Tara Flood, an international activist and leader of disability rights efforts, is visiting four ASD-W schools from Sept. 18-24 as part of a study tour on inclusive education in Canada. Flood is the director of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, a national organization operated by disabled people advocating for inclusive education in schools in the United Kingdom (UK). She is visiting New Maryland Elementary School, Devon Middle School, Fredericton High School and Park Street Elementary School as well as the UNB D'Avary Hall Children's Centre in order to experience inclusion in action at all levels.
Flood also met with school district staff at the Fredericton Education Centre. She noted in the U.K. there are one million disabled children and 100,000 are currently attending segregated schools. The school system is still evolving toward inclusion.
"There is some degree of accommodation in our existing system, but it lacks flexibility and it is not individualized for students," Flood said. "This trip is about giving a very heavy kick to the evolution toward inclusion."
Flood said while visiting ASD-W schools she has been struck by the welcoming atmosphere, "the language of collaboration and the sense of being able to find solutions" so that all students can learn together in the school setting. Her goal is to develop a report about her experience to "reshape and create the messages to bring people into the philosophy of inclusion" in her country.
District staff stressed the importance of having the proper resources and classroom supports in place for diverse learners within the school system as well as support and core training for teachers and administrators. Administrators, classroom teachers, resource teachers, guidance counsellors, support resources, and educational assistants must all work together to deliver education.
"We are struggling with the 'how' as students come to school with more diverse needs," said Acting Superintendent Catherine Blaney. "Some students need intense classroom support and we find it challenging to do it well in every classroom."
Karla Deweyert, acting director for educational support services in the district, explained when the social and emotional needs of students are not met, for example, behaviours can be externalized, creating challenges especially for new teachers.
Flood said in the U.K. there are 35-40 students in a class and teachers are saying they cannot do inclusion.
Blaney said it's about "changing a mindset and giving the skills, without forcing them to do it. That's your work," Blaney told Flood.
Flood's study tour was made possible through a travel fellowship for 2018 from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to visit Canada and Finland to research the inclusion of disabled students in mainstream education.
Shown in the photos below are (left to right):
Photo 1: Kendra Broad, educational support services subject coordinator for ASD-W, Tara Flood, Acting Superintendent Catherine Blaney, and Karla Deweyert,
acting director of educational support services in ASD-W, discuss inclusion at district office.
Photo 2: Tara Flood speaks with Acting Principal Nathan Langille and Vice Principal Robyn Allaby during her visit to Fredericton High School.