What you need to know about inclusion

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Holding up a thick A4 binder, Donnie MacLeod, head of the Centre for Inclusion and Equity in Education, asks delegates at the local authority CPD Co-ordinator's Conference if any of them have seen it before.

A few shake their heads, one or two nod vaguely, some suddenly look less comfortable, most say nothing.

"This is the training handbook produced by the Scottish Executive and the Centre for Inclusion and Equity in Education to support the implementation of the Education Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2004," he explains.

"You should have all received one. I'm surprised not more of you had seen it. The Act has huge implications for teachers' CPD."

To be fair to the local authority co-ordinators gathered, few have responsibility for ASL and would never have received the resource. In most councils, ASL has its own dedicated staff and it is on their shelves that this resource sits.

"In our authority we have a specific department that deals with ASL," says Pam Dunsmore, CPD coordinator at East Ayrshire. "It is funded separately, and organises and pays for ASL teacher training independently of us. But it does show the gaps in our knowledge. We should know about ASL legislation, even though it isn't our remit."

During the next three hours, Professor MacLeod fills in those gaps, focusing on the challenges that teachers face under the legislation which came into force in the autumn last year.

"It states in the professional code for registered teachers that they should have a working knowledge of the legal framework within which they work, including knowledge of their pastoral and administrative responsibilities," he says. "Do your teachers all understand the new requirements of the ASL Act?"

He argues that it is not just for the teacher's sake that they should understand the new laws, which underpin a commitment to a fully inclusive education system in Scotland, but, more importantly, for the sake of all children.

"There must be a change in attitudes. As Michael Fullan, the Canadian education specialist, argues, there should be a strong sense of moral purpose in what teachers do," he adds.

"If teachers don't have the right values then they leak out, no matter what they do or say and that sends messages to pupils."

But to do this, inclusion must be fundamental to the system, he says. Only through CPD can schools develop the capacities necessary for a fair and all-encompassing system and thereby fulfil their obligations under the new legislation.

The resource held up by Professor MacLeod at the start of his presentation is a comprehensive guide, aimed at educating teachers into a way of thinking and working that puts inclusion at the heart of their practice.

The pack contains an introduction to the act, a review of the resource, notes for facilitators, 21 90-minute workshops, video clips to support training, PowerPoint presentations for group sessions and key documents to read, such as the code of practice, a summary handout and a learning guide for parents.

One workshop focuses on personal stories to help teachers empathise with children with additional support needs and their parents. It includes a poem written by a mother, movingly presented on DVD, about how her relationship with her son was defined by those around her through his condition.

"At 9 he came out of segregated schooling and he slowly became my son again. Never again will he be anything else but Kim - a son, a brother, a friend, a pupil, a teacher, a person," she concludes.

The aim of the workshop is to get participants to consider issues and challenges of additional support needs; to reflect on attitudes, provision and the impact of these on the lives of young people; to explore questions of perception, and to examine issues around expectations, power and empowerment.

There are also workshops on holistic assessment, seeking the views of children and young people and planning transition. All encourage participants to think about how they perceive young people who have additional support needs and how they treat them.

CIEE, info@ieserve.net

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