As part of the Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) programme, participants are required to undertake a quality improvement project.
This editorial provides an overview of an improvement project by Vicki Banks, Inclusive Education Practitioner at Walsall College, which aims to look at ‘Inclusion as a whole college approach’, raising awareness of SEND to promote inclusion in the classroom and beyond.
There is a large amount of research regarding the importance of inclusion. ‘The current debate is no longer what inclusion is and why it is needed; the key question is how it is to be achieved’ (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education 2014). In previous research within schools, it was found that ‘teaching assistants (TAs) often had more responsibility than teachers for pupils with SEND and insufficient opportunities to prepare with the teacher’ whilst ‘the appropriate deployment of TAs requires careful consideration in order that resources are used effectively’. This part of the project aims to look at how classroom support, particularly mentors, are utilised and if they are utilised effectively to benefit the learner and their development.
It is important that the planning and delivery of learning and assessment methods allow all learners to engage and achieve their full potential (Gravestock 2017), and that all learners have equal access to high-quality education (EIF – Equality, diversity and inclusion statement 2019). This project aimed to share best practice and offer training to staff to ensure they are equipped to choose teaching and learning strategies that will allow all learners to develop core subject knowledge as well as develop wider skills to enable them to become more ‘job ready’.
The research adopted an interpretive approach. Interpretive research looks at the world from their participant’s point of view, to try and understand how individuals construct and reconstruct their understanding of the social world, through their individual interests. This was completed through observing practice and meetings/discussions. However, to gather large-scale feedback from the college staff as a whole cohort, a mixed methods approach was used for this study.
Questionnaires were used to gather mainly quantitative data from a large sample of staff across the college, observations were used on a smaller sample to collect more qualitative data to provide an understanding of the reasons for the responses provided by the larger sample. A mixed methods approach was used to increase the validity of the findings, through offsetting the weaknesses of one method against the strengths of another (Denzin 1970; Gratton and Jones 2004; Hammersley & Atkinson 1983; Marshall & Rossman 1999).
The questionnaires used for this project were self-produced, as there was no questionnaire available from previous studies which could be replicated. Questionnaires are less expensive than other forms of data collection tools, and they produce quick results which allows the participant to complete them at their own convenience meaning a better response rate (Sarantakos 2013). However, there are disadvantages as they do not allow clarification of the questions or reasons for the participant’s response, which may prevent an understanding of the respondent’s choice of answer.
Questionnaires rely on self-reporting which can lead to bias/incorrect information if respondents wish to alter information about themselves, especially if they feel that they need to answer a certain way to show that they are doing their job correctly, therefore an observation will allow me to observe what actually happens in classrooms (Gratton & Jones 2015)
Observations were completed via 15-minute walk-throughs to grasp a snapshot of inclusive practice. These observations allowed a greater amount to be completed and more data to be collected across different faculty and curriculum areas. Observations take place in the natural setting of the classroom and so allowed me to view inclusive practice within the context, however, I needed to consider the effect that I might have had on the class and take this into consideration when observing (Gratton & Jones 2015).
Observation findings were collated between myself, SEND manager and Head of Faculty to:
Improved utilisation of classroom support
The SEND fayre and staff development day allowed staff to become more aware of roles within the Inclusive Support Team as well as how they could work with classroom support to best support their students.
Improved utilisation of inclusive teaching practices in planning and delivery
A number of staff development sessions have been created this year to help staff develop their inclusive practice. Staff found that using subtitles and Google Drive sessions worked well and have adopted those in sessions. Staff fed back after the SEND fayre about how they had started to reflect on their own practice to enhance the learning environment and make it an inclusive practice not only for SEND students but for all students.
Build on current cohesive practice between the Inclusive Support Team and academic staff
Over the last year, there has been a shift in staff and their relationship with the Inclusive Support Team. This was in part down to the SEND fayre which allowed tutors to approach the team for support and start to build a more cohesive practice to support students.
My project for the coming year will continue with the development of inclusive practice to support changes coming into effect due to the SEND green paper released earlier in 2023.
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