Jody Carr, a Canadian expert in inclusive education visited Inclusion Ireland today (19th March 2019) to share his insights into inclusive education as a former Minister for Education in New Brunswick in Canada. In New Brunswick, all children are educated together in a “Common Learning Environment” There are no special schools or classes. Pupils are not segregated or educated according to diagnosis of a disability. Children go to school according to age and geographic location. A Personal Education Plan will trigger supports if a student needs it.
For inclusion to work there are 3 P’s that need to happen. Those are, Policy (and legislation), Process (and implementation) and Practice and support. Inclusive Education takes planning and all of the stakeholders, politicians, teachers and families working together. According to Jody Carr, “If inclusion doesn’t work, it’s not inclusion”.
The framework of inclusive education in New Brunswick is values based, research based and human rights based. The entire system has changed so that all schools have education support teams and education support teachers to support all students to work towards areas of skill development. Students have the option to “pull out” of the classroom if they need to and may have one-to-one support at times if they need to. When it comes to examinations and assessment, there are efforts to employ universal design for learning and different ways of showing achievement.
Jody Carr explained how the road to inclusive education has not always been smooth - there have been issues with partial school days and seclusion and restraint along with resistance from some parents . Jody believes the resistance is weakening and parents are becoming convinced by inclusive education. In New Brunswick, they are beginning to track partial school days and the education support teams must tackle reasons why a pupil is not in school. New Brunswick are also working on a policy on seclusion and restraint to minimise this.
Interestingly, New Brunswick have removed any reference to “special” in their legislation pertaining to education which was a step towards changing attitudes. Jody Carr believes every education system can be inclusive if there is the will to put in the work and make it happy. Jody Carr will meet with other stakeholders in the area of inclusive education throughout Ireland this week.
Read more about Inclusion Ireland's work on seclusion and restraint in schools at this link