Down but not out: a tool for inclusion
A new film offers practical advice and guidance for teachers, classroom assistants and families. Available on DVD, it presents views on classroom practice and effective inclusion, with examples of children at work and at play in UK schools.
Rix J. Down but not out: a tool for inclusion. Down Syndrome Research and Practice. 2007;12(1);42-42.
My son's reception class teacher wants this DVD back and will
pass it on to next year's teacher. Her mum enjoyed watching it, too. And, as a
parent of a child with Down syndrome, and as an education academic, I believe it
is a very important tool for all school staff and local education authorities.
Children with Down syndrome who are well educated within the
mainstream generally perform at two to three years ahead of those in special
schools, but if the appropriate attitudes and support are missing, then it is a
real struggle for everyone concerned.
As an example, one-third of parents in a recent survey by the
Down's Syndrome Association encountered discrimination or prejudice from
education professionals. This is largely due to the professionals' lack of
personal experience of the issues. As the survey points out, many teachers lack
specialist knowledge and skills, along with appropriate materials and
This is the comprehensive, accessible resource that so many
mainstream schools, parents and local authorities now need. The parents in the
DVD express many of the feelings and concerns that I recognise as a parent; the
educational psychologists and local authority representatives talk about the key
issues I identify with as an academic; and the teachers and teaching assistants
explore issues in a way that mean Beverley Hoddell, my son's teacher, can say:
"I could really relate to that."
Ironically, there is only one voice missing. No one with Down
syndrome tells us what they think. And that, of course, is a criticism to which
this review also falls prey.
One of the best things about this DVD was that, as a parent,
I heard my son's teacher talking about how it allowed her to see how life could
progress - "a view of the future as it might be".
She said the biggest challenge was being open-minded, and
this DVD helped her with that, not only acting as a visual reference but
broadening the issues beyond any one child. It encouraged her, built her
self-confidence, and convinced her that the key principles are in place at her
- Down's Syndrome
Association (2004) Access to Education: A report on
the barriers to education for children with Down's
- Fox S, Farrell P
& Davis P (2004)
with the effective
Syndrome, British Journal of Special Education
- Rix J, Hall K, with Nind M, Sheehy K,
Wearmouth J, (2006) A systematic review of
interactions in pedagogical approaches with reported
outcomes for the academic and social inclusion of
pupils with special educational needs in mainstream
classrooms, Research Evidence in Education
Library, Institute of Education, University of
It does come with a health warning: it is a bit dry and flat
at times, with an over-emphasis on talking heads. As Beverley put it:
"Definitely not to be used in one go."
It helps that it is broken down into 10 sections of five to
10 minutes and teachers can dip in and out throughout a year and across a
child's time at a school. It is a tool for reviewing and reflecting on practice
- useful for a staff development day, or a discussion about issues related to an
And although it does not go into great detail about all the
pedagogies on offer, it contains enough ideas about how to maximise the learning
of children with Down syndrome to provide plenty of food for pedagogic thought.
Having watched this DVD, a teacher can't say no one told them
what to look out for, and a parent will feel well armed. As Professor Sue
Buckley says at the end of the DVD, the biggest challenge is always the
attitudes of the staff.
This is the conclusion, too, of a systematic review of more
than 3,000 research papers I recently completed for the Training and Development
Agency. It is also at the heart of research by Manchester university, which
identified the need for teachers to own the process and work closely with all
If we wish children with Down syndrome to be included
effectively, we must begin with the views of the professionals at the centre of
the process, and this DVD can play an important role.
As Beverley said, it made her realise that "this is an
important thing we are doing", and how could I possibly disagree?
Jonathan Rix is a lecturer in
curriculum, inclusion and learning at the Open
This review was first published in the
Educational Supplement magazine on the 10 November
2006 and is reproduced with the permission of the
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