In more serious cases where additional support is required, schools should not make a profit on those services.
The changes come as Dubai moves to meet is goal of being a fully inclusive city by 2020, part of the ‘My Community… A City for Everyone’ initiative sponsored by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and led by the Inclusive Education Task Force.
To facilitate this within schools, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has created a new fully comprehensive policy framework for all educational institutions.
The policy framework, announced at a press conference this morning, will be applied to all Dubai's education sectors from pre-primary to tertiary education. It consists of 10 standards which, when followed, will result, the KHDA says, in good SEND provision, accountability, and extend quality inclusive education services.
While a list sounds prescriptive, school leaders attending the event stressed to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com offline that beyond the headline schools will have a lot of maneuverability as to how they deliver the initiative. The KHDA will no doubt be monitoring that however, and feeding back to each school how well they believe they are delivering.
Some schools will have a bigger job that others in moving to be compliant. Schools who have significant numbers of SEN students, and older schools with few resources are likely to face the biggest hurdles.
The 10 areas for development are:
1. Identification and early intervention
From now on, admission into all educational settings, including early years will not be conditional upon the submission of a medical diagnosis.
Schools are to carry out an ‘assessment of educational need’ upon entry to school and use the outcome alongside other information to appropriately identify the category and level of SEND experienced by the student.
This information is then used to determine the type and level of support appropriate for each student, based upon their level of development and experience of SEND.
The school will then develop a personalised learning plan for targeted interventions.
Speaking at the event GEMS Education's Chief Education Officer, Sir Christopher Stone and Taaleem's Clive Pierrepont stressed that going forward assessment for learning would be an opportunity to empower children, parents and teachers and "not a way of stigmatizing and discrimination".
2. Admissions, participation and equity
From now on, schools are to recognise students who experience SEND have the same rights as all other students. This includes the right to be admitted to a preferred school where they are able to engage and participate in a quality learning experiences alongside same aged peers.
Students with SEND are not to be refused and accepted into sibling priority programmes.
3. Leadership and accountability
From now on, the leadership of a school is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic Inclusive Education Improvement Plan to ensure the successful inclusion of students who experience SEND.
They will also be responsible for reporting to the KHDA on the implementation of the plan, monitoring and evaluating its implication and mediating any issues which arise concerning students with SEND.
Leaders will also ensure new employees are sufficiently experienced in SEND and that there is ongoing training for staff within the school.
4. Systems of support for inclusive education
Schools must now provide alternative and accredited curriculum pathway options for students who are identified as experiencing SEND, including those who may attain significantly below curriculum expectations.
In addition, they are required to establish an Inclusion Support Team (IST). Membership of the IST must consists of the following; the principal, leader of provision for students who experience SEND, the support teacher(s), and champion for inclusive education.
Best practice would also include membership from student representation, parental representation, learning support assistant(s) (as appropriate) and other staff as needed including counsellors, mentors, therapists or classroom teachers.
Speaking at the event Pierrepont emphasised that to accommodate students with diverse learning needs, teaching and learning strategies would need considerably greater flexibility and that innovation in curricula, driven by research, would be needed to ensure student progress and achieve key learning outcomes.
5. Special centres as a resource for inclusive education
Specialised SEND centres will now work to enhance the development of inclusive education by providing expertise and sharing their knowledge and experience of working with students who experience SEND.
6. Co-operation, co-ordination and partnerships
Education providers in collaboration with other service providers will now consult and collaborate with parents and caregivers of children who experience SEND to ensure appropriate and adequate provisions, accommodations and services are provided.
7. Fostering a culture of inclusion
Stakeholders recognise that inclusive education is not a project or an initiative. It is the progressive development of attitudes, behaviours, systems and beliefs that enable inclusive education to become a norm which underpins school culture and is reflected in attitudinal, organisational and pedagogical discussion and decisions.
As such, relevant authorities will provide training to educators at all levels, from early years to higher education, to sensitise themselves and increase their awareness about the experience of SEND.
8. Monitoring and evaluating
All stakeholders will work collaboratively to strengthen and harmonise existing Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems to collect and analyse data, track student progress and share information on children who experience SEND from birth to adulthood across all relevant sectors.
9. Resourcing for inclusive education
The framework notes, “All education providers should ensure that the cost to families for required services, based on a student’s disability, are reasonable and reflect good value for money indicated by efficiency of delivery and impact upon student outcomes.”
Parents with children with SEND would argue this is not the case currently. Speaking at the launch event Stephanie Hamilton mother of Ruby, a student with Downs Syndrome, told press and school leaders:
"Some of us pay double, some triple, others even more. Educators I am challenging you to find a way."
The difficulty for schools will be to find a way through efficiency, and not just to pass on that cost on indirectly to other parents.
10. Additional Support
Support teachers will now be paid by the school and will be required for every 200 students.
Learning support assistants will also be the responsibility of the school and one will be employed for every 125 students.
All educators are expected to invest in professional learning and training for their teachers and support staff to ensure they are knowledgeable and effective in the use of evidence-based instructional strategies, personalised planning techniques and appropriate use of curriculum.
They are also expected to ensure that the cost to families for required services, based on a student’s disability, are reasonable and reflect good value for money indicated by efficiency of delivery and impact upon student outcomes.
For complex SEND cases when additional fees are expected to be paid by the parent, these will represent the actual cost of the services, have a clear rationale, and are reviewed and assessed regularly.