Making Disability Rights Real
"An enforceable right to inclusive education" is one of the three Education Recommendations made by the Independent Monitoring Mechanism of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (The Disability Convention).
Making Disability Rights Real 2012-2013 is the second report by the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM). The Report highlights barriers that prevent the full realisation of disabled people's rights and recommends steps to ensure those rights are realised. Five key issues have been identified, and Education is one of them.
While the IMM supports initiatives introduced to make schools more inclusive, concern has been raised about the nature of reporting on inclusiveness by schools and the lack of quality data. The report notes that exclusion, isolation and bullying remain significant issues for children and youth, and education-related complaints to the Human Rights Commission are disproportionately concerned with disability. The IMM is also concerned about the gap between the legal right to an education and the ability to ensure that this is realised.
The three recommendations under Article 24: Education are;
- That the Government establish an enforceable right to inclusive education.
- That the Ministry of Education implement whole of school anti-bullying programmes that ensure schools are safe and nurturing places for disabled students.
- That the Ministry of Education establish initiatives that promote the value of difference and affirm the identity of disabled students.
The Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM) was set up as a requirement of the Disabilitiy Convention to monitor NZ's implementation of the convention. The IMM consists of; The Human Rights Commission, The Ombudsman, and Disabled Peoples Organisations( Blind Citizens NZ, Balance NZ, Deaf Aoteaora NZ, Deafblind NZ, Disabled Persons Assembly, Nga Hau e Wha, Ngati Kap o Aotearoa, People First NZ).
Read the full report here.
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Inclusive Education Capacity Building Project
The Inclusive Education Capabity Building (IECB) in the Wider Professional Learning and Development Environment is a Ministry of Education (MOE) project that aims to develop:
1. A framework for inclusive practice for teachers, school leaders, board members and everyone who provides PLD in schools.
2. Curriculum tools and resources for classroom teachers of learners with special education needs.
3. A framework for recognising the progress and achievement of students with special education needs.
Alongside the working groups that are developing these resources, the MOE is consulting with a Sector Advisory Group. IEAG is a member of the Sector Adivisory Group which includes representatives from disability, teacher, school principal, teacher union, special school and inclusive education groups. The Sector Advisory Group has been meeting since June 2013 and at the July 2014 meeting an update was presented detailing progress with on-line resources and support for inclusive school and teaching practices. These have been being trialled, and are soon to be finalised and released.
The two main resources for primary and secondary schools and teachers are:
1. Inclusive Practice Tools (IPT)
IPT is an online tool that helps schools engage in a review process to inform their ongoing journey towards building inclusive practices for all learners (including learners with extra support needs). IEAG believes that the focus on student, family, teacher and school staff feedback in the Inclusive Practices Tools is good. However, early feedback suggests that the IPT surveys need to be more flexible so that schools can add questions, address the issues and use language that is right for them and their contexts. (see MacMaster,Chris. (2013) The Inclusive Practices Tool: Trying to take a short cut to inclusion? New Zealand Journal of Teacher's Work. 10(2)).
2. On-line Knowledge Centre
Not yet released, The On-line Knowledge Centre is due to go live at the end of 2014.
The Ministry of Education says " The intention is for the Online Knowledge Centre is to become the ‘one stop shop’ for early childhood centres and educators, schools and teachers to find tips, tools and strategies, for inclusive practices and for teaching and learning of children with special education needs.In the meantime you can still visit SE Online, IEP Online and ASD in Education, which are still developing and publishing content that will either link to, or become part of, the Online Knowledge Centre".
Each on-line knowledge centre topic page went through peer review and trialling processes. The pages contain a wealth of knowledge, perspectives, information and resources on 30 topics related particularly to disabled students and inclusive early childhood, school and teaching practices.
Concern was raised by disability, family and inclusive education representatives at the IECB Sector Advisory Group about eight of the 30 topics being focused on specific labels-impairments-‘disability profiles’. These include pages on “learners with” ADHD, Autism, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia... All 30 topic pages refer to students with “moderate (special) needs” as the target group. This communicates a view of inclusive education as being only about disabled-labelled-students with ‘special needs’.
Imperfect language, positioning and editing aside, much of the proposed content of the Knowledge Centre will provide fresh perspectives and inclusive strategies for teachers and leaders (who use it) to diversify their teaching and curriculum for all learners. Especially welcome is the local video footage of the voices and experiences of young disabled students, families and teachers that the Ministry has collected as part of the IECB project and included in the Knowledge Centre resources. Hopefully the knowledge centre will extend and continue to grow and keep pace with research, best practice and the voices, rights and needs of marginalised students and their families in education.
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