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

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)