Fostering inclusion in school: practices in use in partner schools
A brief overview of the tools and services used in schools in the project partner countries to support the inclusion of all students.
In Italian schools there are several figures involved in the inclusion process:
Special Education Teachers (Support Teachers): they teach the entire class group, but they’re specialized in the methods and strategies of special education and are therefore assigned to the class group to which the disabled student belongs.
Task-Oriented Personnel: teachers coordinating and supporting the work of Special Education Teachers. They keep the files of students deserving of special care. They act as interlocutors with local support centres other than the school.
Specialized Support Personnel provided by local institutions: social and health professionals, educators, communication assistants for hearing-impaired students or visual-impaired ones, speech therapists, cultural mediators for foreign students. They are meant to stand by disabled and BES students and support them in developing personal autonomy, interpersonal relations, socialization, and learning.
The main tools used are:
Individualized Educational Plan for disabled students: it is the official document outlining the educational path of students with a certified disability. It is updated each year and features a detailed description of the educational strategies, goals, and evaluation criteria designed for the student based on his/her medical records and on the observed deficits and potential. It is co-authored by the members of the Operative Working Group for Inclusion, among which are: every teacher of the class group together with the Special Education teacher; the social and health professionals who follow the student as he/she takes part in rehabilitative and therapeutic activities outside the school (and who are sometimes involved in school activities, as well); the family, which participates in the drafting of the PEI and signs it alongside the other co-authors.
Personalized Educational Plan for learning disabilities and special educational needs: it is a document outlining the educational plan for students with learning difficulties. It may include dispensatory accomodations (in-class reading aloud, evaluation of contents rather than orthography in written tests, oral testing only in foreign languages, etc.) and compensatory tools (facilitating technologies: use of a personal computer with spell checker; use of calculators, formularies, mind maps; decrease in the amount of homework; extra time to turn in home assignments and in-class tests; advance scheduling of oral tests, etc.).
In addition, extra-curricular activities are often planned, in which students carry out cross-disciplinary activities (e.g. music, choir, summer camp, etc.) They are alternative and motivating educational experiences which allow every student, without distinction, to express his/her potential, as well as particular talents that could hardly emerge in the context of regular educational activities. Students indeed enjoy such alternative experiences without letting their disability and/or distress stand in the way of their free expression. They feel at ease and gratified, which has an important impact on their self-esteem.
Accordingly, a range of training activities for teachers and technical staff are issued every year as well, just as long awareness-raising activities have been fulfilled focusing on diversity, inclusion, stereotypes and prejudices recognition.
149th School “Ivan Hadjiiski” has a long tradition in working with students with special educational needs, as well as those at risk. There is a special team for personal development, which includes a psychologist, two speech therapists and two resource teachers. In 2020/2021 there are 28 students with special educational needs; with 513 students in total, this represents 5,46% of them. The range of problems is wide – from learning difficulties to chronic diseases. At the same time, there are some students who are at risk of Early School Leaving.
Tools and practices used with students:
- Individual work with students who are in risk of ESL (teachers, school psychologist, speech therapists and resource teachers);
- Communication with parents;
- Increasing students’ interest in learning through various activities (innovative methods of teaching, extracurricular activities of interest, participation in projects – national and international Erasmus +, work with institutions: museums, theatres, libraries etc.);
- Elder students’ motivation to increase their personal results as well as to continue their education in our school after 7th grade;
- Options for individual way of learning after 16 years age.
All tools have their specific positive impact, but teachers rely on the individual approach to students mainly, because it affects directly on their motivation in learning and completing their education successfully. Usually, these students have concerns caused by various individual or social factors, but when they feel that they are approached openly and with positive attitudes, in most cases they respond positively by themselves.
This approach as also successful with students who dropped out once and come back years later to complete their education successfully.
Tools and practices used with students in Portuguese schools:
Educational Territory of Priority Intervention (TEIP): involves 137 schools in Portugal; is a multiannual plan for economically and socially disadvantaged territories, where there is a high rate of poverty, social exclusion, violence, indiscipline, school failure and ESL.
SMILE: Inclusion measures and prevention of indiscipline.
GAAF: Student and family support office. Staff involved: Social Worker; Social Educator; Mediator; Iocal Intervention Agent.
Disciplinary Supervision Committee (Comissão de Supervisão disciplinar).
School Self-Assessment Committee: monitoring and periodic evaluation of the school in the key areas such as: Services; School educational Project (School results, Social results, Educational environment).
Resource Center for Inclusion: multi deficiency Unit, special Unit for severe disabled students.
- Mentoring program
- Monitoring groups of students with retentions
- Vocational Education (secondary)
- PIEF – Individual Education and Training Course
- CEF – Education and Training Courses
- Portuguese – non-native language
- PLA – Portuguese host language
Romanian normal schools develop a series of support services for children with different special education needs. For those with language disorders and learning difficulties there are interschool speech therapy centers with specialists developing specific therapies for language disorder correction and for overcoming learning difficulties. In these centers all students attending regular schools have access and who have been detected by the speech therapists and they come with a language disorder (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia etc.)
There are, also, centers of psycho-pedagogical assistance for children with emotional problems, behaviour problems and adaptation difficulties, where psycho-pedagogical counsellors offer services both for children found at risk and crisis, as well as for their families. These counseling centers are more widely spread than those for speech therapy, but both not being enough in number and not having the absorption power necessary for the cases existing in schools.
For the children with deficiencies diagnosed in Child Protection Committees there are services and educational support with the help of itinerant teachers. The activity of the itinerant teacher is oriented towards the children with special education needs. The itinerant teacher works in one or more mainstream schools or special schools where children with severe, profound or associated deficiencies are integrated. According to the deficiency degree, the school guidance is realized towards a special school (for a moderate, severe/profound and multiple/associated degree) or towards a mainstream school (in the case of a light/moderate degree) accordingly.
Each student with special education needs benefits from adapted curricula for all school subjects. Differentiated work and personalized program for children with special education needs consist of, firstly, in establishing the objectives and the program, different from the ones used for the rest of the class and adapted according to the child’s necessities and difficulties. It supposes adapting the taught contents, but adapting the knowledge and competence evaluation methods as well. An adaptation of the instructional educational process is needed to the intellectual possibilities, to the cognitive interests, to the learning pace and style of the student with special education needs. Although, theoretically, all these aspects are known, the Romanian educational system is not truly ready and prepared for such an integration and inclusion: during the pedagogical training of teachers, working with students with special education needs is approached tangentially. The multi-disciplinary team that is so nice theoretically talked about, when it exists, there are too many children to deal with, specific therapies these children need are not easily accessible, parents cannot, do not want or do not know how to be involved in their children’s activities in order to help them.
Above all these, school staff tries to involve and give credit to all students and make them worthy. There are many students who are not reported as having special education needs, but still they need special attention, differentiated tasks or just support. In our school all students are tried to be valued and included according to their intellectual and emotional capacities.
Centro San Viator have presented actions to favour the inclusion. These are:
- Promoting Positive Self-Esteem of the students.
- Teach students to cope with difficult situations
- Develop a good relationship with school staff.
- Promote a positive relationship school-parent.
- Create awareness to the students on the benefits of education.
- Design and implement of a protocol for the detection of school failure.
- Promote the personal development of students, enhancing self-esteem, trying to improve their personal habits and perception of themselves.
In addition, the school has developed some different tools in order to support the students with more difficulties in two different fields:
Management: the school eases students’ flexible ways to pay for the school transport, which is about 110€ a month. When the family cannot pay, the school tells them they can do it when their economic situation will be better, calling to their good will to pay years after their children finish studies. All students can take part in a mobility project, no matter their economic situation. If needed, the school can even provide some pocket money.
- at the primary and secondary levels, the school develops different educational programs that offer individualized attention, giving each student the support they need to promote inclusion in school;
- methodological and study material is adapted for people with intellectual disability and/or other difficulties so they can get the technical competences requires to get a Professional Certificate and help them to raise their employability;
- the school combines the technical competences and soft skills not only to help students at risk of exclusion to get a job but also to keep it;
- lanbide (“profession”) works as a second chance school for teenagers who are out of the “regular” system. By means of this programme funded by the Department of Employment students can get the certificate in Compulsory Secondary Education while they start in the VET field;
- the school trains workers with intellectual disabilities and/or mental illness to recognise their professional skills and competences; this is to accredit their previous knowledge already got by means of their work experience and complete it so they can get a Professional Certificate;
- WBL (dual system) is helpful for youngsters at risk of exclusion as a way to avoid ESL;
- The school offers all students the possibility of going abroad for an internship in a company between 4 to 16 weeks.