Delegates from ten South Australian schools attended the Queensland Inclusive Schools Field Trip 9-11 October 2019, coordinated by Purple Orange as part of the Inclusive School Communities Project. The field trip built on what SA schools had been discussing and learning in the CoP sessions. The group of 16 school delegates and three Purple Orange staff had the opportunity to observe inclusive education policy and practice in action at three schools in northern QLD. The school visits were arranged by Loren Swancutt, HOSES (Inclusion), North Queensland Region – State Schools, who is a member of the project steering group and has been providing consultancy and coaching to our schools.
SA school delegates benefited greatly from three-days of observing inclusive school communities in action. The field trip built on the work of the CoP sessions and provided an opportunity for school leaders to see inclusive education in practice. The three host schools in northern Queensland (one primary and two secondary) showcased a range of practices to support school inclusion including differentiation, Universal Design for Learning, Response To Intervention Model (RTI), Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS), Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL), Quality Teaching and Learning (QTL), Essential Skills for Classroom Management (ESCM), effective use of classroom teacher aides, classroom profiling, data walls (faces on the data), co-teaching, restorative practices, collaboration, and instructional coaching.
What we observed on the field trip was strong leadership and whole school vision and commitment to inclusive education backed by rigorous policies and practices that are based on high expectations for all (staff and students) and investment in building staff capacity provides a stable foundation for inclusive school communities.
The field trip was successful in changing participant’s thoughts, beliefs and attitudes around school inclusion and what is possible and inspiring them to lead changes within their schools. Being introduced to new ideas, information, and resources at the QLD schools had a powerful impact on the school delegates with 100% of those who completed the online survey reporting they would take action as a result of participating in the field trip. Survey responses also indicated participants increased confidence with inclusive school policies and practices as result of the field trip (88%).
“The field trip was invaluable. One of the best ways to learn and see in action best practice and building capacity of the participants.”
SA schools identified a range of actions to be implemented over the next 12 months around building staff capacity, collecting data, investing in students, improving pedagogy and practices, improving systems and processes, sharing information and engaging school stakeholders, and participating in the project. From here Purple Orange will support schools to convert their learnings on the field trip into tangible changes within their schools; importantly, maintaining the enthusiasm and momentum ignited from this shared learning experience.
Findings from two surveys completed by participants indicated the field trip was well planned and executed with 100% ratings on relevance, delivery, voice, and recommendation, and 100% on increasing knowledge with inclusive school policies and practices and connection to others involved with school inclusion. Given these positive results, it is important that we clearly capture the processes developed and delivered as part of this field trip so that they can be replicated in any future field trips.