Category Archives: School

#30dayswild 28, 29

The caterpillars have finally turned into butterflies. At some point this afternoon, another one emerged from its’ chrysalis, but it waited until we were not looking!

As the whole school has got their own caterpillars at various stages of development, I did a sensory assembly today, based on ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. While I read the story students experienced the range of fruit and cake that the caterpillar eats in the story, before being cocooned in a blanket to experience emerging as a butterfly!

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Inclusion International (3)

I think that this was my favourite session – Cultural Inclusion. I just wish that it had been longer.

There are no levels in the arts. There is no discrimination. Anyone can express themselves through art, theatre, music, dance or storytelling.

Books beyond words

These guys were actually a stand at the exhibition, but they fit in nicely here. Books without words, adult picture books, describing a range of health related issues, as well as a couple of pure stories. They have set up book clubs, where people tell the story using pictures.

Culture for everyone

Max from C and T told us about their work using drama and digital media. They use technology and theatre skills to increase cultural engagement. He talked about the Monday Night Club, a club set up by adults with LD, and the impact on membership that a music video had made. He explained how they use technology to break down barriers to inclusion, including how to use motion capture to enhance the use of sensory rooms. The first (and only) presenter of the day to talk about working with those less able people with LD.

He also said that they were always open to new projects in school or community settings.

Stay up late

A long, ongoing campaign for people with LD in care settings to be able to stay out past the traditional 9.30pm shift change. As part of this, they have set up Gig Buddies to allow people with an LD to be matched with a likeminded person who will go with them to gigs, theatre, sporting events… and as a result raise the self confidence of the person with an LD as well as introducing them to more people and widening their friendship and social circles.

Mosaics of Sound

This was presented in Spanish with an ongoing English translation and focussed on how the Spanish communities are building a society where art and music come together. They talked about a project involving orchestras, interpreting music using a range of techniques. The link is in Spanish.

Town Hall/Symphony Hall

A very brief chat. The aim of TH/SH is to celebrate ability, not disability.

There are many challenges to programming, but they have tried hard with their buildings to get them right. This has included putting in more flexible seating, designating quiet and chill out zones for those that need and making sure that everyone is welcome at a gig. Where people have complained about other gig goers making involuntary noises, those people have been moved…(love it!), as TH/SH believe that people have a right to express themselves. They have done a lot of work around photographs and videos to help prepare people for their visits. They have autism accreditation and run regular ‘relaxed’ performances. Ace

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Inclusion International Conference (2)

The second session of the day was labelled as the ‘plenary’ (I know…) and was the only session taking place at that time.

It was looking at the Big Issues around being valued.

The five big issues that the conference was focussing on were:

  • being part of the community
  • being valued equally
  • employment
  • inclusive education
  • closing institutions

The session started with a really powerful video of self advocates with an LD from across the world talking about each of the big issues and how they themselves were affected by these. There were no people who used an alternative form of communication, the only people we heard from were those with their own voices.  We then heard from three young adults with LD about how they wanted the world to change.

Using voices to make a change

People with a LD need to be visible. They need to get involved with politics on a local, national and international level and have face to face meetings. An inclusive life starts at family level. Once the capacity of the family is built, this will lead to self advocates who are part of their community, leading to a strength and a united voice.

My thoughts

The questions that this threw up were many.  All of the presenters with an LD were verbal readers. This is a narrow part of the LD community being represented and given a voice. What about those who are non-verbal? Those with PMLD? Frustrating.

How do we make inclusion effective for all? How do we make sure we have accessible information and support people with an LD to make decisions?

From a school focus, we need to be preparing our students for independence as much as possible, as well as looking at life skills, advocacy, employment and self help skills.

One of the young adults in the presentation said ‘I want to be included in mainstream education, but I demand the support that I need’. Does the dream match the reality? Can it ever? I have seen examples of inclusion in mainstream primary schools working incredibly well. I have seen them failing. I have transitioned students with LD into special schools as their needs have not been able to be met in mainstream – classes are too big/too noisy/no support/rising anxiety and so these young people are failed by their mainstream schools. There is a huge need for education of staff in these schools in order for inclusion to be successful. Equally, schools are results driven and it takes a brave headteacher to include students whose results are going to be seen as ‘detrimental’ to the school…

Finally, how do we, as educators, support families to have high aspirations for their children, and to ‘let go’ when it is the right time? Is this something that EHCPlans are going to be able to address over time?

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Inclusion International Conference (1)

As a volunteer with Midland Mencap I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to attend the middle day of this conference, which this year was held in Birmingham. As a volunteer, there was not much to be gained, other than being able to see the ‘big picture’ of learning (intellectual) disability across the world. As a teacher of students with learning disabilities, there was a lot of information to process, and beliefs to question.

The first session I attended was about getting real pay for real work. There were a number of speakers at each session.

Speakers felt that people with LD have a right to employment, and should have access to it without discrimination, although recognised that there were some disadvantages in that people then tend to lose out on benefits.

Schools – need to do more to support the transition to employment. Staff should be asked ‘what do you think about our students in the work place’ and develop a school focus from this

Families – Should be able to risk take. They should share their expectations, dreams and aspirations, but should be aware of the power of using the family network to find a job.

Employers – should be flexible and receptive to employing someone with LD, they should also put social support in place i.e. find a friend

The second speaker suggested that people with an LD should be encouraged to start their own business, or that people willing to support those with an LD into paid employment should do so and hire them. There should be an end to ‘sheltered workshops’. He also said it was important to listen to what businesses want, and to link schools and businesses so that they could work together.

The final speaker was from Mencap. She said that ‘having a job means having friends and being included’.

What stops people from getting a job? Negative attitudes and low expectations, a lack of skills and qualifications, not enough employment support.

There is a new government plan, which includes new support models such as traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as support for employers. These support models have a flexible minimum education level requirement.

The overall message from the session was that people want equal pay for equal jobs, and there were lots of examples of good practice shared. In order to change perceptions of the general population we need to share positive examples with the local community.

The big question is how to move from employing a ‘token’ disabled person to having more. One way of doing this is to find out what the expertise is already in the company – who has a family member with LD, etc – and use this as a basis for moving forward.

My thoughts

The schools that I have worked in have had a mixed attitude to work for students, mostly as they tend to go on to college for a couple of years post school, so ‘work’ is thought to be the responsibility of ‘college’. I’d love to see more schools working alongside businesses to offer apprenticeships for students with LD where appropriate. I have worked at a school that had strong links with a large local employer who had ten students in for a trainee programme each week, while hosting the rest of the post sixteen students for a two week work placement.

At this point in the conference it is becoming clear that although it is ‘inclusion international’ we really are focussing on the more able people with LD, those who are able to advocate for themselves.

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#ASEConf – SEND in the Science Classroom

As promised, here’s a copy of the powerpoint from today’s presentation.

Managing SEND in the science classroom – Marion

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