Toby Greany, Jodie Pennacchia, Jenny Graham and Eleanor Bernardes

Belonging Schools

How do relatively more inclusive secondary schools approach and practise inclusion?

Teach First commissioned a team led by Professor Toby Greany at the University of Nottingham to conduct research to address two questions: 

  1. What does ‘inclusion’ mean to pupils, teachers, and leaders?  
  2. How do relatively more inclusive secondary schools approach and practise inclusion? 

The research was carried out in 2022–2023 and included: 

  • a review of literature
  • focus groups with school and trust leaders
  • an online survey
  • detailed case studies of six secondary schools in challenging contexts across England which are achieving relatively good outcomes for both inclusion and attainment

The research highlights that there is no ‘one best way’ to achieve inclusion but shows how a sample of relatively more inclusive schools adopt an ‘inclusion for all’ approach founded on equity, relationships and belonging. 

The report title – Belonging Schools – highlights the centrality of human relationships underpinned by shared values in all six case study schools. These relationships and values created a sense of belonging – of students being seen, known, cared for, understood and supported in ways which best met their needs – from which inclusion was an outcome.

The report describes the foundations, enablers and specific areas of practice that support inclusion across the case study schools, including through a series of vignettes. It also highlights common challenges to inclusion and poses a set of questions for policymakers to consider.

Download the report to read the findings in full.

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