' School viewed Disability in a more social model way than MP but responses were influenced more by contact with disabled people than school attended. Part two contradicted the findings of part one. To conclude: contact and nature of experience is more important in formulating positive attitudes than attending an 'Inclusive' school and practice needs to review what is inclusive and what is integrated.


‘Inclusion is a challenge to the long-standing, traditional approach that regards impairment and disabled people as marginal or an ‘afterthought’, instead inclusion promotes that impairment and disablement are a common experience of humanity and should be a central issue in the planning and delivery of human services such as education.’ (Mason and Rieser, 1994 p.41)

The aim of inclusion is to ensure that all individuals have equal rights, opportunities and access to all aspects of everyday living. An individual is socially excluded if they are geographically resident in a society and do not participate in the usual activities of the citizens within that society.

Burchardt (1999) summarised ways in which young people could become socially excluded in four main categories, namely; ‘standard of living’, ‘education, work and play’, ‘nurturing and socialization’ and ‘participation in decision making’. In support Morris (2001) found that socially excluded young people frequently feel unsafe, unheard, have few friends and are the victims of bullying. In the past exclusion has been linked to poverty, inequality and unemployment (Edwards, 2001), however the more recent focus has been Disabled Rights, specifically with regard to education.

Over the years the legislation and policy’s relating to the education of disabled pupils have been continually updated in a move towards integrated and inclusive education. Legislation began with the Warnock Report (1978), which was the cornerstone for the 1981 Education Act that reviewed Special Educational provision and took account of the individual educational needs of all children. More recent legislation includes The Inclusive Education Act of 1992 and The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001 (SENDA) that came into force in England in January 2002.

Disability and Language

How society views disability and the language used to describe disabled persons is of central importance in the move towards inclusion The ongoing debate about the inclusion of disabled people within mainstream society has resulted in a re-examination of the terminology used in disability literature and the birth of two models that consolidate different attitudes towards disability namely the Medical and Social models (Rieser and Mason,1992).

The Disabled Movement promotes language use that is not derogatory or oppressive towards disabled people. Language is important as it allows able-bodied persons greater understanding and empathy with their disabled peers (Rieser, 1992, Oliver, 1995). Official literature generally makes distinction between impairment, disability and handicap and for this reason Rieser’s (1992,p.85) definitions will be used consistently throughout this study. Impairment is ‘a physical deviation from what could be considered usual with regard to structure, functional, physical organisation or development’. Impairment is a measurable entity e.g. cystic fibrosis or a loss of sensation of a part of the body. Disability is ‘the functional limitation experienced by the individual because of an impairment and refers to what the individual cannot do in the usual way because of an impairment’. Disability is measurable to some extent but the severity of a disability is dependant on factors such as age, culture and how an individual views their disability. Handicap is the social and environmental consequences to an individual and is not measured but experienced, it is the disadvantage imposed by an impairment or disability.

Language is also important within the inclusion literature as the terms ‘integration’ and ‘inclusion’ are often seen as interchangeable or more recently inclusion has replaced integration in relation to education. Typically integration has focused on the numbers of young disabled pupils attending mainstream schools and the focus of inclusion, at least in principle has been the processes by which mainstream schools are made accessible to disabled pupils on all levels of organization, pedagogy and culture. (Swain and Cook, 2001). As Swain and Cook’s (2001) study highlights, the use of ‘inclusion’ in education policy as another name for ‘integration’ only serves to mask the segregation in practice that is a hard-hitting reality for Disabled students. This study was supported by Ferguson (1992) who investigated both social and educational outcomes for students in general education classrooms (USA) and found inclusion successful and integration, a failure. Furthermore, Hilton and Liberty (1992) demonstrated that placing students with severe disabilities in an integrated setting does not necessarily ensure integration or inclusion therefore it is important to note that an inclusive school is not a mainstream school into which disabled students have been integrated (Swain and Cook, 2001).

Social and Medical Models
A model is a framework by which individuals make sense of information. Some models are easy to test but a model employed to make sense of Disability must reflect life as experienced by Disabled people and allow for progress as defined by Disabled people (Rieser and Mason, 1992).

The Medical model focuses on the individual’s impairment and assumes it is the mental or physical impairment that causes disability. Therefore, medical professionals who are trained to reduce the effects of such impairments see disability as a medical problem and hold the belief that removal of the impairment will result in success in curing the disability. The degree of disability in the Medical Model is quantified i.e. mild, severe and the severity of a disability or impairment is dependant on how much an individual deviates from a social norm. The overall belief is that a human being is malleable and alterable whilst society is fixed and unalterable thereby assuming that it is the responsibility of a Disabled person to adapt to a hostile environment (Rieser and Mason, 1992).

The fundamental problem with the Medical Model is that it still highly influential and affects policy, practice and attitudes. It has greatly influenced the attitudes of parents, teachers and members of society for so long that it is still engrained in the consciousness of the majority of individuals who work in education or participate in daily living. The element missing form the Medical Model is Disabled people’s view of the situation, whilst many have medical conditions that may or may not require treatment, technology, human knowledge and resources are so advanced that physical or mental impairments need not prevent Disabled people from living enriched lives. Disabled people believe that it is society’s unwillingness to employ aids to impairments that causes Disability not the impairment itself and this is the Social Model of Disability (Rieser and Mason, 1992)

Individuals regarding disability within a Social Model framework see it as a social construct and individuals who have an impairment become Disabled by a society preoccupied with normality (British Association for Community Child Health (BACCH)/Department of Health (DOH) 1994). Consequently, impaired individuals unable to conform often feel oppressed and discriminated against. The Social Model therefore suggests that rather than requiring people who have an impairment to change, social and cultural norms must change.

The Social Model is a challenging critique of Special Education and that argues that Inclusive Education is a medium by which personal and social relationships are formed as well as positive attitudes that are based on a view that disability is part of and not outside everyday life experience. Individuals in agreement with this model believe that excluding people who have impairments is diminishing to both disabled and able-bodied people alike (Ash, 1997). The Social Model is regarded as superior to the Medical Model as it has feasible goals that could work on a wide scale and encapsulate the struggle of other oppressed groups therefore providing a better world to live in. (Rieser and Mason, 1992)

Inclusive Education
In order for the goals of the Social Model to be achieved in education, the current education system must be restructured with the aim of ensuring that all pupils have access to a full range of educational and social opportunities. These opportunities include the curriculum, how it is assessed and the reporting of pupils achievements (including extra curricula achievements), decisions taken on the grouping of pupils within schools or classrooms, pedagogy and classroom practice as well as sport, leisure and recreational opportunities (Mittler, 2000). A policy such as this is designed to benefit all pupils regardless of impairment, ability, gender, language, ethnic or cultural origin and pupils who are often absent or at risk of exclusion. (Mittler, 2000,Swain and Cook, 2001) For inclusion to exist it cannot be selective, exclusive or rejecting but must reflect openness and diversity and must be negotiated in decision making partnerships (Swain and Cook, 2001,CSIE, 2000). Inclusive Education should be based on a celebration of difference (Oliver, 1995, CSIE, 2000).

For a school to be fully inclusive and Special Education to be fully reformed an inclusive culture, policy and practice must be adopted. (Mittler, 2001) Inclusive practice can be developed through differentiation (Visser, 1993) or by the provision of appropriate support, which is key in creating a fully inclusive school, as poor or inadequate support would only act as an ally to integration. Support can take varying forms and is essential for both teachers and pupils. Teachers can support each other by discussing problems and individual pupil’s needs on a regular basis or via collaborative teaching (Mittler, 2001).

A SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) or and LSA(Learning Support Assistant) may also be employed to support mainstream teachers in fulfilling their responsibility to teach all children. Some children may receive external support such as a Personal Assistant or interpreter that is provided by parents or via collaboration between parents and the school. Successful inclusion of disabled children in lessons and school life also depends largely on the other children. Generally children give help and support to each other without staff instruction, although peer tutoring can be an alternative approach to making curriculum material more accessible to disabled pupils (Mittler, 2001, Collins et al 2001). Images of Disability are often presented as negative stereotypes but in order to further Inclusion, the Curriculum not only needs to be accessible to all pupils but also to review its content and include information about Disabled people. (Rieser and Mason, 1992)

Inclusion is important because the Special Education System has failed since 1890 to provide disabled children with the knowledge and skills to take their rightful place in the world (Oliver, 1995). Advocates of the Social Model believe that he long term exclusion of any young people from mainstream society is socially and educationally harmful to both disabled and non-disabled young persons and exclusion of this nature only facilitates segregation in adult life (CSIE, 2000, Oliver, 1995). Ultimately inclusive education is human rights issue and makes good educational and social sense (CSIE, 2000).

Progression towards Inclusive Education has not been without obstacles. Many fear that Inclusion will be an economically unwise decision and bring down the standards of mainstream education. American studies suggest this fear is ungrounded as the academic attainments of able-bodied pupils are not affected by inclusion (Fishbaugh and Gum, 1992) and the quality and level of time spent with able-bodied students was not adversely affected by the presence of students with disabilities (Hollowood et al, 1995).

The transformation of integration to inclusion will not happen unless there is an increase in knowledge and training of mainstream staff about disabled persons. The Alliance for Integration (1992) suggests there should be a mandatory module or disability equality training in all initial teacher training and that this training should only be carried out by Disability Equality trainers approved by Disabled Rights organisations. The only solution to these problems is to make a commitment to ensure the inclusion of all children into a single education system as part of an extended commitment to the inclusion of all disabled people into society (Oliver, 1995).

Attitudes towards Inclusion

The present social policy movement towards full integration and inclusion of disabled pupils into mainstream classrooms has resulted in research on the interaction between able bodied and disabled pupils. Within education, research has mostly focused on cognitive, academic and social outcomes for disabled pupils (Staub, 1994), however, more recent research has begun to redirect its attention towards how integrative and inclusive practices affect able-bodied pupils (Helmstetter, 1994). Bradley (1994) suggests that research on the views of young people towards inclusion is underdeveloped. Of the few studies investigating attitudes towards inclusion, most indicate that efforts made to include disabled pupils in mainstream schools have resulted in positive experiences and improved attitudes on behalf of the able-bodied pupils and teachers alike (Moore, 1998).

The attitude of teaching staff is crucial to the progression of Inclusive Education. Phillips et al (1990) found that positive teacher attitudes developed in an Inclusive setting when accompanied by training and classroom support. In support, Peck et al (1992) found the impact of integration on teachers to promote an increase in acceptance and sensitivity towards individual with impairments, improved self concept, an increase in awareness of other children’s needs and less discomfort and prejudice towards individuals who act or behave differently.

Children’s attitudes were investigated by Helmstetter et al (1994) who found that able-bodied pupils developed a more positive attitude towards Disability based upon experience of disabled pupils within an educational context. An Inclusive setting was found to promote student friendships and facilitate understanding and empathy. Student acceptance of inclusion was enhanced by knowledge, exposure and experience of disabled pupils (Butler-Hayes, 1995).

In 1990, Peck et al found that able-bodied students who developed relationships with disabled peers had improved self concept, a growth in social cognition, an increased tolerance of others, reduced fear of human difference, development of personal principles and interpersonal acceptance. Difficulties with such relationships related to the discomfort able-bodied pupils found with the poor social skills of disabled students and the reaction they had to the physical or behavioural characteristics of some disabled students.

More recently Ash (1997) investigated Further Education students, (both disabled and able-bodied) attitudes towards inclusion. Questionnaire findings revealed that although a majority (98%) of pupils agreed with Inclusion in principle, just under half (43%) also believed that in practice some ‘types of disability would make attending an FE college impossible. Disabled and able-bodied friendships were found to be limited and were largely restricted to time spent within college. Attitudes were further developed by conducting interviews which concluded that able-bodied students had limited exposure and knowledge of disabled students and their needs despite being educated in an ‘integrated’ setting. The general focus of able-bodied students was the impairment of their disabled peers, which indicated an understanding of disability rooted in the Medial Model.

The Present Study
The present study is inspired by Ash (1997) who investigated the attitudes of able-bodied and disabled FE students towards Inclusion. The findings indicate that attending a college of further education at which individuals with an impairment are also enrolled does not necessarily guarantee the formation of positive attitudes towards Inclusion, or attitudes that demonstrate understanding of Disability within a Social Model framework.

Helmstetter (1994) found that able-bodied pupils developed a more positive attitude towards Disability based upon experience of Disabled pupils within school. Given that the Social Model argues that inclusive education helps to form positive attitudes based on a view that Disability is part of and not outside everyday life experience, the present study aims to compare attitudes of pupils educated in an ‘Inclusive’ school with pupils that have no experience of Disability at all.

This study is interested to determine whether ‘inclusive’ education and experience of impaired individuals is a medium by which attitudes are changed as suggested by the Social Model. The current study predicts that individuals with experience of Disability in school will have a more Social Model view of disability and a more positive attitude towards Inclusion than individuals with no experience of disability. In 1996 Oliver accused disability research of being irrelevant to the needs of Disabled people. In response, this study aims to further disability research by giving clarity to previous attitude studies in the hope of understanding why some attitudes towards inclusion and disability may be formed.

The study will have two parts. The first will involve pupils rating a series of statements, the aim of which is to determine attitudes towards Inclusion and the framework in which pupil’s perception of disability lies. Part one will be conducted with a relatively large sample in hope of understanding general attitudes and perceptions of pupils at both Schools. The aim of the second part of this study is to use a semi-structured interview as a means of giving depth to the outcome of part one and determine how attitudes were formed.

Hypothesis 1: Pupils with experience of Disabled peers in school will hold a more Social Model view of Disability than pupils with no experience of disabled peers in school.

Hypothesis 2: Pupils with experience of Disabled peers in school will have a more positive attitude towards Inclusion than pupils with no experience of disabled peers in school.


A Between subjects design was used. The study has two parts. In the first questionnaires were distributed to Year Eight pupils from two schools, in the second five pupils from each school took part in a group interview.

Participants and Schools

The Local Education Authority in which this study was conducted has an Inclusion Policy that is grounded on the Social Model of Disability, that believes:

‘All children can learn and that including children with disabilities/special educational needs in their local school is a major contributor to tackling discrimination.’

(LEA, 2002)

For the purpose of this study schools were chosen with the aim of comparing mainstream schools with a disabled population and those without. The participants were able-bodied pupils at the two schools. Pupils at ‘Inclusive’ School are educated alongside 371 pupils on the Special Needs Register, (18 of which have Special Educational Needs statements) who have a range of individual needs. In Year Eight there are 6 Disabled pupils with high support needs. There are currently no disabled pupils at 'Mainstream' School. Both Schools were matched with regard to size and type but differed with regard to wheelchair access. 'Inclusive' school was mainly accessible with the exception of one outdoor teaching unit. In contrast 'Mainstream' school was largely inaccessible but with the exception of one outdoor teaching unit.

A total of 181 satisfactorily completed questionnaires were received. The questionnaires from the six disabled pupils at 'Inclusive' School were not included in the analysis due to the focus being on able-bodied children’s views. The sample consisted of 80 males and 95 females. The 'Inclusive' School sample was composed of 27 males and 55 females. The 'Mainstream' School sample consisted of 52 males and 61 females. The mean age of pupils at both schools was 12.5 years (SD, 0.24 range 12.0-13.0 years). Abbreviations will be used throughout this study; IP for 'Inclusive' pupils and MP for 'Mainstream' pupils.

Letters were sent to the parents of 120 pupils in Year Eight at both Schools (Appendix 1.). Only pupils with parental consent participated in this study. For the group discussion, the Head of Year for each School selected 5 pupils. Both group discussions consisted of 2 males and 3 females (mean age 12.6 years, SD 0.49, range 12-13 years). Again only pupils with parental consent took part in the group discussion.

Part One: Questionnaires
The questionnaire was created to determine pupil’s attitudes towards inclusion and explore whether perceptions of Disability related to the Medical or Social model view of Disability (Reiser and Mason, 1992). Two statements were adapted from Ash’s (1997) study to determine attitudes towards inclusion:

‘All young people, whatever their kind of ‘disability’ should have the opportunity to study, if they wish, in a college of further education’

‘Some kinds of ‘disability’ make attendance at a college of further education impossible’ (Ash, 1997 p.610)

Pupils were presented with a hypothetical situation in which a boy in a wheelchair (Andy) had just joined their class. Nine statements were created that reflected aspects of the medical and social models. (Appendix 2.) Pupils were asked to rate each statement according to how much they agreed or disagreed using a five point Likert scale. Questions 1,3,4,7 and 9 reflect the Social Model view of Disability and the remaining questions reflect the Medical Model view of Disability. Medical Model questions were reversed scored meaning that a high score on all questions is an indicator of agreement with the Social Model. To control for experience of disability outside of school, both groups were required to indicate if they were disabled or if they had disabled friends or family. Initially schools were chosen with the aim of comparing pupils with lots of experience of disabled people and pupils with none. However analysis of the questionnaires revealed both groups to have similar levels of contact with disabled people. As this study is dependant on experience of disability, a CONTACT group was created for statistical analysis that had two levels, ‘contact’ and ‘no contact’ and a SCHOOL group was created with two levels 'Inclusive' and ‘Mainstream’ to distinguish between the effect of school and the effect of contact with disabled people. Space was also provided for pupils to add their own comments.

Questionnaires had previously been distributed to staff members. Pupils at both schools completed questionnaires during a tutor group period in a classroom setting. The pupils were supervised by their tutor, who gave instructions for completion of the questionnaires. Pupils were given the option to withhold their data before the questionnaires were collected and then each group were debriefed by the experimenter and all questions answered. Disabled students at 'Inclusive' School completed questionnaire to ensure they felt included.

Table One shows the total mean scores of pupils for statements 1-9 from each school:

Table One. Total mean scores for statements 1-9 based on contact and school

'Inclusive' School
'Mainstream' School


Statement One

Statement Two

Statement Three

Statement Four

Statement Five

Statement Six

Statement Seven

Statement Eight

Statement Nine

Due to unequal sample sizes Box’s test of equality of covariance was examined prior to considering MANOVA results. It was found to be significant, (p=. 002) suggesting the equality assumption had been violated. SPSS MANOVA (Version 10) includes a number of tests, which compensate to varying degrees of correction of this violation, e.g. Pillais’ Trace, Wilk’s Lamba. Examination of these tests shows that they all have identical significance values indicating that the equality of covariance violation is not of such a magnitude to cause concern and that the significance of the main effect can be reliably accepted.

A multivariate analysis of variance was performed with CONTACT (levels ‘contact’ and ‘no contact’) and SCHOOL (Levels 'Inclusive' and 'Mainstream') as independent variables. There was a significant multivariate effect of contact, (F [9,163]=2.880, p=. 004) and school, (F [9, 163], =2.666, p=. 007). The univariate effects for CONTACT indicated that this was carried by statement three, “Andy would fit in socially at my school” (F [1,171] = 7.018, p=. 009), statement four, “My school would make it easy for Andy to fit into school life” (F [1, 171] = 8.935, p=. 003), statement five, “It would be hard for Andy to fit into school life” (F [1, 171] = 9.066, p=. 003)

The multivariate effect for SCHOOL was carried by the univariate effect of statement six, “I think that the physical structure of my school (e.g. adding ramps) would have to change for Andy to be fully part of school life” (F [1, 171]=22.802, p=. 000). Examination of the means for statements three, four five and six revealed that IP scored significantly higher than MP on all four statements.

Table 2. Total mean scores for statements three to six based on contact and school.



Statement Three

Statement Four

Statement Five

Statement Six


However there was also a significant univariate CONTACT by SCHOOL interaction (F [1,171]=4.219,p=. 041) for statement one.

'Inclusive' School
'Mainstream' School

Marginal mean
Marginal mean

Statement 1

no contact

The interaction was analysed using four independent samples t-tests. In order to reduce the possibility of an increase of Type 1 Error rate the Bonferroni correction was applied to determine acceptable significance levels (Field, 2000). This showed that the acceptable significance level is .0125. Analysis revealed that at 'Mainstream' there was a significant difference, t=2.77, d.f. =111, p=. 007,meaning that at 'Mainstream' School there was a significant difference between contact and no contact. Examination of the means shows that pupils with contact (x=4.49) were scoring significantly higher than pupils with no contact (x=4.11) indicating that MP with contact had a more Social Model view of Disability than MP with no contact. The difference between contact and no contact at 'Inclusive' School was not significant. The difference between 'Inclusive' and 'Mainstream' School for contact was not significant nor was the difference between the two schools for no contact. (SPSS: Appendix 3)

Part Two: Semi-structured Interviews
Questions for the Semi-structured interviews were developed to examine elements of the Medical and Social Models of Disability. Question one, ‘Do you think all disabled children should be able to come to your school if they want to? Or do you think it depends on their type of disability?’ was used to investigate whether pupils saw inclusion as dependant on the ‘severity’ of an impairment and to extend on the responses for statement one and two on the questionnaire.

The second question ‘If a disabled child came to your school what kind of things do you think they would need to fit in?’ was used to explore pupil’s understanding of disabled needs. Particularly to determine whether the focus was predominantly on ‘access’ suggesting a Medical Model view or whether considerations extended to the social and emotional needs of disabled people that would suggest a more Social Model view. This question was further developed to determine whom the pupils regarded as responsible for ensuring the needs of a disabled person were met. The aim was to discover if the pupils saw it as the disabled person’s responsibility to change to fit the school (Medical Model) or the school’s responsibility to promote an inclusive culture (Social Model). This part of the interview was designed to further explore responses to statements four and eight on the questionnaire.

The final question ‘How would you feel about a disabled child being in your class?’ was used to determine pupil’s attitudes towards inclusion and to discover why and how these attitudes were formed. (Appendix 4.)

Procedure Two
Following the completion of questionnaires, five children were selected by the Head of Year to partake in a group discussion. Both interviews took place in a quiet room with the pupils and interviewer arranged in a circle to encourage free speech and minimize intimidation (Merton, 1990). Pupils were informed of the nature of the interview and consented that it be taped. The tape player was positioned inconspicuously so not to be intrusive. It was made clear to all pupils that recording would be anonymous and that they may terminate the interview or exclude data at anytime they wished.

Throughout the interview questions were adapted to the responses of the pupils to accommodate context and further investigate novel issues. All pupils were fully debriefed and the interviews were fully transcribed using notations detailed in Smith (1995).

The analytic process proceeds as follows:

1) The experimenter became familiar with the transcript

2) The data was coded and notes were made of common themes

3) Emergent themes were refined and attention was focused on finding connections between transcripts.

4) The data was condensed with regard to the nature of the study and the shared themes were organised to make sense of the pupil’s perceptions.

Transcripts can be found in Appendix 5.


Questions were devised to investigate pupil’s attitudes towards inclusion and discover whether attitudes related to the Medical or Social Model of Disability. Analysis of interviews revealed 5 main themes: ‘problems with inclusion’, ‘the perceived needs of a disabled pupil and those responsible for meeting them’, ‘differential treatment of disabled and able-bodied children’, ‘contact and relationships with impaired individuals’ and ‘access to information and existing knowledge about disability’.

Problems with Inclusion
Although 'Inclusive' pupil’s initial responses towards inclusion appeared positive:

E1: I think they all should be able to come to the school because everybody’s different

Inclusion was not always seen as possible when considering students with different impairments. The same three pupils commented on the inclusion of someone who couldn’t talk and someone who was blind. Interestingly, none of the pupils foresaw any problems with a pupil that couldn’t talk attending their school but found the inclusion of a blind pupil either impossible or only achievable with sufficient support:

E1 They wouldn’t be able to come to our school.

B1: They’d have to have someone helping them

One pupil remembered a pupil that couldn’t talk attending 'Inclusive' School:

B1: There was somebody like that they had a keyboard to press letters

IP also thought inclusion may be problematic if disabled pupils were bullied of if they were allowed to hurt other IP:

E1 Well if its really bad like they keep jumping or something or hurting you then that’s different.

Similarly the majority of MP were initially positive towards inclusion although one pupil foresaw problems with bullying and another with the access of the school:

B2 I think they should have the right to come if they want to but I think it, you’d have to think about the facilities.

E2 I am a bit against it though because some people might not like being around disabled people. They might pick on them and hit them and bully them.

When considering different impairments, MP had a similar response to pupils at 'Inclusive' school. None of MP though that inclusion of a pupil who couldn’t talk would be problematic However two pupils initially thought that it would be impossible for a blind pupil to attend their school but the whole group view changed when on pupil suggested that it would be possible if sufficient support were provided:

C2 It depends if they like had a guardian, if they could bring like a guardian or something into school.

The perceived needs of a Disabled pupil and those responsible for meeting them

When asked what a disabled pupil would need to fit into school life, IP were initially silent. After some prompting pupils suggested physical changes such as ramps and lifts and one pupil suggested that disabled pupils might need help in getting around. One pupil suggested that the workload might need to change for disabled pupils to fit in:

A1: If like they find something hard, give them some things that are hard and some things that are easy.

IP were aware that some disabled students at their school had few, if any friends. When discussing the friendship needs of one of their disabled peers there were mixed views, two of girls in the group thought that their disabled peer would be happiest mixing with able-bodied children:

E1 Cause she’s going to be living here for probably a long time and everything and I reckon she should be mixing with people that haven’t got a disability and people that have got a disability.

However the two boys thought that their disabled peer would be happiest and safest with other disabled pupils, either at 'Inclusive' School or at a nearby school where ‘people are like her’:

B1 Like, if they stayed together they won’t get bullied as much

Two IP thought teachers, governors and parents were responsible for ensuring a disabled pupil was included, one pupil saw it as the disabled person’s responsibility and one pupil took the responsibility upon himself:

B1 We should make sure they get around ok

In contrast MP were forthcoming with their responses. Two pupils suggested physical changes such as elevators or having lesson on the ground floor. The latter suggestion prompted discussion about the emotional needs of disabled pupils and the consensus of three MP was that disabled pupils would be coming to their school to feel normal and not to feel alone which is why having lessons on the ground floor would not be a viable option:

C2 Like they have to be treated normally so they can’t have all the lessons on the ground floor so they should be in out classes doing something. I mean even if they’re disabled person they should be in the same class as me.

Two MP thought it was their responsibility to ensure that disabled pupils were included and one pupil extended the philosophy of inclusion by recognising that there are different ‘types’ of individuals in the world and everyone needs to learn to get along, this was supported by all of MP

C2 Yeah probably us or the school or them. I think it relies a lot on us though cause we generally accept them or reject them.

A2 I don’t like bullies and there’s some kids that are bullies, some kids that are disabled some kids that are just goodie goodies, they’re all the same really but its like, its like normal people. Kids don’t like bullies do they and kids might not like disabled people we all need to get along.

Differential treatment of disabled and able-bodied children

Pupils at both schools thought disabled pupils would be treated differently, by both able-bodied peers and staff, however the nature of this ‘differential treatment’ varied between schools. IP responses were based upon experience of disabled pupils in school and their responses echoed a general feeling of being unfairly treated by staff that IP believed to be more lenient towards disabled pupils:

E1 Like she (a disabled girl) was pulling my friend Jeannie’s hair and the teacher just stood there, watching her pull her hair, she didn’t do nothing.

B1 People treat em differently, let them get away with stuff and teachers don’t register it.

However, differential treatment did not only extend to able-bodied pupils, as five of the eight disabled pupils mentioned throughout the discussion were so in conjunction with bullying:

B1 There a kid who can’t control himself and people just take the piss out of him and tell him to dance

E1There’s people who are like disabled and then they’re like targets.

MP have had no experience of disabled pupils in school however some of the focus was on similar issues such as bullying and the worry that disabled pupils might hurt others. Contrasting issues were also raised as some MP thought disabled pupils would make good friends either because they perceived them as ‘more sociable’ or believed that they wouldn’t fight back:

A2 I know some people with disabilities that if they don’t like someone they will fight them and they will really hurt the other person.

E2 They’re just better to get on with cause they can’t fight back or anything like that

In contrast to IP, who felt unfairly treated when hurt by disabled peers, one 'Mainstream' pupil did not foresee that retaliating against disabled pupils would be problematic:

C2 it don’t matter if they’re disabled or what, at the end of the day if someone does something wrong to me I’m gonna do something wrong to you.

MP appeared to think that disabled pupils would the focus of too much ‘fussing’ that would not allow them to feel a part of mainstream school:

C2 They want to come to this school to be like everybody else so they’d not want all the attention, ‘Do you need a hand down the stairs? Do you want me to carry this, carry that?’

Contact and relationships with impaired individuals

IP had mixed views about their relationships and experience of individuals who have an impairment. Three of the pupils have disabled family members and discussion of their contact with them appeared to be neutral and factual:

B1 My cousin is, well both of em really. One of them like Jack can’t control himself and the other one can’t walk and can’t talk.

IP generally appeared to have a negative experience of disabled peers in school, as they were constantly being grabbed, bitten or spat at by their disabled peers. Negative feeling towards disabled pupils seemed to be further fuelled by able-bodied pupils regarding disabled peers as in control of their actions:

B1: And she keeps grabbing at people as well; she knows what she’s doing as well.

None of IP seemed to have close relationships with disabled pupils, which was reinforced by two pupils reporting that they had no contact with disabled people despite previously discussing disabled pupils at their school. Pupils formed closer relationships with peers they perceived to be ‘more normal’ and it seemed that aversive behaviour such as spiting was the barrier between disabled and able-bodied pupils forming strong friendships:

B1:Its all right if its more normal like Nathan, they make you laugh

C1: They don’t spit on you do they, Nathan won’t touch you

Experience of aversive behaviour appeared to affect attitudes towards inclusion as highlighted by one 'Inclusive' pupil agreeing with inclusion as long disabled pupils do not hurt anyone:

E1 Well if its really bad like they keep jumping or something or hurting you then that’s different

Four of the MP appeared to have more extensive relationships with disabled persons outside of school, including the sharing of leisure and social time. In contrast to 'Inclusive' School, contact with disabled people appeared to be a positive experience:

C2 I know him and he’s all right. He gets around independently but sometimes he just needs a bit of an hand when his wheelchair gets stuck and stuff like that.

A2 I know a Down’s syndrome person, he’s a nice, he’s nice to everyone.

One of the pupils likened general feelings towards inclusion to her own experience of her father recently becoming impaired:

D2 I think people might not be able to cope at first it they came to this school but eventually we’ll be all right.

Only one pupil appeared to have limited experience of disability:

E2 I seen this film anyway and its about this lad right and its about this lad right and everyone always picks on him and stuff like that and he’s disabled and he starts banging this about and everything and when he gets frustrated and he’s like smashing windows and everything.

Access to information and existing knowledge about Disability.

The final theme looks at the knowledge and information pupils at both schools have about disability. IP generally felt that their knowledge about the disabled pupils was limited and frequently used the phrase ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with them in relation to their disabled peers. A distinct lack of understanding and knowledge about disability was also highlighted by the complaints of an 'Inclusive' pupil who though it ‘unfair’ that his disabled peers got lift access and he did not. Generally IP felt they had to ‘pick up information as they went along’. One pupil felt he ‘had the right to know’ so that he was aware of the control his peers and another felt information was important in knowing how to treat a disabled person:

B1 So you know if they can control themselves

C1 We should be told so we know how to treat her properly. We should be told because if they’ve got something done to them and we should know so that we don’t do it.

IP finding the behaviour of disabled peers ‘odd’ highlighted evidence of lack of knowledge as well as the continual mocking of the behaviour of some disabled peers

A1 She’s got a problem she’s got, I don’t know but she talks to dustbins.

Generally IP thought that they’d be happier about inclusion of their disabled peers if more information were provided in school and that it was ‘wrong’ that knowledge had to be acquired through external sources. One pupil suggested how the school could provide such information

E1 ‘Cause I don’t know about Down’s Syndrome and everything but I heard it on a program and I know that they all look alike or something alike that but if I didn’t watch that program then I wouldn’t of know that it was called Down’s Syndrome and…she could hurt us or something and I think we ought to know about that.

E1 Teachers ought to tell us we’ve got a new person in the class, this person’s got such and such wrong with them so we know what to say to them and not to avoid them or whatever.

Responses from MP were similar. There was frequent use of the phrase ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him’ suggesting a lack of knowledge about disabled people and their needs. MP also thought it ‘wrong’ that they weren’t taught about disability in school. One pupil thought information was important in order to understand disabled people and another thought that knowledge would be important for future experiences:

C2 Yeah about like what’s wrong with them and what makes them tick and stuff

D2 I think we should get taught cause when we get older and if we want to work with them and be around them then we won’t know anything.

The ‘additional comments’ from part one support the themes and issues raised in part two. Full details of these can be found in Appendix 6.


Part one of the study supports the hypothesis that pupils with experience of disabled peers in school will hold a more Social Model view of Disability than pupils with no experience of disabled peers in school. Schools were initially chosen with the aim of providing two populations, the first to have contact and experience of disabled pupils in school ('Inclusive') and the second with no contact or experience of disability either in or outside of school ('Mainstream'). However, analysis revealed that the significance of this hypothesis was predominantly due to the effect of CONTACT and not the effect of SCHOOL as was first predicted. Evidence thereby suggests that contact IP have with disabled people both inside and outside of school has resulted in a view of disability more rooted in the Social Model framework than MP and that experience and contact pupils have with disabled people plays a more important role in the formation of attitudes than the nature of the school that pupils attend.

Although ''Inclusive' ' pupils had a more Social Model view of Disability than MP, pupils from both schools scored highly on three statements in part one of this study suggesting that both groups pupils were in agreement with some elements of the Social Model. Both sets of pupils could envisage a disabled pupil being socially included at their respective schools, suggesting that pupils regard disability as part of and not outside the range of usual human experience (Rieser and Mason, 1992).

Another element incorporated in the Social Model framework is that social and cultural norms must change to accommodate the disabled person and that it is not the disabled person’s responsibility to adapt to a hostile environment. (Reiser and Mason, 1992). This notion was investigated by statement four and evidence suggests that contact with a disabled person resulted in IP agreeing with this element more strongly than MP, thereby indicating that the attitude of IP is more in accordance with the Social Model than the attitude of 'Mainstream' peers.

The school that the pupils attended only affected the responses for one statement that aimed to determine whether pupils regarded access as the key reason why disabled pupils are excluded from mainstream school. Evidence indicates that MP thought access was more important in ensuring inclusion than pupils at the 'Inclusive' school. The difference in response could be due to the current access at both schools or it could be due to Alpha pupils having a more Social Model view of disability and therefore not regarding accessibility as the only thing to be changed in order for a disabled pupils to be ‘fully part of school life’. The possible ambiguity of this question will be considered in more detail when discussing interview responses from both schools.

Part one did not support the hypothesis that experience of disabled peers in school will result in a more positive attitude towards disability. The significant interaction for statement one which was designed to determine pupils attitudes towards inclusion did, however produce a surprising result. Evidence suggests that positive attitudes towards disability are not only formed by attending an ‘Inclusive’ school as suggested by Helmstetter (1994). What appears to be more important in the formation of attitudes is experience individuals have of disabled people either in or outside of school. Advocates of the Social Model would suggest that Inclusive Education is therefore key in providing a majority of individuals with experience of disabled people and that unless there is a commitment made to creating a single education system (Oliver, 1995), many able-bodied individuals will not have the chance to form such positive attitudes and disabled people will continue to be oppressed.

Interviews were conducted to eliminate some of the methodological problems surrounding quantitative data collection i.e. confounding variables, gender effects, reliability and validity. Although a comparison of ‘overall’ attitudes was desired by this study, greater insight into the formation of such attitudes was also desired. Part two involved an exploration of the key elements that separate the framework of the Social and Medical Models. Analysis of semi structured interviews revealed five main themes: ‘problems with inclusion’, ‘the perceived needs of a disabled pupil and those responsible for meeting them’, ‘differential treatment of disabled and able-bodied children’, ‘contact and relationships with impaired individuals’ and ‘access to information and existing knowledge about disability’.

Problems with Inclusion
IP tended to agree with inclusion in principle, but found the philosophy problematic when considering different impairments. This evidence is concurrent with the findings of Ash (1997) and suggests that IP regard disability as having degrees of severity, dependent on how much an impairment deviates from what is usual. Such a view relates to the Medical Model and contradicts the findings in part one that found IP to have a more Social Model view of disability. One ‘Inclusive’ pupil had a negative view towards the inclusion of a blind pupil whilst simultaneously holding a positive attitude towards the inclusion of a pupil that couldn’t talk. Consultation with the 'Inclusive' School ‘s SENCO, alongside evidence from other IP revealed that the school had never included a blind pupil but had recently enrolled a pupil with no verbal communication. Such evidence appears to support the work of Helmstetter (1994).

In contrast, MP did not regard inclusion as dependant on ‘types’ of disability, nor did they appear to place responsibility upon disabled people to adapt to the current environment of their school. Instead pupils suggested methods to adapt the current environment to accommodate pupils with various impairments. One suggestion was the provision of support as advocated by the Integration Alliance (1992) and Mittler (2001). Such evidence suggests that the view of MP relates more to the Social Model than pupils from 'Inclusive' School which contradicts the current hypothesis and evidence from part one.

The Perceived Needs of a Disabled Pupil and Where the Responsibility Lies

The focus of IP mostly centred on physical changes suggesting an attitude rooted in the Medical Model as pupils were trying to find ways to alleviate impairments. The responses of IP during the interview did not reflect ‘overall’ responses from part one. This suggests that IP did not see access of key importance to inclusion, as the school is already largely accessible. However IP consideration of the emotional needs of disabled peers alongside the suggestion that disability is part of wider society indicates a view also rooted in the Social Model.

One element incorporated in the Social Model framework is that social and cultural norms must change to accommodate the disabled person and that it is not the disabled person’s responsibility to adapt to a hostile environment. (Reiser and Mason, 1992). This element was supported by the responses of IP during both the interview and the rating of statements in part one. Evidence from part one suggests that IP agree more with this element than MP thereby indicating that the attitude of IP is more in accordance with the Social Model than the attitude of ‘Mainstream’ peers. This finding was not upheld in the interviews with MP as attitudes appeared to be more balanced between the physical and emotional needs of impaired pupils. This suggests a greater understanding and empathy with disabled people (Helmstetter, 1994) although this was not formed through inclusive education. One ‘Mainstream’ pupil suggests that inclusion would depend largely on the attitude of other children indicating understanding based in the Social Model framework as well as supporting the work of Mittler (2001).

Differential treatment of Disabled and Able-bodied Children
The unfair treatment of IP by staff suggests two things. Firstly that 'Inclusive' staff may not have sufficient training to deal with or understand the needs of disabled pupils and therefore ignore aversive behaviour. Secondly it may also suggest a poor understanding of disability on behalf of IP. Discussion with the ‘Inclusive’ schools SENCO revealed that disabled pupils reported to be acting maliciously were in fact not in control of all their actions. An ‘Inclusive’ pupil not understanding that disabled peers had access to the lift, as they were unable to climb the stairs, further highlighted lack of knowledge and understanding about disability. IP reported instances of bullying which Morris (2001) found to be an issue of socially excluded youngsters, which indicates that the school has perhaps not achieved an inclusive culture, as bullying is prominent.

In contrast only one ‘Mainstream’ pupil thought bullying would be a problem. Instead the focus was on the possibility that disabled pupils would receive too much attention from people wanting to help that inclusion would be difficult. MP generally regarded impaired individuals as their equals, even to the point of hitting them back. This suggests that generally the attitude of MP is rooted in the Social Model of Disability and pupils do not regard disability as outside the range of usual experience (Reiser and Mason, 1992).

Responses from both schools surrounding issues such as bullying contradicts the findings in part one, in which both groups agreed that disabled peers would fit in socially at the respective schools.

Contact and Relationships with Disabled People
As mentioned previously, pupil’s attitudes towards disability appear to be affected by their contact and experience of impaired individuals. Contact with disabled peers in ‘Inclusive’ School seemed to be a negative experience for many pupils due to disabled pupils often hurting others and the negative experience seemed to be further fuelled by IP believing that these actions are intentional (Peck, 1990). Relationships were formed with pupils perceived as more ‘normal’, suggesting an attitude concurrent with the Medical Model, as IP befriended disabled pupils whose impairment they perceived to be less severe (Rieser and Mason,1992). Three IP had disabled family members. Interestingly one pupil (B1) did not find inclusion of a pupil that couldn’t talk problematic and given that he has a cousin with the same impairment, this suggests that experience of a disabled person can lead to greater understanding of - and empathy towards disability (Helmstetter, 1994).

MP mostly reported having positive experiences of disabled people and this was reflected in their attitudes towards inclusion. Thus suggesting that positive contact leads to a positive attitude towards disability and in turn, inclusion. The one ‘Mainstream’ pupil (E2) with no experiences of disability was the most against inclusion; again supporting the notion those experiences of disability is key in formulating attitudes.

Existing Knowledge and Information Given about Disabled People and their Needs.

IP had limited knowledge about the needs of their disabled peers which contradicted Butler-Hayes (1995) who found an 'Inclusive' setting enhances student friendships, understanding and empathy.

Evidence from the interviews also suggests that IP regarded the behaviour of their disabled peers as ‘odd’ and the knowledge about different impairments needed to enhance acceptance of Inclusion was not being provided. (Butler-Hayes, 1995). Following discussions with the 'Inclusive' SENCO, the experimenter was informed that although the school policy was to provide information about disability to their pupils, parents of disabled children often requested that their child’s impairment was not discussed with other pupils as they did not want their child to be seen as ‘abnormal’. In practice this wish was not achieved as a lack of information has left IP feeling negative towards their disabled peers. It is evident that inclusion will not be achieved in a practice that does not openly discuss disability.

A lack of knowledge about disability in today’s schools was supported by the responses of MP, one of whom extended the notion of inclusion by stating that knowledge is important for future life experience. Responses from both schools highlight that pupils are not against inclusion, they would just prefer schools to provide information about disability.


To summarise, evidence suggests that although part one indicated IP to have an attitude that related more to the framework of the Social Model than the attitude of MP, the outcome of part two was not supportive. Part two revealed that generally MP exhibited a more Social Model view of Disability and greater acceptance and understanding of the needs of disabled peers than IP. Evidence suggests that for both parts of this study, that the nature of contact and experience of disabled people is more important in formulating positive attitudes towards Disability than the type of school pupils attend. This is not to say that philosophy of Inclusive Education should be abandoned more to highlight problems needing consideration if Inclusion is to exist beyond its current existence of an idealistic notion.

To achieve the goals of long-term attitude change, this study highlights the need for pupils to be provided with the information they need in order to gain greater understanding and empathy with disabled people (Helmstetter, 1994). As suggested by Butler-Hayes (1995), greater acceptance of inclusion is enhanced by knowledge, exposure and experience of disabled pupils. These three elements are useless without each other and the current education system should progress towards inclusive practice as opposed to the educational use of ‘inclusion’ as a mask for segregation or integration. A Social Model view of disabled people will not be achieved if segregation is evident within a mainstream school as highlighted by part two responses from IP.

Implications for Practice and Future Research.
Responses of IP suggest that labelling one school 'Inclusive' was somewhat premature as disabled pupils appeared to be socially segregated in a number of ways. Implications for practice would suggest that enrolling disabled pupil and having an Inclusive Education Policy Statement is not sufficient to create an inclusive school. Schools simultaneously need to develop an inclusive culture and practice. Evidence from the current study suggests that part of creating an inclusive culture is the provision of sufficient information. Information appears to be critical in creating an inclusive school and therefore extends itself to be critical in creating an inclusive society. Such information should be provided within school as part of the curriculum and teachers should receive Disability Equality Training. However, to achieve the goals of the Social Model, such information is not only required in schools. Parents of impaired pupils at the 'Inclusive' school would not have been educated in a society, which regards individuals with impairments as equal and it appears that pupils with impairments will not be seen as ‘normal’ until there is a change in opinion in society, including those of parents with disabled children.

One of the key issues raised by pupils at both schools is that of bullying, which Morris (2000) found bullying to be associated with the social exclusion of young people. Although bullying should be a concern of schools, it should not a reason not to enrol disabled pupils as young people are also bullied in Special Schools (Torrance, 2000) and disabled pupils are not the only victims (Ash, 1997). IP report being unfairly treated and not receiving enough attention, which suggests that the findings of Hollowood et al (1995) are not supported. Implications for practice suggest the need for increased teacher support for schools enrolling Disabled pupils. (Mittler, 2001).

Although many methodological problems were overcome by combining quantitative and qualitative data this study was not without its limitations. The key limitation was in part one when pupils were required to comment on their feelings towards a ‘hypothetical’ situation. Future research would be advised to develop a ‘scale’ that determines attitudes towards disability within either a Medical or Social Model framework. Due to the originality of this study it should be regarded as a pilot for future research to investigate in more depth, Medical and Social Model views of Disability, levels of contact and attitudes towards disability and how gender effects the framework in which views of disability lie.

To conclude, disabled pupils will be included into mainstream living when there had been a

change in attitude for the majority not the minority. Inclusive Education is a good place to

start to achieve this goal but it will require patience, knowledge and time.


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