Do we have inclusive schools?

Over the past month I have stopped blogging about leadership or learning as I completed a major piece of research work for my Masters. On campus last week I attended a lecture on inclusive education. I heard about how most Victorian public schools try and include or integrate people with disability into main stream schooling with about 12,000 people with a registered disability in Victoria attending a regular school [about 66%] and 6,000 attending special schools. Italy has the best inclusive ratio in schools – around 90% I’m told.

I could not help but think about Norman Kunc who I heard at Harvard University speak on inclusive education. Norman speaks about inclusive education being for all youth, not just those with a label, be it a disability or social label. He uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and makes a strong case that belonging is one of the central pillars in building and sustaining all young people’s self esteem.

At the end of the lecture they played this video clip about Norman, much to my surprise.

Often schools try and build self esteem through academic or sporting success. Some schools replicate, what is expressed in the larger community, that you earn your right to belong when you achieve some things in the classroom or on the sporting field. Some people either chose to accept this idea and work hard to achieve it and others simply drop out. Norman argues that there are dangerous consequences in having to earn this right to belong and feel worthy. Those that drop out, because they see this as too hard, often join gangs to get that belonging. Those that earn that feeling of belonging in schools by doing something extraordinary then feel they have to continue to do this to sustain the belonging. This “good enough to belong” pressure then builds and potentially leads to perfectionism or suicide.

We have just stated one of our core purposes at Elsternwick Primary is to promote this feeling of belonging with all students. Norman I remember, charged us all to answer how belonging is eroded in our schools and what can we do about it?

I’m asking myself this same question again – are our assemblies all about sport which excludes those with academic, musical, artistic or social strengths? Well lately I can safely answer – NO – we are inclusive on this front and perhaps in our newsletter as well. What about the rest – well that’s what I’m reflecting upon now.

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1 Response to Do we have inclusive schools?

  1. Donald says:

    A powerful thought provoking piece. It brings home me to what exclusion can mean if we as principals make the wrong call. Thanks.

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