• Theme: Growing towards an inclusive pedagogy
  • Media:Answers to typical questions

An inclusive school culture and school policy requires a whole-school approach. The Index for Inclusion (2011) offers clear indicators of this culture and policy and supports schools in their self-review of these aspects.

A whole school approach

According to the European Toolkit for Schools, an inclusive school culture and school policy requires a whole-school approach.

“The whole-school approach Involves addressing the needs of learners, staff and the wider community, not only within the curriculum, but across the whole-school and learning environment. It implies collective and collaborative action in and by a school community to improve student learning, behaviour and wellbeing, and the conditions that support these.” (UNESCO)

This approach sees schools as collaborative learning environments. The whole school community including parents and families, together with external stakeholders, take responsibility for helping all pupils to develop in the best possible way.  In doing so, The Whole School Approach from Ireland is seen as a way of developing a corporate culture based on shared values and vision, creating an inter-professional approach to supporting the needs of pupils and improving engagement in collective and individual reflection. These initiatives are developed and implemented in cooperation with other education sectors and cooperation partners. Indicators of whether an inclusive school culture and policy is being developed are listed under A and B. By policy we mean the national policy strategies, the regional policy with cooperation partners and the policy in the school.

Indicators of an inclusive school culture

An inclusive culture is a place and context where all teachers, pupils and other staff can find community in the concept of diversity. There must be an infusion of diversity practices throughout the educational institution. The school must create an inclusive culture with inclusive values and norms, and an open climate in which all pupils are welcome (Emmers et al., 2017).

The Index of Inclusion (2009) is a model listing indicators for creating inclusive cultures, policies and practices. For this question in our Guide for coaches, we focus on culture and policy.

  1. Building a community in which
  • Everyone is welcome;
  • Pupils help each other;
  • Staff work together;
  • Staff and pupils treat each other with respect;
  • There is partnership between staff and parents/caretakers/guardians;
  • Staff and governors work well together, they treat each other with respect, ethnicity, social background or gender are not a factor;
  • The local community is involved in the school;
  • The management, teachers, support and other staff work well together. There is active involvement in meetings and all team members are invited.

2. Establishing inclusive values where

  • High and realistic expectations are set for all pupils;
  • Pupils, parents/ caretakers, staff and governors share the idea that all people are equal and different from each other and have a right to education at the school of their choice;
  • Pupils are valued equally;
  • Staff and pupils treat each other equally;
  • Staff aim to remove barriers to learning and participation in all aspects of the school;
  • The school aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

Indicators of an inclusive policy

The 'Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools' (2011) is a set of materials to support the self-review of all aspects of a school, including activities in playgrounds, staff rooms and classrooms and in the communities and environment around the school. It encourages all staff, parents/caretakers and children to contribute to an inclusive development plan and put it into practice. The three dimensions are one of the cornerstones the project is based on. In order to realize inclusive education, there must be a certain sense of urgency at the following levels: practice, culture and policy (see index of inclusion Booth and Ainscow, 2011; Emmers et al., 2017).

The Index of Inclusion (2011) lists the following indicators for developing an inclusive school policy:

  1. Developing a school for all
  • Staff appointments and promotions are fair.
  • Every new staff member is helped to feel at home in the school.
  • The school aims to admit all pupils from the neighborhood.
  • The school ensures that the school and the school environment are functional for all. Adjustments are made to the environment so that the school is accessible for all staff and pupils.
  • Every new pupil is helped to feel at home in the school.
  • The school organizes classes in such a way that every pupil is valued. Therefor the school must create an inclusive culture with inclusive values and norms, and an open climate in which all pupils are welcome.

2. Actively securing diversity

  • All forms of guidance and support are coordinated.
  • Professionalization days and studies by and for staff help them to respond to the diversity of pupils. The school should opt for a sustainable, qualitative policy in which resources are made available and expertise is built up in a sustainable and long-term way.
  • Policy on 'special educational needs' is an inclusive policy.
  • Measures and agreements to make use of participation in regular education by the government or region.
  • The policy for pupils with neurodiversity is linked to the development of the educational program and the policy of educational support.
  • The policy for pupils with a different home language is linked to the development of the educational program and the policy of internal support.
  • The policy for pupils who are very easy learners or very difficult learners is linked to the development of the educational program and the policy of educational support.
  • Barriers to school attendance are reduced or eliminated. In order to achieve inclusion, we need to tailor our educational environment to the needs of each pupil in the diverse pupil population.
  • Bullying is actively reduced.

By having a questionnaire filled in by several people from the same school, it is possible to find out how inclusive the school policy is.

Sources

  • European Toolkit for Schools Promoting inclusive education and tackling early school leaving.
  • Booth, T., & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools. United Kingdom: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE).
  • Braunsteiner, M.L. (2016). Implementing the Index for Inclusion for Inclusive Schools: A New Paradigm.
  • Emmers, E., Geerts, I., & Plessers, E. (2017). What does a successful diversity policy look like? Diversity as the most valuable tool to make learning potential flourish. EAPRIL Proceedings, 4, 193-203.