This is not a post about whether we should be using the term 'inclusion'. Please, have that discussion if you have lived and breathed it and really get it (I am personally into 'difference and belonging' at the moment). But let me tell you that there are some settings, some pockets, some professionals that are so far from getting it that I wonder where they've been for the past 50 years. I am most interested, being a solution focused kind of girl, in getting more people in education (especially leadership) to some kind of a level of understanding of the term 'inclusion' that is deeper than the paper some 'inclusion policy' is written on. That would be a most glorious start.
Unfortunately it is one of those terms, like 'whole school approach', that is bandied about but often not really understood at all. It sounds really great. 'Oh yes we have a whole school approach here for autism, we're very inclusive'... beware the white noise of jargon speak.
So this is the most successful way I've found of explaining inclusion. Please plagiarise, RT and go on about it (if you think it's a goer). I am mindful of the dangers of our echo chamber. Ping these girls around...
The Three Sisters: there is a method in gardening and growing called 'companion planting'. If gardeners and farmers cultivate polycultures (what a great word) then the resilience of the crops goes up and they are most likely to succeed. There is a native American legend about three sister spirits that watch over beans, squash and corn in particular. And for those of you that know your vegetables, you'll know how corn grows up, beans grow around and squash meander along the ground. More here [www.reneesgarden.com/blogs/gardening-resources/celebrate-the-three-sisters-corn-beans-and-squash]
The corn supports the beans, the beans add nitrogen, the squash provide shade and minimise water loss - a kind of fruitful mulch for want of a better term!
The companion planting imagery of these three plants, growing and strengthening together in harmony, pulls out all the good things about inclusion:
The role everyone has to play
The value in diversity
The strength in variety
The grower's capacity to build a rich, sustainable crop with some planning - the more time put into the design, the more the plants look after themselves...
And in a practical way it leads me on to talk about learning partners, circle of friends methods (where EVERYONE gains), the importance of careful planning, value of social learning, buddy drilling and ways of cultivating tolerance and celebration of difference... for starters.
In a complex secondary school it is very crucial that department leads understand this. I am a big fan of extra planning time being given to teachers who have complex classes so that they get the design of lessons and tasks right (far more effective than loading the class with add-on TAs... although TAs are also brilliant - hello TAs if you are reading this, you are very valuable too).
For this to become embedded within a school, this idea needs to be communicated with all staff. Don't assume understanding. I am still asked, as a Senco, as an ex-head of department, as an experienced teacher and SLT member of both secondary and primary settings, if I am 'actually a teacher' - never assume anything!
If you are a Senco on SLT (for the record there should be no 'if' but I know there's a long way to go with that as well), get a slot on an SLT meeting to present this. Put it in your handbook, put it on posters, slip it into emails, training sessions, stick in planners, provide a laminated copy for all departments and staffrooms, share it with parents, give it a mention in governors' reports.... It is an image that I have seen illuminate what before was a meaningless word for many. Here's a handy version that works quite well (once you've done the talking!).