An outline of our provisional recommendations are as follows:
- The importance of friendships cannot be overstated. Actors need to take seriously the role of friendships in creating positive experiences of school and therefore educational success and inclusion. A holistic approach is required.
- Key actors are crucial in encouraging young people’s social inclusion. All actors need to work to encourage friendships – often simply presenting opportunities can be effective.
- School based interventions around friendships have variable success. Non-stigmatizing (whole school) approaches to inclusion, and techniques that target the environment rather than the individual are best, but there is a need for schools to critically assess whether they work for all children and young people.
- Young people create hierarchies of more or less accepted identities which impact on friendships, but these don’t have to be about disability or SEN.
- Special schools and units provide a necessary haven because the education system is not fully inclusive. Special schools and units continue to be important for children and young people with AS and BESD but there is a need for all actors to critically assess why this is so. Staff and young people in special schools and units could educate teachers and young people about inclusive practice and/or positive disability awareness.
- Leisure systems are not fully inclusive. There is a need to review children and young people’s access to activities and informal leisure spaces because of the benefits that these offer.
Access to support
- Support networks are vitally important but can be difficult to access. Key actors in schools and LAs need to have knowledge about, and be able to recommend appropriate support groups to families in order to enable all families to access support available.
- Transport is a key factor in facilitating young people’s involvement in activities. Flexibility in transport provision and equipping children and young people with independent transport skills are important.
- Geographical differences persist, giving rise to inequalities in educational experiences. Geographical differences will exist, but there is a need to communicate more (between LAs) about best practice.
- Inclusion is difficult to define and implement. Inclusion is a process rather than an absolute state, it is multi-dimensional and requires cultural and attitudinal change. Inclusive practice is hard to achieve, but is vital.
You can download more in depth Embodied social capital provisional findings here.