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Imagining Inclusive Education through Systemic Compassion



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Fraser-Andrews, Catherine 
Yeomans, Jane 


School inclusion is a key United Nations priority (UNESCO, 2017). Their goal for education by 2030, is that everyone, without exception, will access their entitlement to an “inclusive and equitable quality education” (UNESCO, 2017, p. 2). There is rising support for the role that compassion might play in achieving this goal (UNESCO MGIEP, 2021). This paper explores compassion as a mechanism for promoting equitable and inclusive education in schools in England. The research aimed to stimulate the participants’ imaginations and emotions, to envision how a compassion-informed school might be realised. The paper presents the results of two comparative focus groups of education professionals with a shared interest in compassion and inclusion: one comprising teachers, and one comprising school leaders. The focus groups discussed the potential scope of compassion in facilitating and furthering inclusive practice, and imagined how this might be accomplished in a school setting. Thematic analysis was applied to the data, and the interpretation of the findings drew on systemic approaches and social network theory. The findings suggest compassionate approaches modelled by leadership as the most important priority, and external pressures on schools as the most significant barrier, in the development of a whole school approach to compassion. The paper argues the case for the role of compassion in facilitating inclusion, finding that this is most effective when compassion informs and infuses all aspects of school life.



Inclusive education, compassion, systemic approaches, social network theory

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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