Having read many blog posts- which can be found by searching the hashtag #InclusionDebate I have decided to revisit this post and reflect on my thoughts again…
My official title is Assistant Head Teacher: Director of Inclusion. However, what does inclusion actually mean… The definition to me means allowing everyone euitable access to a service, in this context, education. Irrespective of age, gender, race, sexuality, class, status, religion, learning ability, physical ability and so on. It is a term that has increased in popularity over the years, a simple google search for jobs including the term inclusion in it provides us with many, many results!
But why the upsurge? Why the new found belief that we should all be treated equitably? (I didn’t say treated the same on purpose.) This wasn’t the state of play when I was at school in the late 90s…
In this short blog I aim to explain why I love my role and why it is so important. Nature: I think as Human beings (especially in teachers) we are naturally a little possessive, a little territorial. I think we always defend, protect and champion our subjects, our students, our personal classrooms. It is not to say that we do not value, agree or appreciate others and their roles, spaces and beliefs it is just, we simply think ours is… better? (Open evenings or options evenings are a class example of this!)
Our territorial instinct apply to roles in the senior leadership teams too. All of us have very clear roles; Director of Teaching and Learning, Pastoral Lead, Data and Attainment and so on. Therefore during senior leadership meetings, staff training sessions, whole school INSETs, internal/external CPDs and morning briefings. We all promote and seek to push forward our areas of charge. We all want the time/effort/foci to be spearing towards the areas we are leading. However, as with everything in education, all responsibilities fundamentally come down to effective, quality first teaching. If only it was that easy. Nevertheless, why is it that if you are poor, in care or from a certain area you will not do as well as others? You will not be as successful, you will not achieve as highly as others. You will not get certain jobs, go to certain universities, live in certain areas. (I obviously know there are exceptions to this.) I hate this fact. I hate that the actions/prohibitions/inhibitions of others before us can determine who others will/can be in their future.
I do know there are many ‘reasons’ and ‘obstacles’ that students from poor backgrounds, poorer areas or in care face. Natural hurdles that life has thrown at these people to either dodge, jump over, or burst through. However, this influx in jobs, the introduction of Pupil Premium grant and the realisation from many that these obstacles should not stand in the way of young people achieving is what I want to discuss further.
I see my role as advocating for the needs of the ‘others.’ I am not suggesting that my colleagues/teachers do not do this at all. Nevertheless, I see myself as the person with information, advice and guidance about these sub groups I ‘look’ out for. It would be impossible/unfair to assume that teachers can know everything about everything that is happening. Which is ultimately the reason why we have sliced the key areas in education into different leadership responsibilities to give a champion in this area a way of policing(?) their field, their domain, their team? (Coming back to the whole territory point…?) I actively search out information, ideas, think about these students and their well being, attainment and the schools direction in everything I do… if we all do this will we have a rounded school? Or a medley of priorities? (Think school development plan?) The role of Director of Inclusion to me means that I am able to provide a one stop shop for all the staff at my school. (IF they need it.)
With my team (I have to commend my team here- I work with such committed individuals who come together to form an amazing team. My Assistant SENCO is a fountain of knowledge, my nuturing Learning Support Manager provides a calm presence when needed. My SEND Teachers, Literacy Specialists, Education Inclusion Tutor, my Lead TA for Looked After Children, my Physical Disability Lead, my two behaviour unit coordinators, my Pupil Premium lead, my Higher Attainers Lead and Teaching Assistants! I simply can not fault!) With these people I am able to offer training sessions, personalised departmental CPD, online support, representation in meetings, agency involvement and so on. Most importantly I am able to advocate, promote, plead for, hold a torch for, defend, protect, uphold, support, back, espouse, ally oneself with, stand behind, stand up for, take someone’s part, campaign for, lobby for, fight for, battle for, crusade for, take up the cudgels for; propose, sponsor, vouch for, stick up for, throw one’s weight behind, plug, shout, smile and raise the profile (hate that word) for my students. For the students.
Sir Tim Brighouse stated that he has never been to an Senior Leadership Team meeting that is so in harmony about their vision of inclusion. (We invited him along to hear the action points from our whole school Inclusion review.) He feels that our roles in SLT integrate seamlessly in ensuring we ask for the best in everyone for everyone. This made me so happy to hear. However, why then do our results not show a smaller gap between our students. Don’t get me wrong, we are narrowing and have continued to narrow the gap over the years, this year by 6%. But, I do not think this is enough. I am in two minds about whether we can effectively ever close the gap entirely. Too many children are spending time away from their teachers. They are outside the classroom. There are still teachers saying, well what can we expect. This is the best they can achieve. Whatever the state of play, all I want is to know that we all have given our students the best possible chance in life by plugging their barriers as effectively as possible.
So ask yourself is your school really inclusive? Test yourself on this checklist here!
Taking over the leadership of the Pupil Premium grant has allowed me to be more creative with the ‘plugging.’ I can now designate money we receive to reduce the gaps in English and Maths attainment and socialisation. I have also recently hired a Pupil Premium Lead; a research champion to look into effective ways to use this money. I have read a lot about how others use this money, I have been inspired and dismayed at the same time. For me, whilst at school students are all relatively equal, same classes, same teachers, same books, resources and so on. Their learning and physical abilities obviously differ but I feel the gaps are when they leave school daily, when they are at home/care, around their homes/place they stay, or when they are with their peers. These are the areas I want to develop further… I want to promote a love of learning, a desire to succeed.
Is it simply just instilling aspirations, ambitions and future chances in these young people that will make the difference. Unfortunately, we do not really know yet what some of the many issues are with these students that do not have as much income in their household as others… I am hoping between my Pupil Premium lead and I we can find out. Do you know why there is such a gap of knowledge? This is in contrast to what we know about SEN/D students.
Read more about my views on Pupil Premium here!
My team and I have for provided all staff with a SEN/D register with information, strategies, advice and information. There isn’t this information for students who have poor parents, or from a ‘rough’ area.
I have been asked in the past whether a teacher can really be expected to know whether all their students are either/and Pupil Premium, Free School Meals, Looked After, Adopted, have English as an additional language, Special Educational Needs, a young carer and so on…
YES! Yes you are expected to know all that. Not off by heart, but just be aware. Be open to their strengths, areas for developments and the difficulties they face. Daily. That is because we are ALL teachers of SEND!
How will we really ever know the real difficulties they face? Maybe if we came from those backgrounds? Had an insight as to what it was like? We have asked all of our teachers to use SPOT folders- read more about them here!
I have read numerous posts about this recently and lots of posts err on the side of negativity towards the expectation that all students should have equal access to education. I have tried to respond to some of these posts and usually it ends with total agreement that we all want the same thing. We want all of our students to be stretched and challenged. However, due to years of this word being used inappropriately unfortunately it is tarnished with a colour that is hard to see past. I won’t write much more here as I have a post about it here. Below is the training session I recently delivered to some of my colleagues.
All staff, including support staff, promote equality of opportunity, creating an environment where students feel stimulated, supported and challenged. Consequently, students achieve well.
The wide range of teaching assistants, academic mentors and support staff is well led. They are deployed effectively in classes and in the designated units that support students with specific needs. Students who face significant challenges are given one-to-one support to help them cope. A young carer told inspectors, ‘I’ve just been told I’m a young carer; nobody has ever recognised that before.’
The dedicated support provided in the academy’s inclusion centre means students with complex needs remain at the academy until they have completed their courses. Consequently, in 2014 a very low proportion of students left the academy without securing a place in education, training or employment.
Teaching assistants and other support staff work effectively with targeted students to ensure they behave well in lessons. Students and parents and carers who spoke to inspectors emphasised how much they valued the personal coaching additional staff provide. As a result, in classes where there are a high proportion of students with challenging behaviour, the vast majority are able to learn well.