Mainstreaming, I presume (Part 4)

In this, the fourth part of this series on the Scottish Government (2019) Guidance on the presumption to provide education in a mainstream setting, we will be looking at the second of the “Key features of inclusion” : Participating.

It’s the taking part that counts…

The guidance again begins by setting out the key expectations:

  • All children and young people should have their voices heard in decisions about their education – including decisions on where they learn
  • All children and young people will have the opportunity to participate and engage as fully as possible in all aspects of school or early learning and childcare life, including trips and extracurricular activity
  • All children and young people should be enabled and supported to participated in their learning
  • Children and young people with additional support needs, who are aged 12-15, also have extended rights within the ASL framework to use rights on their own behalf to affect decisions made about them

So, participation means being involved in making and taking decisions about your own education – including where you learn.  For many children and young people with additional support needs, that involvement and engagement will require to be supported.  And participation should be in the whole life of the school: taking part in extra-curricular activities, school trips etc.

Particularly gratifying here is the child-centred way in which participation is defined.  As many of us will know, it is quite possible to be physically present in a school classroom without actually participating in the class very much at all.  The guidance goes way beyond that.  Participation, it says, “is about feeling included as a peer, forming firm relationships and friendships and developing the skills for lifelong learning and success.”

In fact, learner participation is a good idea for all learners, not just those with additional support needs.  Education Scotland has developed resources on Learner Participation in Educational Settings (3-18) for that very reason.  The material on the Participation of Care Experienced Young People may be of particular interest.

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires children’s views to be respected, and the Scottish Government has now committed to the full incorporation of the Convention into Scots law, which will reinforce this right across public bodies in Scotland.

In practical terms, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has developed 7 Golden Rules for Participation.  These, along with Children in Scotland‘s “Meaning Participation and Engagement of Children and Young People” principles and guidelines, are especially useful.

Finally, the guidance makes mention of the extended rights for children aged 12 to 15 years with additional support needs.  These allow children of that age to make use of their rights in law directly, including the right to make an assessment request, request a Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP), and access dispute resolution or the Tribunals.  Children seeking to make use of these rights are ably supported by the My Rights, My Say project, of which I am one small part.

Next up is the third key feature to be considered – whether the pupil is achieving…

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