Following the end of the Agency’s Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education project, a one-day conference was held in Graz, Austria, in March 2018. The event considered inclusive developments that help to raise learners’ achievement, from international and national perspectives.
The Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, together with the Federal Centre for Inclusive and Special Needs Education and Linz School of Education, organised the event.
The organisers’ key question was: ‘Which current practices on different levels of the education system support the learning successes of students, especially of the disadvantaged?’. The presentations and discussions focused on current national and international findings and projects, with special interest in reforms initiated by the government and project activities in individual schools or institutions.
Two keynote speeches covered the international perspective. Per Skoglund, from the Swedish National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools, spoke about inclusive capability for raising achievement, illustrated by lessons from the Agency’s Organisation of Provision and Raising Achievement projects.
Verity Donnelly, Agency Project Manager, gave the second keynote speech. She spoke about lessons from the Raising Achievement project for school and classroom practice. Her presentation focused on lifting limits on learning (inclusive pedagogy, personalisation and increasing learning capacity), systems of mutual support for staff, leaders and learners, and nurturing learners through learner-centred practice.
The national perspective was covered in a series of workshops led by teachers and school leaders from Austria. The workshop topics included: learning disability and autism, challenging behaviour, inclusive didactics, inclusive school development, and learner groupings, including the use of mixed-age classes.
Several key messages were collected at the end of the conference, based on previous presentations and discussions:
- It is important to have a shared view of inclusion and dialogue at all levels.
- Involving parents and community is essential, as inclusion benefits all.
- Stakeholders should overcome the fear of ‘difference’.
- The learner’s voice is a source of inspiration for change – the core aim of education is learner progress and achievement.
- Collaboration is fundamental – the involvement and engagement of teachers, leaders and other professionals in mutual support.
- Support for learning must be provided without labels – increasing capacity provides more skills, competences and greater flexibility to meet diverse needs.
- Practitioners should not be afraid to innovate – they must work with colleagues to look for new knowledge and ideas.