Given the emphasis in education on inclusion in mainstream schools and colleges for young people with additional needs, this project set out to enable young people with learning difficulties in three localities to bring about changes in their schools and colleges.
The young people themselves chose the areas they wanted to focus on, which were: representation through student councils, accessibility, feeling safe, influencing their learning and support through transitions.
The two-year programme aimed to promote emotional well-being for young people with learning disabilities in inclusive schools and colleges using participative action research.
The researchers reviewed the impact of inclusion on emotional well-being and personal and social development of young people with learning disabilities and then went on to develop strategies for overcoming barriers to inclusion in ways suggested by young people themselves. The projects that were run as a result of these ideas looked issues relating to the curriculum, social and extra-curricular activities, pastoral care and planning for transitions.
When considering young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs, the researchers found that :
- involving them in the processes of action research and institutional development enhanced their social and emotional wellbeing
- the whole day was important to them, with ‘extra curricular’ activities proving particularly stressful
- they needed designated ‘safe places’, activities or sources of support to use during stressful parts of the school or college day.
- they wanted to be more effectively involved in planning school-to-college transitions and exit pathways from college.
- they welcomed support from peers and found schemes promoting support between students valuable.
They also found:
- barriers existed to hearing the student voice and offering opportuniites for representation.
- school and student councils and other consultation processes frequently did not include young people with learning difficulties, disabilities and/or special educational needs
- information was not always presented in accessible ways
- flexibility in determining curriculum content flexibility and in determining appropriate approaches to teaching and learning were seen as important by staff and young people alike
- leaders and managers were found to have a crucial role in promoting, maintaining and developing an inclusive culture
The authors conclude that students with learning difficulties have clear views on issues relating to their education and have the potential to generate real improvements in their schools and colleges. They suggest that students can provide an effective check on policy implementation and quality
What About Us? Promoting emotional well-being and inclusion by working with young people with learning difficulties in schools and colleges, Byers R et al, University of Cambridge/Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (full report pdf)