All-inclusive or socially exclusive – debate asks ‘what’s right for our schools?’

Can, and should, all children learn and play together?

That’s the question being put to a panel of leading education experts in the latest of the highly popular University of Sussex Salon debates hosted by Brighton Dome in its Pavilion Theatre next week (Tuesday 7 February 2012).

Inclusion in education has long been a controversial debate within education circles, while the various policy approaches of local authorities can have huge impact on the lives of the school pupils, their families and carers.

Those in favour of a fully inclusive education system believe that children of all abilities should have right of access to and be supported in mainstream education, and that this should be achieved through mixed ability classes so that children of all backgrounds and levels of capability have the opportunity to grow, learn and socialise with each other.

Supporters of the inclusive system argue that to exclude pupils with learning or physical disabilities removes the opportunity for them to engage with and adapt successfully to everyday society – and the opportunity for their peers to develop a better understanding of disability.

Critics argue that pupils who require intensive or specialist support in the classroom would fare much better in an environment designed specifically for their needs.

So what is the best solution for all concerned? Audience members will be able to listen to the differing opinions of the panelists, and will then be invited to ask questions and share their views on key questions using a chair-side electronic voting system.

The panelists are:

  • Judy Sebba Judy is Professor of Education at the University of Sussex. She has been actively involved in using research to inform policy in assessment for learning, pupil grouping and inclusion. She is co-director of the Centre for Inquiry & Research in Cognition, Learning and Teaching (CIRCLETS) which explores the socio-cultural nature of learning;
  • Jacqui Shepherd Jacqui is a secondary school teacher and English tutor for Initial Teacher Education at the University of Sussex who teaches inclusion on the PGCE course at Sussex.
  • John Parry is a Lecturer in Inclusion at the Open University. He is currently leading a five-year cross-Channel environmental project working with adults with learning disabilities
  • Professor Alan Dyson is co-director of the Centre for Equity in Education, University of Manchester and leads work on education in urban contexts. He was formerly Professor of Special Needs Education and Director of the Special Needs Research Centre at the University of Newcastle and spent 13 years as a comprehensive school teacher.
  • Tara Flood is an award-winning campaigner who heads the Alliance for Inclusive Education. She had a career in City banking and was a Gold medal-winning swimmer in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics before devoting herself full time to championing the cause of disability rights and education.

Questions they will be addressing include: What does inclusion mean in the modern education system? What should it mean? Are children educated in special school settings socially excluded? And what are the obligations of education to promote an inclusive society?

The Sussex Salon Series of round-table discussions, organised by the School of Law, Politics and Sociology at the University of Sussex, offers an alternative evening out and a chance to hear academic opinion on hot topics of current public interest.

The aim of the Salons is to highlight research at the University that engages with contemporary issues in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.

The practice of debating intellectual matters in public places such as coffee shops was a part of everyday life in 18th-century Europe. Such events were known as "salons", hence the title of this university series.


Notes for Editors

The Sussex Salon Inclusive Education debate takes place at the Pavilion Theatre, New Road, Brighton, starting at 8pm. Tickets cost £6 (£4 concessions). Ticket price includes one free drink. To book, call 01273 709 709 or visit the Brighton Dome web site.University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2012