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 is just SO not what anyone needs.
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.
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 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 told John Swinney:
“We want to be seen as individuals with our set of unique strengths and skills.
So what next for the Inclusion Ambassadors?
After the success of their meeting with the Deputy First Minister, the Inclusion Ambassadors are creating a pledge that schools can use to show they are committed to inclusion. They are also going to make a support pack and short film for schools to raise awareness of inclusion and how important it is to listen to young people’s views.