February 16, 2010 – St. John’s NFLD
The Association for Community living in Newfoundland and Labrador has been actively promoting inclusive education in the province in the last few years by using “National Inclusive Education Week”. This year started off on a positive note with the signing of a statement by Education Minister Darin King. Community Inclusion coordinator Donna Willis says “we are very pleased that the Minister and senior officials in the Department are supporting our efforts. Dan Goodyear and his team are following up by supporting our Summer Institute on inclusive education in August. We want to move ahead as partners.”
The minister’s statement included the following: “The Department of Education promotes students attending schools with their peers, and receiving appropriate, quality programming in inclusive school environments,” said Minister King. “Such inclusive education involves more than student placement. It embraces all students, not just those with identified exceptionalities, and involves everything that happens within the school community including its culture, policies, and practices.”
To better support inclusive education policies, the Department of Education has begun a pilot project in 30 schools throughout the province, which will expand to an additional 35 schools in the 2010-11 school year. Teachers in these schools are receiving professional development on inclusion, including learning how to use different teaching methods based on students’ needs, as well as how to share responsibilities in instruction delivery to meet the diverse needs of learners.
The Provincial Government has made significant investments in recent years to support inclusive education and implement the recommendations of the 2007 ISSP/Pathways report, including $1.65 million in Budget 2009. Since 2007, a position was created in the department solely responsible for inclusive education. In addition, the department has consulted with special education stakeholders on the development of an inclusive education policy. This policy will help guide teachers and administrators in helping make their schools fully inclusive for all students.
“Inclusive Education week is a time to recognize our progress in inclusion within our provincial school system, as well as highlight the many benefits to embracing an inclusive education system,” said Debbie Howell, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living. “Research now shows that including students with special needs in regular classrooms benefits all students both academically and socially. Inclusion works when all students are not just able to attend their neighbourhood schools, but are welcomed and supported to learn.”
“In a truly inclusive school, teachers are effective and students have enhanced well-being,” said Minister King. “Everyone wins in an inclusive school because everyone feels that they belong, realize their potential, and contribute to the life of the school. During Inclusive Education Week, I encourage everyone in the school system to think about ways to make schools more inclusive and then make that happen every day. Real inclusion is about actions, not just words.”