Promoting social inclusion of pupils with visual impairment in mainstream schools in Scotland
There was an overall consensus by all those interviewed over what would promote social inclusion for pupils with a visual impairment. In slightly different ways, and with slightly different emphasis pupils, parents and teachers all talked about the importance of teaching staff being knowledgeable about visual impairment; the importance of support being available and unobtrusive; the importance of communication (between teachers, between pupils and teachers, and between teachers and parents); the importance of friendships and positive social interactions in school; and, the importance of involving pupils in decisions that affect them. The experiences of those we interviewed clearly illustrate how important the above are in the daily lives of those concerned. The pupils in particular, eloquently and perceptively described what helps to make them feel included in school, and equally, what it feels like when they are not.
The Scottish Executive are proactively encouraging schools to develop a positive ethos which will promote the inclusion of all pupils, socially and academically, in their school and in their community. The policies are in place and the recent evaluation by the HM Inspectors (2000) notes the progress made and gives a clear indication of what still needs to be done.
This report has highlighted the particular position of those with a visual impairment in mainstream schools and gives a clear message that inclusion can and does work, but that all authorities and schools should be further encouraged to fully embrace inclusive policies and practices. In particular attention should be given to staff development and the promotion of a positive ethos.