How inclusive is Frederick Bird Primary School as a learning community? ‘Inclusive education is an unabashed announcement, a public and political declaration and celebration of difference. ‘ (Corbett, J. 2001:134) The principles of inclusion and their implications on school practice have been fiercely debated by leading educational experts for many years. In 1994, delegates from 92 governments met at the world conference on special needs education, to consider policy changes that would enable educators to provide inclusive education for all.
The result of this conference was the adoption of ‘The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action’ which provides recommendations and stipulations for the ‘planning and implementation’ of inclusive provision (UNESCO, 1994:2). The impact of this framework in the UK can be tracked through significant changes made to educational policy. In 1997 The Government introduced the Green Paper; this put inclusion high on the government’s agenda and committed itself to ‘excellence for all’, a vision which, for the first time, encompassed children with special educational needs (DfEE, 1997:5).
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Current policy, specifically the Every Child Matters(ECM) agenda continues this trend and dictates that every child has the right to an inclusive education, the chance to fulfil their full potential and make a positive contribution to society (DfES, 2003) Through the course of this assignment I will demonstrate how my own educational setting goes above and beyond these policy expectations to provide an inclusive experience to all our pupils within a very diverse but cohesive learning community.
I will demonstrate this effectiveness by critically evaluating examples and case studies from current school policy, teaching methods and my own experiences and strategies. I will also make recommendations of how school practice can be enhanced to boost the effectiveness of this provision. The school in which I am employed as a Teaching Assistant is a large three-form entry primary and nursery school, with just under 700 pupils on role. The school is situated in the centre of a disadvantaged inner city community.
Approximately 35% of the pupils are entitled to free school meals, double the national average, and around 45% have special educational needs. An incredible 82% of our pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds, therefore leading to a high percentage of pupils that speak English as an additional language. In terms of inclusion this level of diversity brings its own challenges, as the potential for barriers to learning is increased by the very nature of the school population.
However, it is the necessary response to this varied and exciting context of the school community that has forced our school to find innovative ways to provide an all inclusive education and a ‘school culture which celebrates differences’ (Corbett, J. 2001:56) Producing inclusive policies that set out clear guidelines and strategies that help both practitioners and children overcome barriers to learning, are essential to sustain inclusive practice in schools as outlined by the Centre for Studies on inclusive Educations Index for inclusion (CSIE: 2006).
Our school policy acknowledges the many barriers that our learners face and lays out collaborative and cohesive ways in which our school accommodates and welcomes them. Perhaps the most important role that the policies play is to remind us as staff and practitioners that we all aspire to a common aim for the children we work with. We strive to challenge and support children in order to achieve excellence, in a happy, safe, tolerant, caring and stimulating environment, in order to reach their personal best.
Frederick Bird Vision In response to this ethos, teachers and support professionals are encouraged to participate in ongoing training in order to provide the highest level of education and pastoral care possible to our pupils. We also have continuing professional development (CPD) in the form of weekly whole staff training sessions in which we have the opportunity to share practices and experiences, both positive and negative. This is an essential exercise for any school striving to be inclusive.
Ainscow (2007:3) argues that the biggest challenge facing the education system, is the development of practices that will reach out to learners failed by existing arrangements. It is my belief that the most effective way of tackling this matter is through this collaborative way of working. This enables practitioners to challenge and redefine entrenched views of ‘difference’ that can have a negative impact on certain types of learners and find new ways of moving forward. This ethos is reflected in every day teaching and learning.
Every child within the school is treated respectfully as an individual and lessons are strategically planned to accommodate all needs and aspirations. The level of differentiation employed can be seen clearly in the case of ‘Kyle’. Kyle is a popular and intelligent Year 6 student. He is an all round sports enthusiast who relishes any opportunity to take part in team experiences and possesses excellent leadership skills. However, Kyle is dyslexic and came to Year 6 disengaged with his learning and lacking in self-esteem and motivation.
It was through open conversations with previous teachers and his parents that we were able to establish the basis for Kyle’s disconnection with the curriculum. Kyle viewed himself as an incapable underachiever due to the ability level of the work he was expected to produce. Through mediation with the Learning and Behavioural Support Service (LABSS) and Kyle’s parents, a series of interventions and strategies were decided on that would help to reengage Kyle, at the same time as supporting his academic needs.
Kyle is now receiving one-to-one support from me to build on his phonic and writing skills, as well as reading and spelling interventions. He is able to put his leadership skills to good use in an ‘achievement for all’ sports club and most significantly Kyle is now a valued and supported member of the debating club and our Year 6 Able, Gifted and Talented Reading Group. The change in Kyle’s attitude to learning and his motivation to try new things has dramatically improved, which has inevitably made a substantial difference to his levels of attainment.
For this collaborative approach to work effectively for all children, it is essential that lines of communication are encouraged with everyone involved in a child’s life. Parental involvement in the school community brings many advantages including increased standards in schools and ‘raised achievement by supporting parents to help their children effectively at home’ (Cline and Frederickson, 2009:18) The ECM agenda stipulates that parental and family support is required for children to achieve its five outcomes. DfES, 2003) Frederick Bird encourages family input in a number of ways: Our Learning Mentors run parenting classes; translators are always available to aid communication between families and staff; parents views and comments are encouraged and listened to and all learners, regardless of ability, have numerous opportunities to present work done in forms of showcases and assemblies. Having strong relationships with our school community enables us to take a more holistic approach to education and helps us to form connections between individual children’s learning at home and learning at chool; a skill that Feiler and Logan view as essential for success in formal education (2006:13) Due to the disproportionate amount of children with Special Educational Needs and the often troubled backgrounds of our population, the ability to draw on specific expertise in the form of outside agencies is crucial. As a result of the ECM agenda, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was introduced as a standardised approach to assessing children’s additional needs. The CAF provides a more user-friendly, yet accountable system of inter-disciplinary resources, whilst promoting earlier identification and intervention.
Jamie is a child who has benefited from having multiple agencies working with the school as we can see in this example. Jamie is an introverted child with emotional and social difficulties. He presents with a significant expressive language difficulty for which he receives Speech and Language support. As a result of his difficulties and a lack of acceptance at home he struggles with self-image and self-esteem, for which he has input from the Educational Psychology Service. His class teacher and Year 6 team are able to support Jamie with advice from LABSS.
Our learning mentors and teaching assistants are on hand for additional nurture and life-skills work. For Jamie the framework works very effectively. He is able to form supportive relationships with a number of adults who are able to constantly assess and adjust provision to fit his needs. The CAF system allows the school to meet Jamie’s social, emotional and physical needs whilst meeting the four areas identified in ‘Removing Barriers to Achievement’; early intervention; removing barriers to learning; raising expectations and achievement, and delivering improvements in partnership.
However the CAF system does have its difficulties. In order for a CAF to be registered, parental assent has to be gained. As is the case with many children with additional needs this is not always an easy task. There is also no definitive guide to when a CAF should be initiated. It is common practice for practitioners to first deploy their own intervention strategies before resorting to involving others (Norgate et al. 2009:143). With the unique nature of every child’s needs it would be exceptionally difficult to set criteria for this process and it is therefore left to the individual’s personal judgement.
In regards to improvements to Frederick Bird as an inclusive learning community I would make the following recommendations: To help the school build on the relevance of provision and relationships in the wider community, I would suggest a drive to include more local expertise in the delivery of a wide range of lessons and vocational skills workshops. This will help improve the links between home and school learning and increase our pupil’s chances of achieving ‘economic well-being’.
In reference to teaching and learning, more integrated planning, target setting and assessment time for teachers and teaching assistants would help to improve the quality and consistency of the delivery of an inclusive curriculum. Continued professional development should be compulsory for all members of staff. The ability to share specialist skills and knowledge and constantly question our assumptions will enhance an already collaborative and problem-solving culture. (Ainscow, 2007:3).
For my own personal development, a more in depth knowledge of the cultures and values that our families live by would help provide me with a more comprehensive understanding of our children’s needs and therefore enable me to deliver more personalised interventions. This assignment has provided evidence to support my belief that Frederick Bird Primary School is inclusive as a Learning Community. There are changes that can be made and areas that can be built on to improve the quality of inclusive practice, but on the whole this is a school which celebrates diversity.
The ethos of the school permeates its culture, policies and practice and provides a calm and secure atmosphere in which children are respected and valued (Ofsted, 2006:2) The curriculum is carefully adapted to the needs of the children, and every child is supported within a large and nurturing team to meet the outcomes of the Every Child Matters Agenda. Bibliography Ainscow, M. (2001) ‘Taking an inclusive turn’ Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. 7 (1) pp. 3-7 Cline, T. , Frederickson, N. (2009) Special Educational Needs, Inclusion and Diversity.
Maidenhead: Open University Press Corbett, J. (2001) ‘Teaching approaches which support inclusive education: a connective pedagogy’ British Journal of Special Education. 28 (2) pp. 55-59. CSIE(2006) Index for Inclusion: developing play, learning and participation in early years and childcare. Bristol: CSIE. DfEE (1997) The Green Paper: Excellence for All. Manchester: DfEE Publications. DfES (2003) Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools. Nottingham: DfES Publications. Feiler, A. , Logan, E. (2006) ‘Forging links between parents and schools: a new role for teaching assistants? Support for Learning. 21 (3) pp. 115-119. Norgate, R. , Osborne, C. , Traill, M. (2009) ‘Common Assessment Framework (CAF) – early views and issues. Educational Psychology in Practice. 25 (2) pp. 139-150. Office for Standards in Education (2006) Inspection Report: Frederick Bird Primary School. London: OfSTED Publications. http://www. ofsted. gov. uk/oxedu_reports/download/(id)/74065/(as)/103695_298753. pdf [accessed 14 March 2011]. UNESCO (1994) The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. ED-94/WS/1 8. UNESCO.