Jonathan's Blog: What makes good inclusion

After a year as the only non-speaking wheelchair using pupil at a sixth form in a mainstream school, I have had time to reflect on what has made the year so successful. This can be summed up in one word: access. 

Of course, when most people hear the word access in relation to me they think of physical access; and going to school in a Grade 1 listed building, physical access has caused some need for thinking out of the box. My lessons were moved to an accessible classroom, and I can enter the main building via a restored ramp into the dungeons and up in the Victorian lift.  When not in lessons or the common room I have access to my own space to rest and study in.

But access is primarily an attitude. It’s about deciding people should be included before it happens and planning accordingly.  For me this has meant teachers sharing material for lessons in advance, including questions I can spend time spelling answers to; joining a history of art course remotely because the evening timing didn’t work with my carer rota; and planning to attend a residential months before I joined the school.

Access is not just an attitude for others in relation to me it’s a mindset I have adopted as I’ve thrown myself into life in the sixth form. Wherever I can I try to enter and sign up for opportunities, whether it’s taking part in the McMillan run (pushed by a friend) or applying for a prefect position (I am in as equity, diversity and inclusion rep). Along the way I’ve tried to have a laugh, inclusion shouldn’t all be serious! So I convinced my TA to give me a debit, which I composed with him; and I applied for sports leader prefect (see video below which got shown as the application process to the whole school). 

So what of next year?  I’m hopeful I can encourage my peers to pick up my spelling board a bit more, even for a yes or no. And I’m planning to use my prefect position to shape a school where everyone feels valued and included.