Something that Jenny is passionate about is inclusive education, due to her youngest daughter having Down syndrome. These two words, 'inclusive
education' though are often misused and there is a lot of confusion
over what they actually mean. So, it is her intention with this blog
post, to set things straight.
What is inclusive education?
First of all Jenny is talking about students with disabilities being in
mainstream schools. Being in a special school is not inclusive
Students are in the classroom with the other students,and for the same
amount of time as the other students. They are provided with the
supports they need to access the same activities that the other students
do. Their school work is modified if necessary and if so, they are
doing the same work as their peers but at their level. They do not have a
teacher aide shadowing them.
This is a succinct definition:
Inclusion is being physically present and fully participating in the same classroom as peers for the same proportion of time; socially belonging and immersed in the same curriculum.
It requires the provision of necessary supports and adjustments so the student can learn, contribute and participate socially alongside one’s peers.
Students are under the same school and class rules, although it needs to be stressed that it may take more time and attention to teach some children these rules.
Inclusive education is no
* Special classes
* A full-time teacher aide
* Being isolated in the classroom
* The student is working in parallel rather than the curriculum being modified
* Being included in class but not in the life of the school (playground, excursions, camps, extra-curricular)
enrolled but not challenged to learn, participate and contribute
Let's look at the following diagram:
Exclusion: Students with disabilities are in separate schools.
Segregation: Students with disabilities are in a mainstream school but are kept in separate units away from the rest of the students.
Students with disabilities are in mainstream schools, in classrooms but
are expected to do the same work as the other children even if they are
not able to, they do not have any supports, and they may be excluded or
separated from the other students for some activities.
Inclusion: What we want!
Why do we want inclusion for children with disabilities?
1) All children are learners and all children are unique. What is ‘normal’?
is the gateway to society and inclusive communities start with
inclusive neighbourhood schools that value diversity and respect the
right of all students to be welcomed and to belong.
Inclusion means going to school with siblings. It’s about having an ordinary life.
Regular schools offer a wide range of experiences.
5) Inclusion is a RIGHT:
Article 24 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities recognises the right to an inclusive education as a
human right of people with disability.
In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability
Standards for Education 2005 ensure equal access for people with a
disability to education.
The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers 1.5 & 1.6 give
the instructions that teachers must differentiate teaching to meet the
specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.
What research is there on inclusive education?
case for inclusive education over ‘special education’ models (special
schools or education support units), is overwhelming. Over 40 years of
research, and hundreds of studies have compared education outcomes for
students with a disability in segregated special education settings to
regular education environments. They have all ruled in favour of
inclusive schools. The benefits continue into secondary education.
Australia, Dr Bob Jackson has done a lot of research into the benefits
of inclusive education for children with disabilities.
diagram shows two pathways. The horizontal is the life of a child who
goes to mainstream school and progresses on with a regular ordinary
life. The diagonal line shows the direction life takes for many students
who go through special education.
Research has also shown that inclusion leads to:
* Greater access to the general education curriculum
* More time ‘on task’ and a greater motivation to learn
* Greater progress academically, particularly with literacy skills
* Increased communication skills
* Improved social skills and behaviour
* More friendships
A change in the school culture to a more inclusive one to the benefit
of a great many students, not just those with a disability.
But what about the effects on non-disabled students and their learning?
This is a common argument used by many to stop children with
disabilities from being in the classroom. But this is a poor argument as
the research has shown that inclusion is better for ALL students.
Having disabled children in a school, develops more positive attitudes
towards difference, better social skills and awareness, more caring
friendships, less disruptive behaviour and more developed personal
values and ethics. All students in the school learn the skills they need
to live full lives as part of their communities, and to build the
communities of the future.
Disabled peers do not take away from teacher instruction time and there
is no detrimental effect on the achievement of the child’s peers. Many
studies have shown a positive impact due to peer tutoring. The behaviour
of the other students is unaffected, and differentiation of the
curriculum leads to better teaching for the whole class and more
effective classroom management strategies.
It's about the mindset of educators
of the excuses Jenny received from a teacher not wanting her daughter in her
class was, there would be too much preparation and she didn't have the
time. This turned out to be false and later in the year, this particular
teacher changed her mindset towards inclusion and actually embraced it. Jenny likes the following meme as it gives great examples of how teachers
can look at the children with disabilities who are in their class.
Advice for Parents
who have children with significant disabilities and are wanting their
child to have an inclusive education will more than likely face
gatekeepers, barriers, low expectations and prejudices along the way.
Even though it is a right, there are many in the education system who do
not believe that children with disabilities should be in mainstream
school. Jenny encountered these attitudes in her journey, and she had to be
an assertive advocate due to these. She's also had to maintain her
vision for Jessica, and check in often with her teacher to ascertain
whether they were still on track. Often schools can seem like secret
societies. Jenny's advice is to be prepared that challenges will arise at
some stage, and gather people around you who can support you.
Jenny is part of the leadership team of the Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education. You can find QCIE on Facebook.