Posted on

We are crossing boundaries, Norway

This is a story about the project ‘we are crossing boundaries’. The project takes place in a municipality in the western part of Norway. A school and the Educational Psychological Service is collaborating with Statped in order to improve the school situation when it comes to inclusion.  The main goal of the project is changing attitudes and structures in the school toward teaching for inclusion.

Anita Sande, senior adviser in Statped and leader of the project states:

I think that if we are to ensure children and pupils with complex learning difficulties and developmental disabilities an inclusive learning environment, we have to ensure that attitudes, skills and practices that support inclusion enter into the schools and kindergartens’ organization.

The intention of the project is to increase the awareness of what is offered in the educational system for children and pupils with severe learning disabilities and developmental disabilities, and in that way increase the academic and social outcomes in kindergartens and schools for these children.

Our reason for the project is the increasing number of pupils attending special schools /units, and the fact that many schools meet them with low expectations. We find that there is too little knowledge and expertise in schools about this group of pupils, and even the Educational Psychological Service (PPT) expresses insufficient expertise. In my opinion, many schools need guidance in both system and individual matters.

Read more: Two Key factors

We chose a municipality where the PPT was concerned with their lack of knowledge about children with complex difficulties. Hop school applied to join the project because of challenges in the school’s unit for special education. There was too little contact between the pupils with special educational needs and their ordinary classes. The pupils met limited academic expectations, unskilled staff had too much responsibility and some parents were frustrated.

Our goal was that Hop school, grade 1-7, should develop a common educational platform for the whole staff including all pupils as our pupils. The entire staff should be responsible for all pupils to be included and to receive a proper learning outcome. The teaching staff should become familiar with practices of inclusion and the laws that regulate the right to special education. The entire staff should have knowledge about the parents’ perspective.

Read more: Project organization

Anita Sande states that the school had to change in several ways:

They had to change their attitude by reflecting on what an inclusive school can be, seeing their school as a natural place for teaching pupils with severe complex learning difficulties and developmental disabilities.

They had to change their structure by making improvements concerning the individual education plan (IEP), guidelines for collaborative work for lesson studies, time for staff to meet, and allocations of responsibility between staff working with these pupils.

They had to change their teaching by taking more responsibility for these pupils, learning more about their special educational needs, adapting the level of teaching and assessment, and improving cooperation with parents.

Read more: The success factors, seen from different points of view

In the film, we meet Brage, who has limited verbal speech, and is moderate developmental disabled. In early school age, he was included in the ordinary class, but the last years he worked in a tiny special group, with only one more student. He has some reading and writing skills and he is especially competent in science. Owing to the project, Brage is again participating and contributing within ordinary education.

Written by

Tone Dalvang
Senior Advicer, Department of Complex Learning Disabilities
Statped, Norway