Trish Lowson, school link officer for inclusive learning at Calderdale metropolitan borough council, introduces Vision into Practice – Ensuring Every Child Matters, a self-evaluation tool for inclusive learning.

How do you evidence the quality of inclusive practice in your school? Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council’s Vision into Practice – Ensuring Every Child Matters materials have been specifically written for school leadership teams working with staff and other stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of what inclusion means to them and what the school’s priorities are for further development. What is important about these materials is that they represent a process – not a checklist.

We have received very positive feedback from schools – around 88% of Calderdale schools are currently using Vision into Practice. They see the materials as a useful tool which develops a problem-solving approach to supporting vulnerable groups. It makes the links between self-evaluation, professional development and school improvement.

Over a third of Calderdale schools have now been inspected under the revised Ofsted framework and 80% were judged to be good or better with regard to the support they provide for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD). HMI have praised the work one of the pilot schools has undertaken on identifying and planning for vulnerable groups of pupils.
Different methodologies for using these materials have been adopted by schools based on their own individual context. One commonality is that all schools have used the materials to support school improvement through focusing on enhancing the teaching and learning of children who are vulnerable, based on attainment, in order to raise levels of achievement.

Differing needs and aspirations

‘Everyone different – everyone matters’ is Calderdale council’s ambition statement. We really do believe this as we know that the children and young people of our small metropolitan borough are our future and we want to support them to achieve their full potential. However, we also recognise that they are all different. Children have different needs and aspirations and thus need different levels of support. Inclusive learning must be at the heart of all our educational practice and all staff in schools have a key role to play in meeting this priority.

Headteachers in Calderdale were already engaged in evaluating the quality of provision within their school when a supported SEN self-review was introduced in 2002. This process was evaluated during 2003 and, since then, the local authority has continued to work in partnership with school leadership teams, SENCOs and inclusion managers to develop self-evaluation focused on pupil outcomes supported by robust evidence. With the introduction of the revised Ofsted framework in September 2005, it was essential that the revised self-evaluation materials linked closely with the Ofsted framework and the self-evaluation form (SEF). Vision into Practice links closely to the SEF and can be used to inform its completion.

Between 2003-2005, materials were piloted and feedback used to inform further refinements. In September 2005 Vision into Practice – Ensuring Every Child Matters a self-evaluation tool for inclusive learning, was launched.

Comprehensive materials

This rigorous and comprehensive set of materials can be used by schools to evaluate the quality of their inclusive practice and in doing so recognise and celebrate success and pinpoint accurately priorities for further development. It takes into account the views of a range of stakeholders in order to inform practice for vulnerable groups.
Part 1 provides an overview of inclusive provision within the school, based on 10 key questions linked to Ofsted’s self-evaluation form. It also includes an evaluation of how effectively the school is implementing the National Curriculum inclusion statement. Part 2 consists of a range of management tools to assist schools in collecting and analysing their evidence base. These include an evaluating inclusion flowchart and data analysis grid.

Schools have found the evaluating inclusion flowchart very supportive in developing a shared understanding of what the school means by the term ‘vulnerable’ based on a wide range of social and emotional factors. This flowchart directs leadership teams to relevant parts of the document and is described in more detail in the case studies below.

A key issue identified by schools was that they did not always know how well some of their vulnerable children were achieving. To provide support in this key area, the data analysis grid asks key questions about different groups of pupils and is referenced to the PANDA RAISE online information. Managers are now making better use of information from the pupil achievement tracker and ePANDA to support effective provision mapping and curriculum personalisation.

Other management tools include: identifying vulnerable pupil groups; mapping and evaluating the impact of additional provision; classroom organisation and inclusive teaching strategies; managing inclusion guide and action planning.

Implementation

In October 2005 the revised document was introduced to all schools at a cross-phase inclusion conference attended by headteachers, inclusion managers, SENCOs and governors. This event provided an opportunity for pilot schools to showcase good practice and exemplify how their school had used the materials to identify development areas and evaluate the impact of their work on pupil outcomes.

The highlight of the conference was the pupil participation. Each pilot school brought with them children and young people, ranging from five years to 18 years, who spoke about how their school experiences had been enhanced by the actions taken by their school.

Much positive feedback has been received from schools with the case study below illustrating the impact of using this resource in a school setting.

Making the grade

Calderdale was recently awarded the Regional Quality Standards for Inclusion by the SEN Regional Partnership which endorses and recognises the quality of the self-evaluation materials being used by our schools. Calderdale local authority will be proud to use this to ‘kitemark’ inclusive practice in our schools.

When these materials are used effectively it has been found that they help support the whole school ethos, the professional development of staff, improve pupil performance and build capacity and confidence to meet the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda. Schools have felt more supported in being able to judge and evidence the impact of their work on pupils’ learning and consequently in evaluating the quality of the school’s inclusive practice.

Professor Mel Ainscow, author of Index for Inclusion said about Vision into Practice: ‘It is increasingly clear from research that evidence is the lifeblood of inclusive school development. This framework provides a very helpful way of people within schools determining the evidence they need to move policy and practice forwards.’

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