What strategies support inclusion?
Every teacher is responsible and accountable for every pupil in their class and so every teacher has to be an inclusive teacher. As Natalie Packer says in her book, The Teacher’s Guide to SEN,
…senior leaders should be encouraging an ethos which values and respects everyone in the learning community, making the school a place where all learners have an equal right to a high-quality education.
Planning for effective inclusion includes allocating the time, strategies, interventions, resources, appropriate student supports, and ingraining an inclusive mindset. Students are more likely to experience success in your classroom if approaches and activities support their abilities and backgrounds.
Overall, the most key thing to remember is to always have high expectations for your all students to highlight their strengths.
Here are a few strategies for teachers to support inclusion in the classroom. The list is not exhaustive but it is a useful starting point for discussing what we can do.
1. Know your learners
If a pupil has SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability), find out about it and ask your SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) for a summary. Read any SEN Support Plans and EHCPs (Education, Care and Health Plan) and share your knowledge with the SENCO to help them review outcomes. The bottom line is get to know the person behind the diagnosis as an individual in their own right.
2. Quality First Teaching
So much support can be implemented easily as part of your normal teaching; you probably do more inclusive practice than you realise as lots of inclusion strategies are simply just good teaching practice.
3. Shake things up a bit
Don’t be afraid to try a new way of teaching an objective; not only will you be helping your learners but you will also keep a topic fresh for yourself. Your enthusiasm for what you are teaching will naturally lead you to wanting to take everyone on the journey with you and that will include your SEND learners.
4. Develop life skills
You might be discussing Romeo and Juliet but throw in information about how to access support at school from the pastoral team; you might be reading The Elves and the Shoemaker so build in some time to teach pupils how to tie their laces. Some skills are important to revisit again and again. Even refreshing how to read an analogue clock or how to write a signature is needed for some learners beyond KS4, you just have to be creative.
Talk with your colleagues – share your strategies and help each other, the answer for how you can support a particular learner is possibly in the classroom next door. If you can, joint plan an activity to get someone else’s perspective. Don’t be territorial about how you support leaners as this ultimately doesn’t help the young person as they will need continuity.
Don’t let a non-inclusive school ethos change your philosophy even if you have to adapt your practice. You may have your hands tied and not get the recognition for what you do, but you will impact the lives of learners. Do what you can within the context you are in. It isn’t easy so get support from education websites (I recommend www.nasen.org.uk) and Twitter (I suggest following @SENexchange).
7. Learn from your mistakes
Don’t get hung up about doing it wrong – you will make a mistake trying to support learners, that is a fact: I once caused a flour fight by trying to help a pupil with his letter formation. You can learn from these mistakes but you will do far more damage by not trying.
8. Don’t panic!
Don’t fall hook line and sinker for the latest SEND education craze! So what if you haven’t got the latest resource/software or your SENCO has told you the budget as shrivelled to a few pence? Keep calm! Rarely is something as revolutionary as the sales person makes out and you probably have access to many other free and accessible resources in school already that do the job just as well.
9. Aim High
Have high expectations of all your learners including those with SEN, just make them realistic and achievable.
10. Be confident
Don’t see inclusion as a box to tick or an added task to your busy day. It is just part of the varied role teachers have and could be the most exciting and rewarding part of your job.