In this essay I will discuss a number of important factors relating to inclusive practice in post-primary education. To do this, I will first give a brief introduction to inclusive education, individual education plans and differentiated teaching and the important roles each play in inclusive practice. Secondly, I will give a brief discussion of a student in my classroom as an example, discussing their strengths, needs and challenges. Thirdly, I will provide a discussion of the practical implications for this student in both their learning and social environment, making reference to current theory and literature. Having discussed all of this I will then identify key teaching and learning strategies that can be used to support the student. Finally, I will give a summary of my discussion with reference to best practice.
In order to discuss specific Special Educational Needs (SEN) in the classroom it is essential to first look at what is meant by inclusive education, individual lesson plans and differentiated learning. According to the NCSE (2011) inclusion is “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of learners. It involves removing barriers so that each learner will be enabled to achieve the maximum benefit from his/her schooling.” According to a publication by the INTO, inclusion is all about the presence of pupils from across the nine grounds in the school environment (gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community). There is a very strong emphasis on matching the diversity of the local population, both transient and permanent, in the pupil population of the school. (INTO, 2004).
Inclusivity means that every student is involved, including children with special educational needs. The Department of Education and Skills (DES) has a number of different support systems to help provide for the education of these children. These mechanisms differ from student to student depending on the child’s disability. Section 2 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 requires that children with special educational needs should be educated in an inclusive environment with children without these needs, unless it was not in the best interest of the child or if it were to effect the education of the other children in the environment.
Secondly, we must look at the purpose of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and what they consist of. The EPSEN Act 2004 stresses the importance of the development of education plans for students with SEN. The Act gives a complete breakdown of how IEPs should be prepared. These plans can be can be created by either the school (as set out in Section 3) or the NCSE (as set out in Section 8) for students who have special educational needs. The EPSEN Act requires the assessment to be completed in a strict time-frame. As soon as the student in question is confirmed to have a special educational need, the education plan drawn up as a result, must be prepared within one month of the results of the assessment.
There has been a strong emphasis on the importance of IEPs by a number of different organisations. One of the most important and clear descriptions given was in the NCSE report on the Implementation of the EPSEN Act (2006) where it was stated that the Individual Education Plan ‘is the conduit for the services and provisions needed for the child to be able to benefit from education’ (NCSE, 2006).
According to the EPSEN Act, IEPs should be individualised and child-centred, accessible, inclusive, holistic and collaborative (EPSEN Act, 2004). IEPs allow students with special educational needs to receive a good education. Although they are not mandatory in Ireland, it is considered good practice for schools to complete IEPs. (Winters
Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) in Education
Queries of quality and standards are a professional obligation to all those who work in educational establishments. Professionalism can be defined as countless pieces of proficiency joining together like a puzzle. There are many attributes of the puzzle, each one consistently being enriched over time. You cannot acquire professionalism from a core text book but you can collect various qualities through life experience and reliably develop these experiences over time to provide the best outcomes within education. Therefore it is important to understand the methodological importance of the role of Quality Assurance (QA) and explore how it can be enhanced through curriculum design, situational factors, government policy and Continuous Professional Development (CPD). This will support the Professional Standards of teaching and support all students on a learning journey:
“Teachers and trainers are reflective and enquiring practitioners who think critically about their own educational assumptions, values and practice in the context of a changing contemporary and educational world” (Education and Training Foundation, 2014).
It is important to define ‘quality assurance’ and what exactly it means in order to evaluate the impact of it on planning and delivery of teaching contexts. Allais (2009), suggests that the term quality is new to learning but has promptly become a focal point in relation to teaching. Whereas Gravells (2015) would define quality as a classification to monitor and assess a product or service, it ensures to uphold the status quo that all is as it should be. Within education, the product can be described as the course programme and the service identified as the teaching context and delivery of the programme. If quality assurance does not take place there are threats to the student’s progression as precision, stability and objectivity of teaching and assessment may detriment the learner’s development. QA aims to continue the improvement of courses and the way they are delivered to improve outcomes for our students. However, does quality assurance really enhance education? As there are many characterisations of the term, it is imperative to reflect that one person’s ideals may be in conflict to another’s.
Ashcroft (1995), acknowledged that quality and standards could be scrutinised from a number of alternative perspectives. These dissimilar perspectives exert great political difficulties and it is significant that the values of QA should not be underpinned by the methods in which quality standards are delivered in a teachers practice, for example; the role of assessment and feedback. It is clear that QA should take place within all educational establishments to ensure products and services provide the best learning experience to our students and teaching staff alike.
An essential factor related to a setting’s QA is Ofsted who examine and regulate facilities that deliver care, education and skills for students. In 2007, Ofsted resumed to devising a solitary inspectorate, viewing each phase and approach of education (Association of Colleges, 2015). The inspection framework measures QA products which are then factored in to the educational institution’s complete grading at the end of an inspection. The inspection will review Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) and will also view feedback and recommendations from an External Quality Assurance (EQA) visit (Ofsted. 2014). According to Doyle (2018), many providers do not abstain sufficient QA preparations. Intelligences advocate it is not enough to have a sincere and warm environment with respectable education and knowledge evident to achieve grade 1 status. However, if settings were to indicate operative leaders who could create a culture of great ideals with an emphasis on original working preparation including admirable learner participation could impress Ofsted and achieve an outstanding grade. Lecturer’s need to challenge themselves on their own approaches, ideals and principles in order to generate a positive cultural atmosphere. Being pre-emptive and a positive role model to other members of the organisation can embrace equality and diversity leading to positive student experience which is linked in with the role of both IQA and EQA (Gravells