Reading Time: 3 minutes

During my first DSIB inspection as a SENDCo I remember the lead inspector approaching me on day one with a list of three children who she wanted to shadow.

On reading the names my heart immediately sank and my face fell (visibly).

“Is there a problem?” She enquired.

“Um, no, it’s just, well… they are not really great children to shadow” I stumbled, “I mean…they don’t really stand out!”

It was those words that made me make a complete design turn on inclusion, as the inspector smiled and went off about her business I realised that the children on that list each had significant individual needs but if you walked into any one of their classes -YOU MIGHT NOT PICK THEM OUT. This, for me, has become my ideology for inclusive education.

“Every day, in every classroom, all students, including those identified as experiencing special educational needs and disabilities, will learn and achieve” Dr Abdulla Al Karam

The history of inclusive education dates back to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which emphasises that everyone has the right to education. Moreover, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (20 December 1993) emphasised rights of education children with special needs. Another globally significant agreement is the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 7 of that convention decisively declared that parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights (UN Convention, 2006). These three main declarations inspired special needs education which was the first step towards inclusive education. (Suleymanov, 2015)

As the new year begins and block 2 of inspections loom large on the horizon, are Dubai schools promoting the Inclusive Education Framework and working toward the goals of the National Agenda?

It’s a perfect time to review inclusion in schools and – where best to start other than in the classroom?

The ten standards of the Dubai Inclusive Education Framework set out clear, easy to follow guidelines for teachers, LSAs, practitioners and parents to support and promote diverse needs INSIDE the classroom through the social model.

The social model looks at barriers to learning as impairments generated and compounded by how society is organised as opposed to a child’s individual need. It looks at ways of removing these barriers that restrict options and choices for pupils of determination.

The ultimate goal is to create

common learning environments

 “An educational setting where students from different backgrounds and with different abilities learn together in an inclusive environment.” KHDA, 2017

A significant step on this path is recognition and celebration.

How many classrooms celebrate ethnic diversity? Diwali finger pots in October, Shamrocks in March, National flags in December.

 How many classrooms celebrate physical diversity? Eye colour, skin colour, hair colour?

How many classrooms celebrate diversity of abilities?

Why is it that we are ok with some symbols of individual needs like glasses or wheelchairs but not with others? 

“Impairments become disabilities when the person experiences attitudinal, social and/or environmental barriers that prevent full and effective participation within a community” KHDA, 2017

Under the leadership of the Executive Council of Dubai, and through the focus of ‘My community… a city for everyone” initiative, we are encouraged to embrace and celebrate individual needs.

By: Catherine O’Farrell

Catherine O’Farrell (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 pf Phase 2 for the Dubai Inclusion Network