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The last few months have seen the world become a different place. I think it’s fair to say that every person who made a prediction in 2015 of “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” got it wrong!

We, as educators, are in the midst of an Industrial Revolution. It’s not just your regular 1800’s style revolution happening over a leisurely 60 to 80 years. This is a high speed, blink of an eye Industrial Revolution.

The incidence of COVID-19 brought with it changes that happened at super sonic speed. Changes which lead to the overnight shift of the education industry from a bricks and mortar, and in my opinion completely outdated and unsuitable, school based system to full online immersion.

Educators from Pakistan to Ireland have had to abandon tradition and transform their practice. There has been confusion, disillusionment, worry and much upset but it has not all been negative.

From the thick of this mania, like Venus from the sea, has emerged a new connectivity – educators have found a window into their student’s lives allowing a greater element of pastoral engagement. We are connecting with colleagues across cities and borders.  Across timezones and seas.

A fine example of this are the multiple forums that have emerged bringing together Communities of Practice to connect, share and build their repertoire of skills and talents as we face this journey together.

Building on these Communities of Practice, Athena Education is hosting a weekly forum for Inclusion practitioners.  Here, SENDCO’s, Group Heads, Support Teachers, Principals and LSAs are coming together to share their experiences, share what they are learning during this revolution and mutually devising the best path forward to support our most vulnerable students during this metamorphosis. Supported by GEMS Lead Counsellor and their Head of Inclusion at JC, the forum is driving innovation and steering a path through this change to an advanced form of online Inclusive practice.

 The core element of the group is to support each other and share our ideas. What works well and what does not.

Research shows that by engaging in discussion about good practice in education builds your portfolio of skills and approaches to teaching. These forums provide the perfect platform for this. 

In addition to these advantages is the pastoral element. No one has experienced this situation before- no one. There are no experts. Everyone is on a level platform with a blank map facing the path. When educators come together with this in mind we can support our wellbeing simply by knowing that we are all in this together. We are all facing the same storm. This connectivity is invaluable.

If you are a special educator or counsellor come and join us every Monday on zoom, let’s learn from each other and share the load as we advance through innovation and growth devising the best support for not only our students but for our teachers, our SENDCos, our principals and anyone who want to learn and share good practice!

Zoom Meeting ID 96539774502 Password: Athena.

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Catherine O’Farrell (MSC, PGCBA, BSc-Psych, B-Ed) is an experienced psychologist, senior leader & consultant. She has worked in educational and medical institutions across Ireland, the UK, Australia and the UAE for over 12 years. She is currently Group Head for Inclusion for the Athena Group in Dubai and Director of Phase 2 for the Dubai Inclusion Network