Education for everyone: making teaching more inclusive
In 1948, the Universal Declaration declared education as a basic human right – so it’s down to schools to ensure every child receives the education they deserve. Statistics show that in the 2021/2022 academic year, just under 1.5 million pupils in England had special educational needs. This represents an increase of 77,000 from 2021 - continuing the consistently rising trend established in 2016. Therefore, it’s never been more important for schools to be actioning the concept of inclusive education and understanding students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
This blog is designed as the teacher guide to inclusive education, helping you understand the SEND classifications you’re most likely to encounter in your classroom. By exploring inclusive education vs. special education, different disabilities including visual and hearing impairment, and specific conditions such as autism, we’ll uncover effective ways to support these children – and deliver the valuable benefits of inclusive education for students with special educational needs.
Supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities
The children and families act of 2014 defined special educational needs and disabilities (or SEND) as having a ‘learning difficulty or disability which calls for special education provision to be made’ for them. With that definition it can be applied all the categories discussed within this blog, but a few overall examples include:
- Emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD)
- Attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADHD/ADD)
- Specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia;
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD);
- Communication difficulties such as hearing impairment
- Medical needs such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy;
- Mobility difficulties.
Inclusive education for children with special educational needs like these means they’re taught in the same educational environment as their fellow students – as opposed to special education which takes an individual, student-centric approach.
Clearly, approaches must differ greatly dependent on the specific need, but on the whole, it’s key to make sure the child gets the support they need and engages in school activities alongside the students without SEND.
Steps towards achieving this include designating a teacher to take responsibility for co-ordinating the SEND provision, preparing a report to set out the arrangements and steps to be taken, and informing and involving the parents in special provisions at all times.
Case Study: Highfields Primary
Supporting students with disabilities
Disability is defined as having a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’ (Equality Act, 2010) According to the charity Scope, 9% of children in the UK are identified as disabled – so schools are likely to have students with this particular need.
Disability-inclusive education involves a number of different factors, but it all starts with making the school premises themselves accessible through the introduction of ramps, adapted toilet facilities and other special equipment. To help with this, schools can look to strengthen their partnerships with local stakeholders and explore methods of funding any adaptations that need to be made.
Supporting hearing-impaired students
When it comes to providing inclusive education for hearing-impaired students, one of the key paths to inclusivity comes from optimising communication wherever possible. Schools can take the following steps to help with this:
- Use assistive technology such as FM systems, infrared and audio induction loop systems and coupling accessories for smartphones, laptops and tablets.
- Integrate visual aids such as pictures, slideshows and animations wherever possible.
- Minimize background noise to eliminate any additional hindrance to learning.
- Always face students and place hearing-impaired students closer to the front of the class.
- Designate a note-taker for the student to allow them to focus on learning and classroom discussions.
Supporting students with autism
By definition, autism is a spectrum – so student needs will vary greatly by the individual. Autistic people may find it hard to communicate, take longer to understand information or get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations or social events – all elements which will have an impact on learning.
To achieve inclusive education for autism, teachers can use techniques designed to help them become supportive communication partners. This can involve considering their voice and tone (autistic students can react better to whispering or accents); avoiding figurative language and metaphors which they may find harder to understand, or moving away from asking classes to ‘look at me’ (autistic students may find eye contact difficult or even painful.)
Alongside this, teachers can help autistic students create meaningful social relationships by encouraging them to take part in hobbies or sports shared by other students in the class – uniting through similarities, rather than highlighting differences.
Supporting visually impaired students
Much like many of the other categories, visual impairment ranges greatly in scale – but it most commonly impacts learning by:
- Changing the way students access information, which dependent on the level of their impairment, could be by braille, audio tape or large print. Producing materials in alternative formats takes additional time which can set these pupils back.
- Causing symptoms such as eye strain and headaches, which can limit study time.
- Limiting participation and interaction in classes, which can lead to feelings of isolation.
Teaching strategies to support these students involve reducing the reliance on visual information – something we often take for granted. Students with visual impairments don’t always have visual experiences to draw on, so it’s important to reconsider any assumed visual content.
Additionally, it’s useful to provide as much material as possible electronically to help with translation to accessible formats – and adapt teaching styles to be more verbal, rather than relying on whiteboards or Powerpoints.
Supporting SEND students with the help of ReachMoreParents software
Every special educational need is different, but one aspect they all have in common is the need to adapt communication strategies – and it’s here that ReachMoreParents can help.
Edtech software can work to facilitate inclusive education in two different ways. First of all, it allows for easier adaptation of learning content into different formats – whether that be auditory for visually impaired students or subtitled for hearing impaired individuals. Secondly, the right platform can enhance communication to bring a school community closer together - which is a vital step in creating an inclusive environment. The ReachMoreParents platform makes it simpler to reach out to parents of SEND children, allowing staff to stay in regular contact and gain a more in-depth understanding of their child’s individual needs.
All children can learn as long as they receive the right support – and applying some of the above techniques is a great step towards providing this. What’s even more important for all special educational needs and disabilities though, is to build awareness in your classroom. By educating all staff and pupils on the unique challenges SEND students face, everyone can work together to create that inclusive environment.
If you are looking to learn more get in touch with our team today.