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“Hi there! My CPD Jukebox question is: how do you make your school more inclusive? There are lots of answers to that.

The key thing from me is to engage with parents before it becomes an issue.

So, often what happens with inclusion is you get objections and concerns when it's an issue and when there's something happening that really creates a focus.

Engaging with Parents

What you need to do is address these issues with parents before that happens. Establish principles clearly and make sure that inclusion is part of the wider approach to dealing with the young people in your school.

There's no point in aiming for inclusion, unless you've got a curriculum that focuses on openness and tolerance and diversity.

Ask the question all the time, ask it about curriculum, ask it about pedagogy, ask it about the arrangements for classrooms, ask it about how young people find their way around the school, ask it about lunch arrangements, ask it about everything.

The Biggest Step

It's the biggest step that you can take towards making your school much more inclusive. Critically ask it about practice - does the practice that you're seeing in classrooms address the needs of all the children?

And if it does, then does it address them all equally well and don't make that something that's forced - make it a focus for regular discussion so that your teachers are contributing, putting forward a clear view and setting out what it is they're attempting to do and how they're attempting to do it.

Speaking and Listening

Getting an inclusive school off the ground is as much about listening as speaking.

Be very clear and make sure that you ask when you're making an appointment, or when you're doing interviews, about the applicant’s attitude, ask them to demonstrate their stated commitment from their experience.

Don't appoint people who are not sympathetic to that mission that you've got towards being a school which caters for the needs of all your children.

Partnership Power

Reach out beyond the school as far as possible, create the partnerships that allow young people to be supported.

Make sure that your school is outward looking. If you try and be inclusive and only focus inwards, you're going to put all the responsibility and all the stress on you and your staff and that will create real tensions for you.

Make sure that you use all of the resources that are available and make sure that plans are made for really difficult and challenging young people before they come into your school.

Make sure that inclusion is more than just an ambition, but that it's a strategy and make sure that it's a strategy that you commit to and that you resource.

Vision and Practice

There's lots more that could be said about practice, but my view would be that whenever we look to make something successful, we must have it at the front of our leadership vision all the time and that means we need to demonstrate it in practice.

So, be careful about the young people that you speak to and that you engage with. Make sure that you take time, and make time, to engage with these students who are part of inclusion. Make sure that you engage with families who are part of inclusion. Make sure that your staff see that you're comfortable with these young people.

Kindness

We've got three to five minutes to cover this and I’ve used three already.  There's probably a lot more tips and hints that could be given - there are certainly a lot more sources within the Independent Thinking team that you can turn to for practical advice from people who are working regularly in the field but make sure as a leader that the attitude is there - that your school is founded in a culture of kindness, and that inclusion is at the heart of your ambition statements, your aims and all that you do.

And make sure that you demonstrate it in the way that you engage with young people and in the way that you engage with staff.

Make sure it's something that's picked up and recognised every time you do a review, make sure that it's one of the questions in the agenda and make sure that your focus on attainment goes much more widely than exams and results, even in a year as controversial as this because if you don't offer credit for inclusion, people wouldn't aspire to.

Thanks for listening.”

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About the author

David Cameron

David Cameron

David - the Real David Cameron - is an Independent Thinking Associate, speaker and writer with experience across many aspects and levels of education and an infectious passion for cutting through the rubbish to do what is right for all young people.

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