Susan discusses her experience of working as a PE teacher and being as inclusive as possible in her lessons.
My school is renowned for its excellent School Development Department (SDD), so much so that pupils travel across the borough to be fully included in mainstream with the best possible provision.
There are 5% of the pupils with a disability or special educational need which is well above the national average. We have pupils with both physical and mental disabilities and they are fully integrated in the whole curriculum including practical subjects. As a PE teacher I've only come across one partially sighted pupil and one wheelchair pupil in 14 years of teaching. I did teach opposite a special needs school in my last job so all local pupils with mild and severe learning difficulties went there and therefore I didn't have much involvement.
Now I have to plan my lessons accordingly. Questions I now have to think about: Is the plan fully inclusive? How could I adapt it? It's great seeing everyone integrate, a normal cross section of society. However I can also see how special education schools would benefit pupils too. In mainstream all opportunities are made available, but does this mean they are accessible? For instance a ski trip. I have a friend who is a deputy head teacher in a special education school and I've seen the videos from their ski trip. Amazing scenes, progress and experience. Specially trained and high staff ratios, the trip is designed to give them the best opportunities possible. A mainstream ski trip just can't give the same experience. Staffing is limited, travel and hotels are generic and ski lessons are standard.
In PE lessons we do our best. We have pupils in wheelchairs getting on trampolines, playing invasion games and fully integrated where possible. I have a Year 9 girl with dwarfism and we had a rugby coach in for one lesson. She had enjoyed it in previous years, and happily got involved, tackled everyone well and used her low centre of gravity to great advantage. However this year everyone had grown that bit taller and the ball bypassed her. She then took herself out of the game and the rugby coach didn’t realise. I included the rules such as everyone must touch the ball, and she took the free passes or restarts, but you could see it was difficult for her. However in trampolining she is one of the most confident pupils.
In a special education school they'd be more adaptable, have more ideas, there would be more pupils with similar issues and therefore may well be more inclusive for all. They can also offer swimming, bowling and adapted equipment for various sports.
So I can see it from both sides. If you segregate in school do all children learn social mixing? If you integrate are some opportunities missed?
I have spoken to a variety of parents of children with disabilities and it's pretty much a choice they make depending on their child. If they can cope and would thrive with integration that's best. If they need to have more specialist help to thrive then segregation is the key. No right or wrong answer. Pros and cons for both. I am enjoying the challenge of integrating, and I enjoy seeing the respect all pupils gain from this.
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