The Power of Education

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”.

Nelson Mandela

My parents understood the value of education and always pushed me to learn more in order to be in a more informed position. You can never have too much knowledge and knowledge is power. I have never seen it as a ‘weapon’ but I do understand what he meant by that. Education is there for each person to use as they wish and the knowledge learnt can be used to appropriately challenge perspectives or bring fresh ideas to the table. For example, I am using my education to appropriately challenge discrimination and injustice in education systems. Mandela used his education to free a nation. What a hero!

Education taught me more than what was provided in the syllabus, it taught me how to respect people, respect myself and understand my own strengths and weaknesses. If we think about the power of education, it means different things to different people. For one person, education is a means of liberation so they are able to understand and challenge injustices that they may face. For another person, education is a means of social mobility within a capitalist society that values high academic attainment.

I have never been the most astute learner and thinking back at my experience with the knowledge I have now, there are plenty of areas that I think have not changed which probably did affect my experience. I hold nothing against my teachers as I do think the problems are systemic. For example, have you ever thought about why secondary schools are so much bigger than primary schools? You don’t need to have special educational needs or a disability to struggle with a transition as big as primary to secondary school but it certainly makes it worse. The ‘survival of the fittest’ culture surrounding the secondary transition is concerning for all pupils. I relied on the sympathy of a popular Year 11 pupil and the SEN office with adults onsite to get me through my first year. How much does the education system prepare children & young people for transitions?

All I want is more equality in education to remove the barriers at an early stage that society puts on disadvantaged learners. If education is a powerful weapon like Mandela says, then not all learners are adequately equipped to change the world. All voices should matter in a just world which is what I believe we all want but it’s funny how education should be for all but the cost is too high in specific areas of the developing world or the quality and access to education is negatively affected by what disability or learning need the learner may have.

For a second, think about your first and last day of primary school and secondary school? Did you feel that it equipped you to change the world?

If not, what do you think it did not teach you that you may have wanted to learn?

Photo by Gregory Fullard on Unsplash

Coronavirus: the impact on children with emotional and mental health needs

The Institute of Education at University College London has helpfully provided learning resources to support home-schooling for children with social, emotional and mental health needs. A quick browse prompted me to think about what is the best thing a child or young person with additional needs can take from this situation. For children with social, emotional and mental health needs, this experience must bring up a range of questions for the parents/carers who have to teach their child why this has happened and how this affects them as well as try to get them to do some Maths & English.

It’s quite a challenge for the inclusive educator in these circumstances. Whilst progress against the curriculum is important for a child’s academic progress, what’s more important is that the children understand why this is happening and what they can do to support the situation. There’s always a learning opportunity in every situation.

I spoke to a parent of a child with quite severe ADHD earlier this week. I asked her how she was coping home-schooling her child. She replied, “The questions don’t stop, he’s more worried about everyone dying than doing the work”. I advised her that it’s more important for the child’s emotional state to be calmed before engaging in any learning activity. I’m a big fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (visual representation below). If you look at Maslow’s (1943) theory , feeling safe and secure is absolutely essential to human motivation for anything and I think it’s important that this is applied to the context of home schooling in the midst of a global pandemic. There is no doubt in my mind that this parent isn’t the only person in this situation right now.

A few days ago, I read a blog post from GEM Report about the impact of school closures and the prospect of this being extended to the summer holidays. Typically, the summer closure of schools is welcomed by most as a rest for children who have spent the entire year absorbing new information in a highly structured learning environment but this year might be different. I think our first priority should always be health & wellbeing but if the school closures are extended to the summer holidays, then that is a considerable length of time away from a structured learning environment.

What do you think could be done to support children in reintegrating back into school? Particularly for those with emotional and mental health needs? Does anyone have any other thoughts they’d like to contribute?

The link to the resources provided by UCL can be found here:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/centre-inclusive-education/homeschooling-children-send/social-emotional-and-mental-health-young-people

Welcome: My First Post

Hello everyone. Thank you for taking the time to visit my site. I am truly humbled and privileged to be writing to you.

I have decided to start a public blog because I think across the world there are different practices and policies all concerned with the development of inclusive education but to varying degrees. It is quite clear that across the world, people with additional learning needs and/or disabilities have varying levels of support and expertise. I wanted to create a space where discussions can be held across a range of different contexts and disciplines to try and improve practice and policy on an individual level. This blog will particularly focus on children/young people from 5 to 16 as I think inclusive education is most effective and necessary within this age bracket given that is the rough compulsory schooling age across most developed countries. Although, there are likely to be posts related to children much young and adults much older.

I want to discuss policy, practice, research and resources that are being used across the world. I chose the name “The Inclusive Educator” because the ultimate goal is to support everyone in becoming more inclusive in their education practice. Whether you’re a parent trying to support your disabled child to play with other children or a teacher trying to get a child with ADHD to stay in the classroom longer.

I am pro-mainstream and believe that all children should have access to a mainstream education irrespective of their needs. I equally recognise that mainstream education may not be right for every child but every parent should have the right to at least try and see if their child can be successful in mainstream education.

I honestly would love to connect with anyone who has a genuine passion for special needs, disabilities or inclusive education. I want to connect with teachers, professionals, consultants, researchers, parents, adults with disabilities who can now reflect on their childhood experiences. Literally, if you have something to contribute to the discussion, please feel free to do so.

I am not going to be able to do this all myself as I can only speak from one perspective so I would welcome anyone to get in touch if they would like to contribute.

If I continue this blog successfully for a year, I hope to have a platform for open discussion and dialogue about inclusive education and people leave the blog more confident in their practice than when they first saw my page. There is no correct answer to every question and you will not find an inclusive education manual here as every child and situation is different but what you will find is an opportunity to reflect and try new things.