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Features of best assessment practice - Greece

A Case Study

CDES is a new organisation established recently by the ministry of education as above mentioned.  The employees are qualified teachers in special education, psychologists, social workers and other specialists. Within the CDES’s spectrum is to ensure pupils’ full access to the educational system in order to fulfil the objective of inclusion. CDES of B’ Athens district provides services to pupils, parents and schools from February 2005. Parents confronting their child’s difficulties in school contact CDES via telephone and state their demand regarding the educational provision. The demand may vary from inclusive models, integrated support or even special school provision. Subsequently, CDES has the authority to assess the pupil and the school service in order to suggest further educational practices. 

CDES inter-disciplinary team came along with a framework for the ongoing monitoring process of school provision. According to this framework the cases are distributed to the specialist teachers with respect to their specialisation, who from that point on are responsible for the assessment and the fulfilment of the parental demand. The specialist teacher is responsible for the organising of the family’s appointments with the social worker and the initial meeting with the psychologist. 

Moreover, she/he has to interview the family prior to individual educational assessment, the school visit, and the in-class observation. Meanwhile, on weekly based meetings the sub team (specialist teacher, social worker and psychologist) collaborates, exchanges information, and designs the further intervention procedure. When there is a difficulty in the decision making process the case is referred to the mainstream weekly whole team’s meeting.  Sometimes, the need for external collaboration is defined and accomplished with other services such as medical oriented services, counselling services, and professionals from different disciplinary areas.  

Background

During the second month of our working period we came across a case of inclusion which started at the beginning of the current school year. The pupil had in class support by a qualified special teacher provided by the ministry of education based on 2817/2000 law for special needs education and his medical report.  There was neither prior educational assessment of the pupil’s functioning skills nor evaluation of the school environment or preparation of the school community for accepting the operation of an inclusive model.

A short description of the pupil’s case and the assessment procedures used is cited in the following case study.

Description

The methodology of assessment followed in this case was a systemic approach of the pupil and his experiences among different environments e.g. classroom, peer group, school organisation and home. The rationale of this form of assessment procedure is that the pupil can be positively or negatively influenced by any or all of those environments or systems. A pupil’s behaviour and academic performance may vary according to the environment being experienced. The reactions of other significant persons and the interaction with them can affect the pupil’s performance. A pupil may become entrapped into a vicious circle of negative interactions leading to a deteriorating behaviour. 

This is exactly what happened in the case of P., a thirteen year old pupil, when he entered the secondary education system last year. From the beginning of the school year, and although he had a slightly lower than average academic performance, he presented a rather challenging behaviour in class with his teachers and with his peers, especially during breaks. The following incidence is characteristic of the behaviour expressed. He locked the Head of the school in her office, took the key, and left school. He went home and confessed to his family what happened explaining that he was afraid of the head teacher. This incidence characterised the pupil as extremely dangerous for himself and others and lead to an official decision of him being taught alone at home at the expense of his parents. Nevertheless he was allowed access to the final exams of the school year.

Meanwhile, the school asked help from the counselling service of secondary education. This co-operation of school, family and the counselling service lead to a pupil’s diagnosis by a psychiatrist (from a public medical system) as a high functioning autistic person. The medical and the counselling service informed the school of the pupil’s special characteristic features and worked towards the parent’s and the pupil’s direction in order to accept the new dimension in their lives.

The pupil and his family have an ongoing external private counselling service, which was started after the establishment of the diagnosis and is partially financially supported by the National Health System. Moreover, the family applied because of this diagnosis to the Ministry of Education and gained an in school specialist teacher for the current school year. The pupil returned to secondary education and CDES is involved in order to support and assess the provision of the current school year, and recommend the kind of support needed for the following school year. 

The process of the assessment is subsequently described. Initially a specialist teacher trained in autism by the Ministry of Education and EC’s financially supported educational programmes, took over the case. The specialist was responsible for booking appointments and communicating with family, school, specialist teacher, medical and counselling services. The procedure planned (contacts and appointments) was explained during the parent’s first visit at the Service. Additionally, the specialist teacher asked parents what their opinion was for the best provision for their child and if they are ready to engage in a co-operation form. She also explained that she will act as intermediary in their case. An appointment for the parents with the social worker followed and a structure interview was carried out. Parents at that stage brought all the official evidence including the medical report of their child’s diagnosis. The social worker informed the other members of the sub team (specialist teacher and psychologist) about the facts of the interview prior the educational and psychological assessment. 

Afterwards, a meeting with the pupil and the specialist teacher took place. The procedure started with a semi-structured interview (devised by the Pedagogical department of Athens University) investigating pupil’s considerations for his everyday life, his school experiences and his perceptiveness of the difficulties experienced.  A curriculum based assessment by the specialist teacher followed. The rationale was to investigate pupil’s access to what is being taught, his style of learning, and the strategies he has developed in order to achieve his academic performance. Besides the medium level of achievement the assessment revealed some very important factors. The pupil had a short concentration span and did not retain extensive oral information, although he performed better when the information was broken into smaller pieces and in a written form. At some points he had difficulty in perceiving metaphoric language, humour and acted in a “literal” manner. In addition a “controlled” stereotypic movement of hands was observed. 

At that stage an extensive meeting of the specialist teacher and the pupil’s specialist teacher also took place. It was a semi-interview describing from the beginning the whole procedure of the inclusive provision, the pupil’s performance and his relation with peers and his teachers, the specialist teacher’s collaboration with school teachers in class and with the Head of the school as well as her weekly appointments with the pupil’s mother. 

A meeting with the psychologist of the counselling service of secondary education further enlightened the current situation and provided information of what the school system experienced last year. Additionally, contacts were made with the private counselling service which sent to our service a detailed assessment report of their work with the pupil and his family.

The CDES’s psychologists had a counselling interview with both parents and pupil. A standardised psychometric intelligence test (WISC-R) had already been conducted during the diagnosis process at the medical service. Pupil’s IQ was within the lower average limits. By the elaboration of the interview’s results the sub team decided that the family was already receiving the support needed, so no other counselling appointments with the psychologist were booked. 

Moreover, a meeting with the specialist teacher and the secondary counselling service psychologist was carried out. Information was obtained for the operation of the school system prior and afterwards the support service as well as for the collaboration of the parents. A joint visit to the school was planned. Private semi-interviews with the Head and the school teachers involved enlightened the evaluation procedure and set the objectives for the third and final school period (school exams). In class, direct observation of the interactions between the pupil, his peers and the school teacher as well as the position of the specialist teacher with regard to the above complex interaction system was conducted. An informal observation during unmodified peer interaction periods (breaks) also took place. 

According to the above assessment procedure, the objective of the provision was defined as the achievement of pupil’s independent functioning in the school service after the gradual withdrawal of the specialist teacher’s physical presence and the establishment of a “sos” code whenever the pupil needed assistance. This is a complex long term aim and certain prerequisites must be established first. In order for the pupil to succeed in this aspect he had to work on self regulation activities; to understand why and when he needs help; what aspects of school life upset him and how one behaves under stressful situations; what mechanisms one develops. The specialist teacher also had the role of the intermediary between pupils. He had to ‘translate’ the pupil’s behaviour to his peers and vice versa. Academically, the pupil managed to regulate his stress during the final exams (always assisted by the specialist teacher) and gained a good report. The school community reported its relief because no incidences like those of the previous school year happened. The ‘equilibrium’ within the school was accomplished and the pupil performed academically on a satisfactory level. Therefore, both family and school were convinced that, at a very preliminary level, inclusion worked effectively. A detailed report of the aims and the results of the provision was obtained by the specialist teacher at the end of the school year.

Since only the foundations of inclusive education were established during this year CDES proposed to the Ministry of Education to further fund a specialist teacher for the pupil. An IEP will follow the provision for the next school year. It is essential for both the pupil and the school service that no change of the specialist teacher will occur. 

Better recording conditions

The inclusion in educational normal procedures of children who face difficulties in the learning process means the expansion of the teaching staff’s responsibilities and the co-operation between teachers of the “normal” classes and those of the integration or inclusion classes. Pupils with special educational needs are not able to obtain a satisfying position in the social life of the class! The school and the teachers should react as “a bridge of communication” between the pupils with or without difficulties.

  • The teachers of schools where inclusion programs take place must be trained on special educational subjects, subjects concerning the assessment and dealing of pupils with educational and communicational problems and subjects which make them able to solve collision subjects.
  • The development of “smart” relationships inside the class, step by step, between pupils with difficulties and pupils without difficulties, contributes to the acceptance between themselves.
  • The establishment of a small number of children (one or two) with difficulties in classes with few pupils helps for an individual educational program and the better internal differentiation of the class relating to the capabilities of the pupils as a means of avoiding high or low requirements.
  • Daily school work with small groups of pupils and the often changing of the groups’ combination make mainstreaming easier because of the establishment of relationships and communication between the pupils of the class. The differentiation in education is important during school years.
  • Within the framework of teaching the framework is of great importance to the goals of the school and the inclusive class. With the freedom to work every child learns how to organise and make good use of their time. The activities do not interfere with their goals and the children learn not to get annoyed with each other.
  • The development of social abilities is necessary for successful integration in social and financial life. Within the frameworks of the daily program the social competences play the greatest role. The inclusion teacher, with an organised program, teaches the children with difficulties on their own so that the pupil has time alone with the teacher. Moreover, there is co-operation with the teacher of the mainstream class in order to consolidate acquired abilities. The children are always praised.

The success of inclusive classes depends on the co-operation between parents and pupils. The parents of AMEA participate in the program knowing the goals of this program. They are informed by the specialist teacher of special needs for the program progress and encourage positive results. Parents of the remaining children in the class are informed at the beginning of the school year that it will be an inclusive class, as it is important that they understand that the existence of children with special needs in the class will not disrupt the learning procedure.

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