Inclusion 2

If our Scottish inclusive education system was an English Premier League football team – we’d be Arsenal. Performing mostly well yet never making that final move towards consistently very high performance nationally or internationally.

Inclusive practices in schooling in Scotland are well-embedded in a number of successful ways and built on over the past 50 years. Belief in the value of education, commitment to all, strong social mix, better performing rural schools are all inclusive elements. So where do we lack that consistently high performance?

Firstly we lack clear commitment and leadership to inclusive education as part of human rights and high quality provision. Internationally the world has moved on regarding inclusive education. UNESCO sets 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are now a global agenda. SDG 4 has a clear focus on education “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

This global goal relates to children’s rights to education. The UN’s Convention of the Rights of the Child has Article 19 “Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures.” While in 2006 the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities set out Article 24 Education: “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realising this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels”

So far, so good.

In Scotland in 2000 in the new Parliament drew upon the words of UNCRC to place duties on education authorities “to secure that the education is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential”. The Parliament extended children’s rights giving them the right NOT to attend special schools with three exceptions (suitability, other children, cost).

However in 2006 the UK Government claimed an interpretative declaration and reservation to Article 24. It strangely redefined general education with the view ‘the General Education System in the UK includes mainstream and special schools”. In England in 2015 the UK Government stated ”it is committed to inclusive education of children with disabilities and young people and the progressive removal or barriers to learning and participation in mainstream education.”

In Scotland we have never updated inclusive education or moved towards system improvement for inclusive practices. The latest Scottish Government view on this was on the delivery of excellence and equity. This delivery plan went as far to say “We are of course aware that there are wider issues which can affect children’s attainment and equality of outcomes … we are creating the conditions for all children and young people in Scotland to flourish and thrive.” It is not clear that the awareness of the wider issues will lead to action to ensure inclusive education in line with the history of Scotland’s inclusive practices or match the SDG4 goal.

Looking at how to build on inclusive practices requires acknowledgement of Scotland’s successes and strengths and consideration of system and schools failures.

Even within very good schools children encounter failure.   In many cases children who encounter failure in the end do so as individuals. (It’s well known that individuals can cause all sorts of problems in complex social systems!) Barriers to learning occur in the learning environment, relationships break down, communication between home and school becomes fractious and support doesn’t get it right for that child.

In this battle to reduce failure, schools and systems need to get their retaliation in early with more personalised learning and support to take account of individual circumstances. Class teachers and support staff need to collaborate and cooperate in classrooms with the specific aim of improving inclusive practices. Special schools have a role to play to build capacity act as resource centres and offer advice and time to support inclusive practice. We are now at the stage of needing to personalized and individualised packages of support drawing the full range of support services. In a later blog I want to look more at even greater success for inclusive education to ensure every child gets the right support in the right time in the right inclusive learning environment.

inclusion

 

Background

Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A Delivery Plan for Scotland Scottish Government (2016)

http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/06/3853

UK Independent Mechanism Submission to inform the CRPD List of Issues on the UK (2017) Equality and Human Right Commission

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/un-convention-rights-persons-disabilities-scotland

Autism: diversity of a neurotribe

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Autism came late to Scottish education. In 1995, no pupils were identified or recorded as having autism in any Scottish school according to the then Scottish Office’s statistical bulletins. In 2015 11, 722 children and young people were identified as having an additional support need arising from autistic spectrum disorder. If you believe that autism is a modern epidemic then that data can look compelling.

In February 2015, President Trump in a meeting with teachers said the following words. These are the very words, they are not fake words. TRUE!

“So what’s going on with autism?” Trump asked. “When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea?”

Well we do.

In the main thanks to two recently published books that together offer the narrative of the history of autism.  Silberman’s Neurotribes and Donovan and Zucker’s A Different Key provide broadly similar accounts of an unrecognized and therefore undiagnosed condition and the struggle that generated for families.  In A Different Key part of the story centres on Donald T (no, not that Donald T!) but Donald Triplett from Forest, Mississippi who was the first person diagnosed with autism by Dr Leo Kanner in 1940s in Baltimore.   While Neurotribes gives an account of autism with a focus on Hans Asperger and his ’little professors” in Vienna in 1940s.   Both books provide the historical perspective not just of autism but in fact the social and political contexts for views on disability and difference across centuries.

“Knowing one person autism, means you know one person with autism” is a useful truism about a neurological condition.   Silberman welcomes the concept of neurodiversity “the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths”. While Donovan and Zucker highlight a broader understanding of diversity as “the impulse to recognize the difference among us as part of us, and to root for their full participation in the world. That project is a work in progress.”

Across both books the stories of individuals with autism and their families are told. Their frustrations and battles with social services, pleas for recognition, journeys down blind alleys, battles and movements to improve services and ultimately inclusive communities to take better account of autism are shared in each account. Silberman, a writer from Wired, writes from a geek perspective and an affinity with Asperger’s “little professors” while Donovan and Zucker considers the supportive community and its response to Donald Triplett. Both cover the heroines of autism such as Temple Grandin, the author and academic and the villains in autism such as Andrew Wakefield who falsified his research on vaccines linking them to autism. (Worryingly, President Trump is seemingly validating Wakefield in similar ways as Nigel Farage.)

The major difference among the two accounts of autism appears in their perspectives on the two earliest explorers of autism: Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. SIlberman aligns with Asperger and his “little professors” while Donovan and Zucker engage with a deeper view of Kanner’s work.  Donovan and Zucker then discover that Asperger was part of the Nazi response to those with disabilities and he may have been part of the murder of hundreds of disabled children in “specialist children’s wards “ set up by the Nazis. Maybe appropriate that Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer recognsied as a distinct diagnosis within the USA’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM).

Were you to read one book it might just be that Donovan and Zucker edges ahead, though reading both is recommended.

In Scotland there is now a national autism strategy and within additional support for learning reports are identified the 1.3% of the school population receiving support in school from a teacher recognized label of autistic spectrum disorder. In Scotland the data also shows that just under 20% of those with additional support based around ASD gain the qualifications for higher education. Those little professors, that neurodiverse tribe are now counted and valued in mainstream Scottish schools. The vast majority of young people with autism are included successfully in mainstream schools and not only that their attainment data scores are improving.

Maybe inclusive supportive communities will continue to grow from inclusive supportive learning environments for all our tribes.

 

Background reading

Autism’s First Child The Atlantic (October 2010)

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/10/autisms-first-child/308227/

Autistic disturbances of affective contact. Kanner L. Nervous Child 2, 217-250 (1943) PDF

http://simonsfoundation.s3.amazonaws.com/share/071207-leo-kanner-autistic-affective-contact.pdf

Autism and Scottish Education information from data, Laura Meikle and David Watt in Good Autism Practice, (2013)

In A Different Key: the story of autism Donovan and Zucker Allen and Lane (2016)

NeuroTribes: the legacy of autism Silberman Allen and Unwin 2015

Scottish Office Statistical Bulletin Provision of Education for Pupils with Special Educational Needs (February 1995)

The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin (Brain Science Podcast 98 and 99) http://brainsciencepodcast.com/bsp/2013/the-autistic-brain-by-temple-grandin-bsp-98

 

Inclusion (Part 1) How good are our inclusive practices?

Given Scotland’s world class performance in inclusive education it seems strange that this status is unheralded, rarely recognised and not celebrated well among the Scottish education community or even within the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament. Why wouldn’t we want to be proud of our inclusive practices?

Is it all part of a Scottish psyche? That heady mixture of “Ah kent his faither” and the tall poppy syndrome which is preventing us marking our successes on the global stage? Perhaps it’s linked to modest self-deprecation which in Scotland becomes an overly self-critical process where we are first in the queue to beat ourselves up for failings (just to deny others of the pleasure!)

Anyway, who says we’re inclusive? The OECD report of 2015 Improving Schools in Scotland for one. They stated it as a major strength “Scottish schools are inclusive” – they highlighted three areas. Firstly Scottish schools are socially mixed. The comprehensive ideal is alive and well in Scotland (for the moment) and our politicians might want to build on such a strength rather than undermine it. Apart from Edinburgh, Scotland has a small socially stratified private sector, only 4% of Scottish children attend private schools and their numbers decline. The next inclusive strength according to OECD is our rural schools which out perform schools in urban areas. In the western developed world this is unusual. Finally, they stated that Scotland with 10% minority ethnic children and young people in schools had groups of immigrants making international class progress in inclusive primary and secondary schools. Something we take for granted is children from diverse communities attending the local school. This Is not the case in many European countries. Children with another first language than the dominant culture will attend some form of base or separate school till language levels have improved.

Our immersive inclusive schools supported by support staff (EAL teachers) working in the classroom have ensured that migrant children with additional support for learning needs are just about attaining in line with national averages. Of course the highest attaining groups in Scottish schools are girls from Asian backgrounds (Chinese, Indian and Pakistani), a positive story of intersectionality again unheralded.

Aye OK then, but who else says we’re inclusive? Well, there’s the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education who place us among a group of 16 countries who have less than 2% of their school population in segregated special schooling. We have about 98.5 % of our 670,000 children and young people in inclusive provision. That figure has hardly altered ever since 1980s despite what many people perceive (wrongly) as there being a dogmatic push for inclusion. Our primary and secondary schools have always educated very close to 100% of the school population. This is a good thing.

The successes within our comprehensive schools have occurred over the past 60 years through two key improvement movements. Firstly “downward credentialism” whereby schools and teachers pushed to gain more and more awards for more and more young people in more and more subjects. In 1965, 12% of leavers gained three or more Highers thus qualifying for higher education; by the mid 1980s this figure had risen to 22% and by 2013, 37% of young people gained this level.  In 1965 30% of leavers got O-grades (never O-Levels) but 70% left with no qualifications, by 1990 this was reversed with 70% leaving with qualifications and 30% without. This approach from teachers built on and validated an understanding by parents and within communities that education was a social good with value and a way to a better life.

Secondly, our comprehensive schools have been self-improving schools growing and developing from their effectiveness. Effective schools knew what to do to improve and through engagement with school inspectors a process of improvement through self-evaluation developed leading to further virtuous cycles of improvement.   Since the 1990s, Scottish education continued to improve and left behind the stratification between senior secondaries and junior high schools. Almost all schools were improving with some making spectacular gains through leadership raising expectations of teachers and perceptions of parents and communities.

These two strands have been added to with aspects of universal design which aim to provide for all children and young people. Curriculum for Excellence with seven broad principles including challenge and enjoyment and its four capacities means all children are included in making progress within its experiences and outcomes. It was developed to be inclusive. At the initial stages writing teams were joined by a number of very effective practitioners from special schools to ensure they were not an add on as previously.

The accreditation system is inclusive. Every young person in Scotland is able to gain awards through National Qualifications for their learning, experiences and achievements. Finally the support processes are universal with the stated aim being “Getting it right for every child.”

By 2000s there were a small minority of schools with important weaknesses, most schools in Scotland being good schools or better with primary schools performing better than secondary and special schools. Boys and girls, diverse ethnicities, differing abilities and children and young people of various social circumstances were being enrolled to attend and sent out each and every morning to the inclusive learning environment of the local school.

Background reading

Additional Support for Learning and Young Carers: Report to Parliament 2013 Scottish Government

Improving Schools in Scotland OECD (2015)

European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education Country Policy Review and Analysis (UK – Scotland) https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/agency-projects/CPRA/UK-Scotland%20Analysis.pdf

Equalisation and Improvement: Some Effects of Comprehensive Reorganisation in Scotland. Sociology, November, 1987 Andrew Mc Pherson, J. Douglas Willms

 

Diversity: We are all individuals; just like everyone else!

My motivation for writing this blog is to talk about diversity, inclusion and equity with relevance to education in Scotland and a wider world. I aim to unpick and unpack ideas behind the terms and share ways of improving learning, schooling and education.

These days diversity, inclusion and equity are at the centre of, not just educational debate, but, political conflict. These concepts are key to where mature education systems such as Scotland need to take their next steps. This very first blog takes a closer look at diversity. Other upcoming blog topics will be inclusion and equity as well as a history of autism and touching upon intersectionality too.

Diversity is a given. Like everyone, we are all individuals. To take account of diversity within schooling we need to know the background of learners and their differing circumstances.  It’s no longer the case that “we treat everyone the same here”. The OCED report on Scottish education from 2007 nailed it with ”it’s who you are “ that matters in Scottish schools. Identity and diversity are linked.

In 2000, in Glasgow, the city council signed up with the Home Office to accept refuges and asylum seekers. By 2006, there were 2026 families with 1411 school-aged children and young people with 150 of them being unaccompanied children. This was one council.

Working in a Glasgow secondary school at that time we were concerned about changes and impact of a more diverse school population. The school moved from a place where 10 languages were spoken to one with over 30 different languages. Additional support from the city council through a bilingual base aided quick transitions to the classrooms and a more inclusive learning environment. At school level we monitored the data of the changing diversity of the school population. However, there remained concerns about relationships and the attitude among the adolescent boys whether from a Scottish background or within the new Glaswegians from a migrant background.

Two aspects of the life of adolescent boys reduced potential tension greatly and led to positive relationships among groups who may have been prone to conflict in those early days. One, the boys played football with each other. Football talk was also a way to try and break down language barriers.   Secondly some of the footballers shared a cigarette when smoking down the back of the football pitch! While teachers worked together to ensure learning in classroom was sound the young people themselves found ways to develop positive relationships!

We took account of a process of enrolment that was welcoming and informative. Families appreciated being shown round the school, meeting other children from a similar background (enlisted as interpreters for a morning) and getting their kids enrolled in school as soon as possible.

In Scotland we are very successful in enrolling children and young people into school. Such successes are the first port of call for taking account of diversity. Who doesn’t enrol?

Scotland has about 99.9% of children and young people enrolled in schooling from 5 years to 16 years at least. Exceptions at present are home schoolers and some Gypsy and Travellers.   Very high levels of enrolment both signal the value of education and also a level of maturity of the system. Other countries may have low levels of enrolment of girls never mind high levels of absence.    Transparency in data around diversity will show our successes and also highlight where we aren’t winning. The equality characteristics are useful organisers – social background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age.

Attendance is the other universal measure. Much more can be done in transparency for attendance and looking at measures across characteristics.

Further transparency can illuminate who is missing or not turning up. Gender, disability and social background whether free school meal entitlement (FSM) or living in an area highlighted by Scottish index of multiple deprivation (SIMD) now need to be considered together to highlight patterns tied into diversity and identity. Usually figures for instance for those excluded from school are broken down to boys and girls, the entitlement to a free school meals (FSM), disabilities and ethnicity. In most countries a priority is to draw together the different datasets to consider diversity in all its interconnected forms. In Scotland, a concerning development is the numbers of children and young people either excluded, on part-time education or transferred to special schools. These numbers would be best illuminated by recourse to analysis of gender (boys), social background (working class), disabilities (with a support need) and, more surprisingly for me, age (9-15 years old). While numbers excluded have creditably declined the numbers subject to unlawful exclusions, part-time education and transferred to special schools may well have increased in recent years.

Governments, education authorities and schools haven’t yet fully caught up with diversity and the disaggregation of data to both monitor and evaluate responses to identity and background. It’s who you are and how you’re counted!

Background reading

Attendance and Absence 2014/15 School Education datasets Scottish Government

Education and Schooling for Asylum-Seeking Refugee Students in Scotland: An Exploratory Study Candappa et al (2007)

Joint inspection of services for children of asylum seekers in the Glasgow City Council area education Scotland June 2007

Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland OECD (2007)