Nobody likes being left out at school. Whether it’s not getting the chance to join in with activities in the classroom, playground or sports field, feeling excluded or unsupported it is never a nice feeling.
The good news is that young people called the Young Ambassadors for Inclusion are on a mission to help schools think about how they can become more inclusive. They recently met up with Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney to have their say about how important it is that ALL pupils – whatever their age, background, or support need – feel included in school. They are also busy making a film to share their views with teachers and school staff.
Talking about what inclusion means to them and how to make sure pupils feel safe, accepted, and treated equally, the Young Ambassadors shared what matters to them the most:
Everybody being included in education regardless of need
Making it easy for pupils to ask for help and offer the right support
Not being defined by any difficulties you have
The young people thought that it was really important for schools to make sure that everyone understands and has a positive attitude about support needs like disabilities and mental health issues:
Whole school awareness of This is the legal definition of This is the legal definition of additional support needs from the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended. A child or young person has additional support needs... from the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended. A child or young person has additional support needs... can support much better understanding and reduce stigma and isolation.
And by ‘everyone’, the Ambassadors meant not just the pupils but the teachers as well – they told the Education Minister they think that all teachers should have training on inclusion and the different types of support needs pupils may have and how this might affect them in school.
When staff have an understanding of different additional support needs and can understand certain behaviours, it helps them understand why young people may act in a particular way
They had some good ideas for how to raise awareness, like holding pupil conferences, taking part in national awareness weeks, putting on school assemblies led by pupils, or developing awareness raising days about specific issues such as mental health or being LGBT.
The Inclusion Ambassadors said that it was really important for schools to make sure pupils with support needs had the same chance as other pupils to have a say in decisions:
If school don’t support you to try things how will we ever get the chance?
Support staff have ideas of what young people are good at or not good at. Don’t make assumptions.
We need to create positive stories about pupils with additional support needs rather than focus on the negatives.
Summing it all up perfectly one Ambassador said:
We want to be seen as individuals with our set of unique strengths and skills.
This blog also features on Reach our young people’s website dedicated to giving advice and information to pupils who might be struggling in school. With practical tips on what can help and young people sharing their views and experiences, Reach offers a ‘go-to’ source of advice for pupils needing support at school.