SEN and Inclusion

For years we have looked at Inclusion when we are referring to students with Special Educational Needs however, in preparation for the conference in Kuwait, I have just got to thinking about this in a little more detail.

The term inclusion is often used when discussing student with special education needs.   The focus of inclusion is to identify and address a student’s individual needs in order to allow them to be integrated into lessons and to access the learning.

Now the term inclusion implies that those students without special needs are already included.   So, in other words, the majority already have access to the learning so don’t need specialist inclusion measures to be taken with them.   We are accepting that the learning opportunities presented will be sufficient for the majority and that either no or little modification is needed for these students to access learning.

This cannot possibly be the case as all students are different, with different experiences, backgrounds, cognitive abilities, skills, talents, fears and interests.     The fact that we need to focus on inclusion for SEN students highlights the fact that we may not be valuing the individual nature of ALL students within our classrooms.

Now maybe there is some learning to be gained from special needs support as it, for years, has been focussed on meeting individual student needs.   In addition SEN support has often involved a variety of technologies, each utilised in different ways, and maybe this is something else that can be learned from, in terms of technologies place in supporting students as individuals.     Whichever way we look at it, the important fact is we need to look more at how we support all students as individuals as if we truly manage this, why would there be a need for inclusion?

 

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Leadership Discussions

The other day I was lucky enough to have time to sit and discuss the important issues of school improvement with Vice Principals of a number of schools.

A number of issues were discussed however 3 key points came out of the discussions:

  • School Culture and Climate
  • School Communication Systems
  • Vision

Now the issues are written down in the order them arose in the discussion so no priority should be read into the order above.   Let’s take each of the issues in turn:

School Culture and Climate

We discussed the need to improve the quality of teaching and learning and how those teachers currently delivering high quality learning experiences could be utilised to encourage this however this doesn’t happen unless a culture exists where staff feel safe in sharing ideas and where ideas are openly discussed and questioned.     Ideas and thoughts regarding how to improve a school often already exist within the school itself although unless a safe, sharing culture exists, these often go without being verbalized.

In addition to this a sharing, safe culture, encourages and supports staff in peer observation, collaboration and team working.    It also serves to support distributed leadership, where teachers are encouraged to take on leadership roles.

School Communication Systems

Now we are not just talking about a weekly briefing here; we are considering the communication system of the school in its most holistic terms.   How do staff and students within the school find out what is going on in the school, its priorities, its mission and its progress towards realising this mission?    Equally how does the school find out about how students and staff feel about the school, its systems and, in general terms, how things are going?     Consideration needs to be given to processes and systems but also to more humanistic issues like how do managers find out about their staff as people with lives outside school.    Communication is about ensuring that the right messages are heard and that all staff feel as if they too are heard, and that their contributions are valued.

Vision

How is the schools vision arrived at and who is involved in this process?    How do we turn the written vision into an espoused vision acted and believed by all staff within the school, independent of role or position?   Some discussion was had regarding whether or not all school vision statements were essentially the same, however I do not believe that this is the case as even although the words used may be similar and the general aim may be education, what this actually means within a given staff body in a specific school in a specific area, at a specific time may differ significantly.

Now overall the discussions were very interesting and identified three important strategic areas in need of consideration however one very important question remained:

How do we go about building on these 3 areas within your school?  

Kuwait Conference

Haven’t had an opportunity to write anything on here for a few weeks due to being rather busy however I am currently preparing to present at conference in Kuwait in the coming week, where I intend to discuss how ICT can be used to enhance access to learning for all students.    The conference is particularly focused on SEN students and the elderly however in my opinion the labels are not important.   What is important is trying to provide greater access to learning for all.

As part of the session I am going to mention 3 areas which are currently of interest to me:

  • The Flipped Classroom
  • MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses)
  • Lateral Thinking

Now my intention is to post some updates here and also to include links to some resources including videos relating to the session.