The vision of a more equitable education system requires teachers who are equipped with the competences to meet a range of diverse needs.
Teacher education for inclusion – equipping all teachers to meet the increasingly diverse needs of learners – makes a major contribution to a range of policy issues, including addressing educational disadvantage and early school leaving, raising achievement and breaking down barriers experienced by vulnerable groups.
The Teacher Education for Inclusion (TE4I) Agency project identified four core values as the basis for the necessary competences for teachers working in inclusive education:
- valuing pupil diversity
- supporting all learners
- working with others
- continuing personal professional development
Follow-up is required to safeguard the transition from education to employment, which leads to sustainable jobs in the open labour market.
One of the conclusions of the Agency’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) project (2010–2012) is that in the transition from education from employment, competent staff must undertake follow-up activities for as long as required, in order to meet the needs of young graduates and employers.
The provision of follow-up activities is supported by:
- Having sufficient staff and resources available throughout the transition;
- Maintain good connections with local employers;
- Performing practical training as well as offering supported employment models in their companies;
- Adapting pedagogical methods/techniques suitable for maintaining learners’ employment and using individual plans.
Key findings of the VET project can be found in the project summary report, and recommendations for policy makers have been included in the policy brief.
For more information on this project, visit the project web area.
Learning together in schools enables all students to find their place and be included in society.
During the European Hearing organised by the Agency in co-operation with the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union in 2015, the young delegates discussed the impact of inclusive education in being fully included in society.
They considered that all learners need to learn together in order to live together. They stated that this is the first step in the process towards social inclusion. The younger they get together the better for all in order to learn respecting differences and mutual tolerance. Young pupils learn from an early age to communicate, welcome and share different experiences and recognize strengths rather than focus on weaknesses. They learn at school to be considered for what they can do and not for their disability or how they look. They indicated that learning together in school will enable them to find their place and be included in the society.
For more information on the European Hearing entitled ‘Inclusive Education: Take Action! Luxembourg Recommendations’, visit the event’s web area.
Inclusive education systems are a vital component of more socially inclusive societies, an ideal which all Agency member countries align themselves with, both ethically and politically.
All European countries are committed to working towards ensuring more inclusive education systems. They do so in different ways, depending on their past and current contexts and histories. The development of inclusive education systems aims to:
- Raise the achievements of learners by recognising and building upon their talents and effectively meeting their individual learning needs and interests;
- Ensure that all stakeholders value diversity;
- Ensure the availability of flexible continua of provision and resources that support the learning of all stakeholders at both individual and organisational levels;
- Ensure that effective continua of support in inclusive education systems encompass personalised approaches to learning that engage all learners and support their active participation in the learning process;
- Raise the achievements, outcomes and outputs of the system overall by effectively enabling all stakeholders to develop their attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours in line with the goals and principles of an inclusive education system;
- Operate as learning systems that work towards the continuous improvement and alignment of structures and processes by building the capacity of all stakeholders to systematically reflect upon their achievements and then use these reflections to improve and develop their collective work towards their shared goals.
Raising the achievement of all learners requires collaborative working across all levels of the system – and among all services in local communities.
The importance of collaborative working across different levels of the system – from collaborative assessment and learning in the classroom to professional networks at international level – are highlighted by the Raising Achievement for All Learners (RA4AL) project.
Co-operation and networking at local level in particular is crucial in order to provide co-ordinated responses and effective use of resources to support vulnerable learners and their families.
Further information on this project is available on the RA4AL project web area.
Policy makers require wide-ranging information from a variety of complementary approaches to data collection in order to inform policy developments for inclusive education.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), the European Disability Strategy 2020 as well as the ET 2020 strategic objective relating to equity in education, all act as key drivers for inclusive education in countries. All of these international policy initiatives require systematic data collection to provide evidence of country compliance with relevant articles and objectives for inclusive education.
Policy makers and decision makers should reflect upon the extent to which national legislation ensures that children – in particular those who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion – are at the forefront of policy making.
The Organisation of Provision project (2011–2014) stressed the need for legislation to cover the dimensions of age and disability to make sure that children with disabilities are fully included in the life of school and community.
The active participation of children and their families is key and they should be fully involved in decisions that affect them.
Everything about us, with us! Young people should be directly involved in all decision-making concerning them.
This is one of the five key messages from young delegates at the European Hearing organised by the Agency in co-operation with the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union in 2015.
The young people clearly expressed that they and their families need to be actively involved and need to be listened to before decisions are made, taking into account their real needs and wishes. In this regard, they advocate for the positive role played by the systematic involvement of different organisations of young people and of people with disabilities. They see these organisations as being key in supporting them. Their schools’ learners councils or learners’ parliament have a different role. The young people’s participation and involvement in these councils is perceived as an effective way to be fully involved in school life and is strongly encouraged.
For more information on the European Hearing entitled ‘Inclusive Education: Take Action! Luxembourg Recommendations’, visit the event’s web area.
The ultimate vision for inclusive education systems is to ensure that all learners of any age are provided with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers.
For this vision to be enacted, the legislation directing inclusive education systems must be underpinned by the fundamental commitment to ensuring every learner’s right to inclusive and equitable educational opportunities.
The policy governing inclusive education systems must provide a clear vision for and conceptualisation of inclusive education as an approach for improving the educational opportunities of all learners.
The operational principles guiding the implementation of structures and procedures within inclusive education systems must be those of equity, effectiveness, efficiency and raising achievements for all stakeholders – learners, their parents and families, educational professionals, community representatives and decision-makers – through high-quality, accessible educational opportunities.
Efficient evaluation mechanisms need to be developed to ensure the quality and effectiveness of early childhood intervention provision and delivery.
Countries must clearly define quality standards for early childhood intervention (ECI) provision and delivery that need to be fulfilled. Common standards of evaluation for use across health, education and social services need to be developed, addressing the issues of what needs to be evaluated and how best to involve families in the process of evaluating quality.
Effective mechanisms should be in place to evaluate demand for ECI services and check whether supply of services meets demand in order to plan service improvement.
A continuum of quality experiences from birth to adulthood must be guaranteed for each child.
The main findings of the Agency’s update project on Early Childhood Intervention (2008–2009) can be found in the project summary report and the project web area. The Agency’s new Inclusive Early Childhood Education project continues the work on this topic based on the outcomes of previous projects.
Mainstream schools need to be supported to address the needs of a heterogeneous pupil population regardless of their special educational needs and ethnic origin.
Educational authorities, taking into account the local context, should consider what form of bilingual education or multicultural approaches should be provided in order to ensure pupils’ educational development, social inclusion and self-esteem.
Schools with a high percentage of multilingual pupils must be encouraged to develop a school-specific language policy. This requires:
- Making an analysis of the school situation;
- Creating an ‘in-school’ plan and proposal, the aim being to increase the quality of support measures provided.
Teachers should adapt their teaching methods and facilitate parental involvement. Qualified professionals and assistants with different cultural backgrounds should be available to support teachers.
Monitoring the effectiveness of systems for inclusive education is a clear policy priority for many European countries.
The Agency’s Mapping the Implementation of Policy for Inclusive Education (MIPIE) project suggests that data that examines the effectiveness of systems for inclusive education must consider: initial assessment procedures, the on-going involvement of learners and their families in educational experiences and the effectiveness of learning environments in overcoming barriers and supporting meaningful learning experiences for all learners.
At national level, data should:
- Facilitate planning and the monitoring of resources and personnel;
- Determine the effectiveness of teacher education;
- Evaluate system cost-effectiveness.
At school level, data collection should:
- Provide information supporting teachers and school staff to plan and deliver appropriate support and provision;
- Give clear insights into how parents and learners are enabled to take a full part in the educational process.
More information can be found on the MIPIE project web area.
Emerging technologies present clear challenges, but also huge opportunities for widening access and participation in inclusive education.
The 2013 Communication from the Commission suggests that:
In addition to broadening access to education, wider use of new technology and open educational resources can contribute to alleviating costs for educational institutions and for students, especially among disadvantaged groups. This equity impact requires, however, sustained investment in educational infrastructures and human resources.
The findings of the ICT for Inclusion project (2012–2013) suggest that for this equity impact to be achieved one other requirement must also be fulfilled – the ICT infrastructure must be genuinely accessible, based upon universal design principles. Open-access educational resources will only be truly open if they are designed to be accessible for all learners.
This and other key findings are presented in full in the ICT4I synthesis report and e-publication.
Inclusive education benefits all.
During the Parliament Hearing organised by the Agency in 2011, the young delegates discussed rights: the right to quality of education, to choice and to equality and respect. They stated that inclusive education is not just about being together in the same place, but about having friends and good relationships with their peers.
They raised the point that inclusive education is beneficial for all: it creates the opportunity to learn and share experiences. They emphasised the important role to be played by teachers and their peers and highlighted that inclusive education is the first step in being full members of society.
The young people’s views have been summarised in the hearing report.
Listening to learners is a key factor in raising achievement, allowing learning to be personalised and to address all students’ support requirements.
The findings of the Raising Achievement for All Learners (RA4AL) project suggest that a more personalised approach needs more flexible systems of assessment.
The project also suggests that through inclusive pedagogical approaches, high quality learning opportunities can be made available, which raise the achievement of everyone in the learning community.
The aim of early childhood intervention is to reach all children and families in need of support as early as possible and as quickly as possible.
Early childhood intervention (ECI) services and provision need to be scheduled to respond to the needs of the children and their families, and not the other way round. The children and the families should be at the centre of all actions of the ECI process. The wishes of families should be respected, including possibilities for choices.
Sharing information among professionals and providing adequate information to families should be of high priority. Service providers should have the responsibility to ensure that all families have access to the right information and the information they specifically need.
Visit the project web area of the Agency’s update project on Early Childhood Intervention (2008–2009) to read more about its findings.
A ‘continuum of support’ is needed to enable teachers to take responsibility for all learners and meet their diverse needs
Teachers should receive initial education, induction and continuing professional development that develops skills in assessment and the ability to organise support for all learners to ensure their participation in class, school and wider community.
This requires an increase in the capacity of schools through advisers and specialists who can provide in-class support and further develop teacher competences and responsive pedagogy.
Inclusive education helps mainstream children to become more tolerant with more open minds.
This is a message of a young person expressed in the Young Views on Inclusive Education publication, which provides a clear summary of the benefits of inclusive education for all learners. As one young learner said:
Inclusive education is for all children. Normal schools should be near their homes. This experience promotes meeting people from the neighbourhood.
Students with and without special needs can learn from each other and exchange their knowledge…It is good for us – good for them. It is important to recognise the benefits to everyone in the class’ and ‘Inclusive education helps mainstream children to become more tolerant, with more open minds.
The Agency’s Five Key Messages for Inclusive Education report includes the important messages received from the young people, along with other findings from Agency projects over the past decade.
Data collection for education must inform issues of learners’ rights to inclusive education.
Data collection must be in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), as this is an increasing influence upon legal frameworks for education. Mapping the implementation of policy for inclusive education therefore requires indicators providing evidence that education systems are equitable for learners with SEN.
The Mapping the Implementation of Policy for Inclusive Education (MIPIE) project argues that within a comprehensive framework for mapping rights issues, both quantitative and qualitative indicators need to be identified in relation to:
- Participation in education and training;
- Access to support and accommodation;
- Learning success and transition opportunities;
- Affiliation opportunities.
More information can be found on the MIPIE project web area.
Assessment must be inclusive – all assessment procedures must be used to inform and promote learning for all pupils.
Inclusive assessment is an approach to assessment in mainstream settings where policy and practice are designed to promote the learning of all pupils as far as possible. The overall goal of inclusive assessment is that all assessment policies and procedures should support and enhance the successful inclusion and participation of all pupils vulnerable to exclusion, including those with SEN.
This was a main finding of the Assessment in Inclusive Settings project. The full recommendations are presented in the summary report addressed to policy makers and practitioners. More information on this project, visit the project web area.
Early childhood intervention means as early as possible, as flexible as possible, as close as possible and as short as possible.
As early as possible concerns, first of all, providing an intervention at an early stage in a child’s life. It also covers many other relevant elements such as intervening as soon as the need is detected, putting early assessment in place, providing the required support as early as possible, and preparing and planning transition phases from one educational phase to the next and to employment.
Although the various Agency projects have not analysed the reduction of school dropout rates, it can be stated that good policies and practices in early detection, together with early and efficient support result in a reduction in school dropout rates.
This and other outcomes from the Agency’ International Conference in 2013 have been summarised in the Five Key Messages for Inclusive Education report.
Access to information is a fundamental right – it empowers learners and facilitates their participation in society.
Every person has the right to access information on an equal basis. This is supported by over 150 countries that have signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In today’s information society access to information is a key factor in personal empowerment and meaningful participation in society.
The Accessible Information Provision for Lifelong Learning (i-access) project has identified 4 Guiding Principles underpinning recommendations for policy.
Acknowledging access to information as a fundamental right changes the question from if accessible information should be provided to how can accessible information be provided. Policy can promote the uptake of accessible information provision. The i-access project provides recommendations for accessibility policy on an organisational, national and European level.
i-access has formed the basis for a follow-up project providing practical Guidelines for accessible information provision: the ICT for Information Accessibility in Learning.
Policy makers should develop a clear role for specialist provision in order to provide support to learners and increase the capability of mainstream schools.
There is a need to maintain the specialist knowledge and skills of resource centre personnel in order to provide high quality support for learners.
Resource centres should also be equipped to develop skills and knowledge within mainstream schools that will enable them to include all learners from their local community.
The Agency examined how systems of provision are organised in order to support inclusive education in 23 European countries. Conclusions from this project can be found in the project summary report and recommendations for policy makers have been included in the project policy brief.
Inclusive practice benefits from the fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia, while raising awareness and supporting positive practice at school.
Good practice promotes integrative and inclusive policies that are open to diversity, highlighting the educational values brought by all pupils, whatever origin or need they might have.
Schools should have adequate guidelines and resources in order to implement inclusive practice. Schools should aim to:
- Understand and respect diversity;
- Avoid any admission and registration policy that promotes segregation;
- Recognise, support and implement educational strategies responding to the needs of pupils with special educational needs and an immigrant background;
- Be actively involved in co-operation with services, including associations of and for immigrants;
- Encourage communication with, as well as participation of families.
These are some of the main findings of the Agency’s Multicultural Diversity and Special Needs Education (2007–2009) project which can be found in the project summary report and on the project web area.
To ensure that the rights of all learners are fulfilled, countries need to increase the ‘inclusive capability’ of all schools.
Countries need to clarify their view of inclusion and focus on building the capability of all schools to cater for learner diversity rather than distributing additional resources to meet the needs of identified groups.
The Organisation of Provision to support Inclusive Education project, conducted by the Agency from 2011 to 2013 examined how systems of provision are organised to meet the needs of learners with disabilities under the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The effective use of ICT to support learning in inclusive education exemplifies good teaching for all learners.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become part of everyday life for many people. It has an impact on many aspects of society, including education, training and employment. In particular, ICT is an enabling tool for people with disabilities and special needs.
The Agency’s ICT for Inclusion project (2012–2013) has examined what critical policy issues need to be addressed in order to ensure that all learners and teachers are able to effectively use ICT tools to support learning in inclusive settings.
Developing a high quality education system that gives all learners the opportunity to raise their achievement is an ethical imperative.
The RA4AL project identified 6 themes critical to maintaining high expectations and raising achievement:
- collaborative policy and practice;
- support for school and system leaders;
- inclusive accountability;
- personalisation through listening to learners;
- professional development for inclusive education and
- pedagogical approaches for all.
When these elements are combined, more relevant experiences can be provided to engage young people and develop the skills they need for work and for life.
The RA4AL project has formed the basis of a longer-term project Raising the Achievement of all Learners in Inclusive Education 2013–2016.