A principal’s appeal: ‘there is no other choice’

Seeing an opportunity to provide his school’s special needs students with a more enjoyable and enriching educational experience, Alexandra Hills State School principal, Wayne Fetcher, embarked upon an ambitious project.

Fletcher decided to do away with the school’s Special Education Program (SEP) and merge its students with the rest of the school.

Three years on, Fletcher said he has noticed an “excellent” improvement in his special needs students’ social and academic abilities, adding other principals could do well to consider doing the same in their schools.

“To be honest, I do not think there is a choice.  As educators, we need to be providing the best educational opportunities for all students,” Fletcher told The Educator.
“Fully integrating students with disabilities into mainstream classes, benefits everyone and is far more reflective of modern society.  
“It does not just benefit the students with disabilities, it benefits the entire school and wider community.”
Fletcher said the integration process has been very challenging for the school’s staff.
“It has meant that the entire school staff needed to approach the teaching of our special needs students in a different way,” Fletcher said.  
Rather than being the responsibility of a special needs teacher, Fletcher said the classroom teacher was now the program manager.  
“This meant significant professional development in differentiating the curriculum, giving a greater depth of knowledge of the students of disability that they were teaching,” Fletcher explained.
“It also meant more effective utilisation of HR resources and collaborative development of Individual curriculum plans, as well as the provision of support which allowed all students full access to the school curriculum.”

HAVE YOUR SAY: Could such an initiative work in your school?