16 July 2012
Christ Church Principal Lecturer and Research Psychologist, Dr John Cornwall, was one of only two experts from England involved in an international project to improve inclusive teacher education for pupils with special educational needs.
The two year project, Teacher Education for Inclusion across Europe, was funded by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. It saw 54 experts from all European countries including France, Latvia, Germany, Malta and Iceland, discussing and researching the benefits of essential teacher competences for inclusive education, as well as the types of teachers needed for an inclusive society in a 21st century school.
Dr John Cornwall, said: “Teacher training in the UK for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and inclusion has been under-emphasised. The British drive for inclusion and an increased focus on improving Initial Teacher Education, has not been wholly compatible with a drive for standards in what is a highly competitive, and therefore somewhat exclusive education system.
“This project has however enabled us to look beyond borders, where we have seen some exemplary systems, such as in Finland where all teachers are supported by the government from their first degree through to their masters. Finland’s system is also based upon peer support and review, maintaining high quality through school and university peer visits, rather than inspection.
“The research has also contributed to a shift in policy in the UK to increase the emphasis in Initial Teacher Education towards strengthening support for pupils with special needs and disabilities in mainstream schools.
“At Canterbury Christ Church University, within the Faculty of Education, we have responded to this both in our research and our teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate teachers. The changing scenario in teacher education is aimed at embedding the principles and values of equity, inclusion and acceptance of diversity into all subject teaching and academic endeavour.”
Over the two years the project involved 400 country stakeholders’ input, as well as 70 written documents of structured reflections helping the 32 countries to examine and explore their own approach to teacher education.
The findings of the project have resulted in a number of shared perspectives on what makes inclusive teaching and inclusive teachers on a pan-European basis, whilst the research paper “Teacher Education for Inclusion – Profile of an Inclusive Teacher” has been published by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education.
Dr Cornwall was accompanied by Professor Brahm Norwich from the University of Exeter as the second England expert. Together they are planning a national conference to further the notion of the type of teachers needed for an inclusive society in a 21st century school.
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With nearly 20,000 students, and five campuses across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.