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Inclusive schools

Definition of Inclusive Education

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development defines inclusive education as a philosophy that promotes:

  • the right of all students to attend school with their peers, and to receive appropriate and quality programming;
  • a continuum of supports and services in the most appropriate setting (large group, small group, individualized) respecting the dignity of the child;
  • a welcoming school culture where all members of the school community feel they belong, realize their potential, and contribute to the life of the school;
  • an atmosphere which respects and values the participation of all members of the school community;
  • a school community which celebrates diversity; and
  • a safe and caring school environment

These tenets apply to all members of the school community regardless of economic status, gender, racial or religious background, sexual orientation, academic ability or other facet of diversity.

The move towards inclusive education involves a refocusing of the way individuals perceive the learning environment. Individuals see the classroom as a diverse setting with a variety of students bringing their own unique learning styles, abilities, experiences and backgrounds. An inclusive classroom not only respects these differences but embraces it.

While the concept of inclusive education is typically associated with including special needs children in the classroom environment, this is not an accurate reflection of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s vision. In reality, the goal of inclusive education is that students are included in ALL aspects of the learning environment regardless of any facet of diversity. Such inclusive education involves much more than just student placement. It embraces all students and involves everything that happens within the school community: culture, policies, and practices.

For students with exceptionalities, inclusive education does not mean that every student is required or expected to be in the regular classroom 100% of the time. Some students, whether for medical, academic, social or emotional reasons, need individualized or small group instruction periodically, in order for their needs to be met.

Creating an Inclusive School Culture

An inclusive culture starts from the premise that everyone in the school – students, educators, administrators, support staff and parents – should feel that they belong and contribute to the life of the school. Within an inclusive school culture, diverse experiences, perspectives and gifts are seen to enrich the school community.

Achieving an inclusive school culture goes beyond making a decision to run a workshop on bullying, put in a ramp or offer diversity training to staff. It is more than just developing a value statement that talks about being inclusive. An inclusive school culture requires a shift in the attitudes of all the stakeholders as well as the development of policies and practices that reinforce inclusive behaviour.

Creating an inclusive school culture is an opportunity to teach students, early in their development as citizens, about the importance and value of being inclusive. They will learn behaviour that will ultimately help nurture truly inclusive communities. It also provides an opportunity for parents to learn with their children about the importance of belonging, acceptance and community.

In an inclusive school culture diversity is embraced; learning supports are available and properly utilized and flexible learning experiences focus on the individual student. There is an innovative and creative environment and a collaborative approach is taken. At the heart of an inclusive school is a committed leadership and a shared direction.

(As cited in An Inclusive School Culture - a resource tool created by the Ontario Community Inclusion Project of Community Living Ontario)

Inclusive Education Initiative

In March 2009, the Inclusive Education Initiative began with the goal of making schools in Newfoundland and Labrador places where all members of the school community feel safe, accepted and included. A phase-in approach was adopted with new schools joining the initiative each year until June 2017, when representatives from all public schools will have received training in inclusive practices, differentiated instruction and collaborative teaching. See links below for schools that entered the initiative in each phase.

Itinerants for Inclusive Education are responsible for supporting schools as they implement an inclusive education framework. They provide continuous and direct support to all schools involved in the initiative through school visits, collaboration with teachers and school teams, and provision of in-service andprofessional development sessions. While priority for training will be given to new schools, Itinerants for Inclusive Education remain available to assist schools trained in earlier phases.

What Makes Inclusive Education Work?

There are many components required in order to make schools inclusive, however, the EECD focuses its professional learning on the 12 components below:

  • an understanding of, and commitment to, inclusion
  • a welcoming and safe school environment
  • a strong administration team
  • a focus on teaching all children
  • involvement from families and outside agencies
  • professional development for teachers and other school personnel
  • common planning time for teachers
  • effective instructional and assessment strategies to meet student needs.
  • appropriate accommodations and support systems in place
  • opportunities for relationship and team building
  • a commitment to continuous improvement and growth

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is inclusive education?

The vision of inclusive education is to enhance the development of value, respect and support for the learning and development of all students, as well as the relationships between all members of the school community.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development defines inclusive education as a philosophy that promotes:

  • the right of all students to attend school with their peers, and to receive appropriate and quality programming;
  • a range of supports and services in the most appropriate setting (large group, small group, individualized) respecting the dignity of the child;
  • a welcoming school culture where all members of the school community feel they belong, achieve their potential, and contribute to the life of the school;
  • an atmosphere which respects and values the participation of all members of the school community;
  • a school community which celebrates diversity; and
  • a safe and caring school environment.

These tenets apply to all members of the school community regardless of economic status, gender, sexual orientation, racial or religious background, academic ability or other facet of diversity.

2. Who benefits from inclusive education?

Research and evaluation data indicates that students show improvement in academic, social and behavioural outcomes when taught in inclusive classrooms. Research shows that when students are regularly separated from their peers, they are not as successful. Additionally, teachers benefit professionally from working together through the sharing of resources, ideas and collaborative planning, observation and co-teaching.

3. How will current roles and responsibilities of educators change?

In an inclusive system, educators share responsibility for the education of all students: all teachers are responsible for all students. Classroom teachers and special education teachers (instructional resource teachers or IRTs), work together with to improve the teaching and learning of all. Teachers may consult, participate in collaborative planning, provide direct instruction and/or co-teach. The roles of educators are outlined in the Roles of Teachers document available from www.gov.nl.ca/edu/forms/studentsupport/teacherroles.pdf

4. Is every child going to be included? What about the students who require specialized services and supports?

Everyone in the school community should feel welcome and valued; diversity should be celebrated. Students requiring specialized services and supports, will continue to access a range of supports and services, in all settings, to help them reach their maximum potential.

5. Is there still opportunity for pull-out instruction?

The Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Education and Early Childhood Development advocates a continuum of service for students with exceptionalities in which pull-out instruction is a valid option. Decisions to use an alternate setting should follow the guidelines outlined in Chapter 8 of The Service Delivery Model for Students with Exceptionalities available at www.gov.nl.ca/edu/k12/studentsupportservices/publications/sdm_document.pdf

6. Is it possible to meet the needs of gifted students in the inclusive education classroom?

Research indicates that many of the needs of students who are gifted can often be met in the inclusive classroom when two conditions are addressed: (1) appropriate grouping for strategic instruction and (2) appropriately differentiated curriculum. The goal is to provide a learning environment where each child is working at his or her level of challenge. Grouping alone does not produce results; i.e., higher achievement. However, grouping may make it easier to differentiate the learning resources, process and products to ensure appropriate complexity and challenge.

7. What are some ways classroom teachers and instructional resource teachers can work together effectively?

Teachers regularly collaborate with their colleagues including specialists such as instructional resource teachers. This may occur through sharing of resources and ideas and may extend into co-teaching settings. Co-teaching can be an effective service delivery approach for all students when appropriate supports are in place. Co-teachers need preparation, administrative support, and opportunities to nurture their collaborative relationships. Co-teaching partnerships must be carefully considered, taking into account such things as personality and educational philosophy. Deliberate and ongoing communication among everyone involved is essential.

8. Some teachers feel they do not have the training needed to educate students with exceptionalities. How might this be addressed?

If our goal is to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s inclusive society, why would we work with some children in one type of setting and with others in segregation? Children and young people benefit from learning, developing and sharing experiences with each other.

Accessing resources and training are effective means of building knowledge. Many school staffs have found creative ways to respond to the diversity of learners, emerging from their own resourceful thinking - sometimes in consultation with external agencies; always in consultation with students and their families.

Helpful Links

Instruction Strategies Websites

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