Leadership and Achievement Essay Covering:
- Creating a Platform for Better Achievement in Education for SEN/D Children
- Importance of Inclusion in Connection to Achievement
Creating a Platform for Better Achievement in Education for SEN/D Children
Education is the most important gift anyone can give to a child. It exposes the child to greater knowledge and they are able to relate to the society. Children with disabilities have often been blanked out in the society when it comes to their potential in education. It is essential to provide this special group of children with an equal learning platform as their counterparts. According to a recent report by Christopher Chapman et al, it is highly important to consider some of the following factors when it comes to the achievement concerning students with SEN/D; population changes, problems of definition, emphasis on inclusion and difficulties in determining progress.In line with the factors above, it is noted that with the increase in population over the years, the number of children with disabilities and special needs has also gone up. However, there is confusion between different schools as to what constitutes a child with disabilities. It is observed that what one school views as a special need may be different in another school. Unfortunately, the government has not helped with this dilemma. The country’s legislation system has classified them as ‘special education needs.’ This term is not very specific. Every child has a potential for great achievement if given the chance. However, when it comes to SEN/D, the society has a low-performance expectation of them. The big question is why? According to Lamb inquiry, there is a big rift in performance between the SEN/D and their fellow peers.
Societal Contributions to a Student’s Achievement
The society plays a big role in the performance of a child in school. The government is at a place where it is fighting for the SEN/D’s rights. However, despite the efforts being made by the government to include the special needs and disabled children in mainstream schools, these children are still being excluded in the society. It is stated in the Lamb inquiry (2009) that, children in the special needs group are nearly eight times more prone to exclusion in their learning activities than their peers are. So where does this issue arise from and how can it be rectified? It is recommended to adopt the social model as a mechanism to solve this issue. The social model involves changing the school’s structure, to accommodate all types of children with special needs. The prestige of any school is in its performance. No one disagrees with this since children go to school to learn and be the best they can in the society. The problem arises in cases where schools put more effort in their performance and their place in the society, that they disregard the inclusion of SEN/D. Without inclusion, these children continue to perform poorly. This norm is however not found in all schools. Some schools have a system that encourages the inclusion of special needs students and provides a platform in which these students can thrive. The society has sung the slogan that, ‘disability is not inability’ for so long. However, few people put this to heart, and the society still views the SEN/D as a pariah. Changing this mentality is not easy. This is especially so in schools which face external pressure from parents and the society at large. Nevertheless, a change can come about if the beliefs and mentality of people change.
The Role of leadership regarding Achievement
A teacher’s stand can make a tremendous difference when it comes to creating an acceptance in the society. Teachers have often been viewed as people of good standing in the society, therefore people respect them.School leadership plays a major role in the implementation of inclusion in schools. According to the lamb inquiry (2009), the school leaders are responsible for setting the ethos that will appeal to the disabled children by either welcoming them or sidelining them. So what can be concluded from the lamb inquiry? A conclusion can be drawn that, head teachers or school principals, play a major role in the achievement of a special need child or a child with disability. A school’s influence is in the hands of its leaders. If these leaders are welcoming to SEN/D, then the entire school will also reciprocate the good stand of its leader.
Conditions Associated with the Success of a School
In a study conducted by Christopher Chapman et al (2012), they were able to highlight some of the conditions that lead to a school’s progress and the standards of leadership that assist to foster these operational terms. The first condition was culture and ethos. In this condition, the school leaders put all their manpower in the learning of each and every student. This condition is also characterized by the involvement of teachers even in the student’s personal life. The second condition was practices. The condition promotes all-round excellence in a student’s performance. From this study, there was a difference in practice from one school to the other. The common factor in this condition was the togetherness of staff members in regard to their students. Structure and systems was the third condition. The conclusion drawn from this condition was that the schools had well-defined structure systems that could accommodate any learning challenge, including children with special needs and disabilities. The fourth condition was leadership and management. School leaders were happy with how they manage their schools and how they are able to meet different cultures brought about by their students (Chapman et al., 2010).
However, these conditions are not a representation of every school. The atmosphere in a school influences a child’s learning ability. It is important for schools to adopt diversity since they are the pillars of the society. A child’s disability does not make them any different from their peers in terms of achievement. Exclusion of these students causes them not to reach their level of performance ability, hence placing them in the role of societal outcasts. In a report from Ofsted (2010), it is stated that those students who come from backgrounds that are not stable are more prone to exclusion from school. Hence, they eventually perform lower as compared to their counterparts. The saddening part in all this is that, even with the exposure the society has to the disabled and special needs children, nothing much is changing. The story still remains the same. School leaders need to realize that they play the biggest role in bringing about change. However, the government needs to place more effort in giving these students a standing in the society. Schools need to implement much improved structures that will not only support the SEN/D students but also give them an equal platform to compete with their peers. This will help greatly aid them in reaching their full potential.
The relationship between Culture and Leadership
A person’s culture determines their viewpoints and how they lead. Therefore, an individual’s decision making can be influenced by the cultural norm in the institution. This often at times act as a hindrance to change. On the other hand, a school may decide to adopt a much new culture where they are inclusive of the special needs children and those also with disabilities. Culture change can happen if the leaders are more open to newer things. That is why it is important for schools to interact with other schools. Through activities like benchmarking, schools are able to expose themselves to other school cultures, and this facilitates change. In a study conducted by Zollers, Ramanathan, and Yu, it was discovered that schools that have adopted successful inclusion, have some elements in common; funding, collaboration, visionary leaders, revising the utilization of the various assessments, promoting the staff and learners, involving parents effectively and adapting curricular practices that come along with instructional exercises.
Such students need to feel normal in order for them to achieve both in school and in life. Therefore, the expectations people place in them in regard to education needs to equal that of their peers. They also need their school leaders to not only encourage them but to believe in them. There is a clear symbiosis between leadership and achievement. The first step to a more accepting and accommodating society is with school leaders. In spite of a child’s ability or disability, the world stands together in emphasizing the importance of education. However, the bigger question is, and still continues to be, where do we place students experiencing additional needs and disabilities in our education system? Parents also play an important role in this, since they are the leaders at home. Therefore, the involvement of both teachers, parents and the government, will give SEN/D an equal fighting chance in the society. A child’s achievement is not in their lack of sight, or voice or even hands. A child’s achievement is in their minds. The government has policies that favor SEN/D by inclusion. This is important for the student’s growth academically and also, it will act as a catalyst in enabling them to fit in socially.
Importance of Inclusion in Connection to Achievement
As a senior teaching assistant, I have come into contact with children with SEN/D, and have facilitated in both their growth and achievement. Working closely with speech therapists, physiotherapists, and educational psychologists, we have been able to create a suitable learning environment for special needs children.Encouraging inclusion in any school has proven to be advantageous for the SEN/D. It is the responsibility of the teachers and the society, to give these children a fighting chance. I often find it valuable, not to seclude these children from their peers because it gives them skills in dealing with the society. As a nation, we may not be where we want to be in terms of inclusion, however, things are transforming and more schools are accommodating children with disabilities and special needs. This is in comparison to the earlier centuries, where SEN/D students were placed in separate educational facilities. The main argument as to why inclusion is very important is due to the fact that, it enables people to develop appropriate attitudes towards people with SEN/D. This also helps these children with special needs to be integrated into the community. According to research conducted, people are able to be more comfortable around SEN/D, when they interact with them and have information (Konza, 2008, p. 40). In my field of work, I am afforded the chance to interact with these children. We are able to modify behavior and set a healthy amount of boundary to improve behavior in accordance with the National Care Standards and Bild.
Challenges Facing the Inclusion Model
We are fighting for inclusion of children with disabilities and special needs into our mainstream schools. However, certain challenges are faced in this inclusion model. In a statement released by Ron Nelson, who is a Professor and Co-director of the Center for AT-Risk Children’s services, as a society, we are fighting for inclusion; however, we do not know how to make the inclusion model work.If implemented effectively, inclusion can assist in the overall achievement of a student. With a population of 6.5 million students with SEN/D, it is essential to come up with an effective inclusion model that will help meet their needs individually. Achievement is brought about by the continuous growth of a student’s performance both education wise and socially. Some of the other challenges faced when it comes to inclusion is the resistance by some school leaders in implementing inclusion in their schools. Studies also show that majority of principals are not prepared when it comes to matters of dealing with special needs children. This can be caused by lack of any relevant program related to special needs and disabled students.
The reason leaders play a very big role in the achievement of a SEN/D is that, as leaders, we are responsible for strategy implementation. Policies are changing, with school principals being called upon to support teachers in developing more inclusive schools hence bridging the performance gap (Billingsley et al., 2014, p. 6). This is a clear indication of the big responsibilities school leaders have, in ensuring there is an increase in the performance when it comes to children who are needy because of their disabilities. It is not easy to implement successfully an inclusion model in a school. As a school leader, there will always be questions arising on whether too much concentration on SEN/D will lower the performance of the children without disability. This is an understandable question. One of my roles as a senior teaching assistant is to liaise with teachers on the progress of pupils in relation to the target we have set for them. This kind of system helps us keep up with every student. In my role, I am able to help class teachers in different ways. This sharing of workload helps in concentration of the performance of each of the student, therefore, helping them meet their achievement goal.
It is a tag of war on whether inclusion is good for this special group of students. There is concern that these students may fail to achieve their best on capabilities in the inclusion model because of lack of very close attention. On the other hand, experts fear that if these students are separated from their peers, they may not realize their full potential. In a recent study, it was observed that students who are placed in inclusive classes perform better than those who are placed in special needs classes. When brainstorming on this study, I discovered that, in the inclusion model, students with SEN/D performed better due to the challenge they face in terms of education from the other students. However, students who are taught in special needs classes do not have the challenge and drive. They are also handled in kid gloves, therefore, they do not get to exercise their full achievement potential (Spence, 2010).
Recommendation for Future Enhancement in Terms of Achievement and Leadership
Children with disability and special needs should not be outcasts in our society. They play a detrimental role in the future growth of our society. Their level of achievement is not determined by any birth defect. Their performance levels and inclusion in schools can be enhanced through; coming up with a leadership framework. This can be done successfully through the process of redesigning the all schools’ framework and instructional program. Secondly, another recommendation is setting up direction. Once the direction is in place, there is need for developing people. This is mentally preparing people for the implication of the inclusion model (Edmunds & Macmillan, 2010, p.3).
Based on my research and experience, every child has an equal chance of great achievement if given the chance. It is reported that the highest number of children who do not attend school comes from children in this category of special needs and disabilities. The society fails to see the potential in these children. Therefore, it is the work of leaders both in school and in the government to give these children a chance at a better education system. Principals may face a hard challenge in ensuring effective implementation of the inclusion model, nonetheless, it is their work as leaders both in school and in society to ensure that SEN/D are given a fair chance as other children without disabilities (Achievement of Students with Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms, 2008). To adopt such a change, we all need to change our mindset. Stephen Hawking is a name that is globally recognized due to his contribution to science. He suffers from a rare early-onset form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that has left him paralyzed. Due to this type of illness, Stephen Hawking has been left disabled. However, this has not stopped this great man of science from making an unmatched contribution to science. The life of Stephen Hawking gave me the realization that, as I had earlier stated, ‘disability is not inability.’
The issue of full inclusion will continue to baffle people. Nevertheless, I still believe that if leaders give this model a chance, it will work to the student’s advantage. Look at the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He served as a president in the U.S. and during his time of service, this President was in a wheelchair. These two icons are just but a few people I came across in my research. However, I believe that caution should be placed when it comes to full inclusion. Studies show that not all students with disabilities and special needs can go to mainstream schools. Children with severe cases of special needs and disabilities may need too much attention that at times may lack in mainstream schools.So the question arises, what is to happen to such children? Is it okay to just confine them to the special needs schools or would it be healthy to let them interact with other children? No reasonable conclusion can be drawn for this question. It is a matter of debate. However, in conclusion, regardless of a child’s ability or disability, it is the role of the leaders both in schools and society, to ensure that they achieve in school and in life. The atmosphere created in school by principals and other school leaders will create a platform for the child’s achievement. This also applies to the government and parents. The world is constantly changing and as the world changes, so should we as school leaders. We should have a mentality that is constantly being renewed. This will enable the successful implementation of policies that will ensure that our students gain a competitive edge in the market. With the examples given above of famous people with disabilities, it is a challenge for every person in leadership position to renew our mentality and realize the destiny of these students is hanging in the balance and it is our duty to ensure that they achieve to the fullest of their ability and get equal chances as their fellow students. Good leadership and great achievement in schools go hand in hand. They are dependent on each other.
Achievement of Students with Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms.2008. [Online] Available At http://www.ernweb.com/educational-research-articles/achievement-of-students-with-disabilities-in-inclusive-classrooms/
Billingsley, S. B., McLeskey, J., & Crockett, B. J.2014. Principal Leadership: Moving Toward Inclusive and High Achieving Schools for Students with Disabilities. [Online] Available At http://www.ceedar.education.ufl.edu/tools/innovation-configurations/
Chapman, C., Ainscow, M., Miles, S., & West, M. 2010. Leadership that Promotes the Achievement of Students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: Full Report. Manchester, University of Manchester.
Edmunds, L. A.,& Macmillan, B. R. 2010.Leadership for Inclusion. AW Rotterdam,Sense Publishers.
Konza, D. 2008. Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in New Times: Responding to Challenge.South Wales, University of Wollongong.
Spence, S. R. 2010.The Effects of Inclusion on the Academic Achievement of Regular Education Students. [Online] Available At http://www.digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/etd/369