Developing Disability Equality in Welsh Schools
Observations from the Pilot Project to bring Disability into the Curriculum for Wales. By Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion, and Kat Watkins, Disability Wales.
Human Rights is one of the new Curriculum for Wales’ cross-cutting themes, this includes the UNCRPD. There is a duty on headteachers in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2022 “In designing, adopting or implementing a curriculum, section 64 of the Act also places a duty on schools, settings, and providers of EOTAS including PRUs to promote knowledge and understanding of Part 1 of the UNCRC, and of the UNCRPD, among those who provide teaching and learning. Promoting knowledge and understanding Disability Rights and the UNCRPD is a mandatory requirement.”
Disability Wales secured funding from the Welsh Government and chose to offer a tender to develop materials and try them out with some Welsh schools to promote Disability Rights and the UNCRPD. World of Inclusion was awarded this contract. From March to June 2021, they developed and delivered the project. Welsh schools were just coming out of Covid restrictions. Originally, we wanted to work with three Local Authorities, but they were unwilling at this time. We wrote to over 200 schools in English and Welsh explaining the project and asking for their participation. In the end, the logistics of visiting during 3 weeks of fieldwork in the summer term 2022 limited the number of schools that could be involved to 2 special schools, 8 primary schools and 6 secondary schools (16 schools across 12 Local Authorities). We developed and trialled a suite of materials, many bilingual, and initiated work on disability equality in many areas of the Curriculum. The team involved were Richard Rieser, Katie Cohen, Arabella Turner and Jon Ralphs (Graphic Facilitator) and Kat Watkins from Disability Wales. We:
- Recruited a Steering Group of interested officials, Disabled people, teachers, parents, teacher unions and NGOs and an Implementation Group of participating schools;
- Wrote a guide for school staff and teachers and amended in light of feedback;
- Tried out methods of raising the issues in the classroom with children from KS1,2,3 and in the special schools KS4 and 5;
- Developed many new tools and Graphic facilitation in a number of schools to develop understanding and ownership of the process
- Identified and encouraged participating schools to incorporate disability equality into schemes of study and lesson plans;
- Provided numerous workshops, assemblies and staff discussion sessions many of which we filmed.
The core of what we did was to develop different methods and tools to work with selected groups of children in the participating schools. The sessions varied in length from 45 minutes to 2 hours. We asked for there to be a mixture of Disabled and non-Disabled students in mainstream schools and for those who usually had learning support to have it with them in the workshop. The aims of the workshops were for participants to:
- Identify the wide diversity of impairments that count as a disability under the Equality Act. We did this by putting forward a range of impairing conditions and the children, having discussed the definition of disability, decided if people are in or out of the disability circle.
- Understand that it is the barriers, rather than the impairment that disable. A visual chart of the main groups of impairments was provided to groups. Then two envelopes with pictures of common barriers and then solutions, which worked very well.
- Identify barriers for the diversity of Disabled people and come up with solutions and that this is ‘social model’ thinking. Children went on to identify barriers on cardboard bricks and built a wall of barriers followed by solution-focused thinking to come up with solutions that were attached to the wall on a thought card.
- Recognise that in language and throughout history, thinking is mainly negative towards Disabled people. In groups students were asked to identify all language about disability on a flip chart sheet, then to discuss and circle all that is negative, which it mostly was. This for older children was followed by the disability timeline exercise, after a talk about the history of Disabled people. [See the next article].
- Appreciate that in recent years Disabled People have challenged this negative thinking through protests and attaining a Convention on their rights and laws in each country that make discrimination difficult. We used 2 short films on the Social Model and a Scottish film on UNCRPD to get this point across.
- Examine key Articles of the UNCRPD and apply these to a range of discriminatory scenarios to improve the position of Disabled people. We produced a simplified version of UNCRPD and then gave out scenario cards of breaches of disability rights and the children in groups had to identify which article applied. They got the hang of this quickly.
- Apply this thinking in their schools and local areas and make creative representations of the key message.
Disability Wales have now received a specific grant from the Welsh Government to take this work forward with selected schools in Swansea, Powys and Conwy. The results of this extension and the original material will all go up on the Curriculum Hub website at the conclusion of the extension. We will let you know when this is up online.
What is already clear is the enthusiasm that children and staff at the participating schools had, as well as the sense of empowerment that Disabled students expressed as their issues became central to what their class was doing. Already in pilot schools’, practices have changed and several schools told us they would continue to embed this work in their curriculum. Others have taken it out into the community, surveying barriers and sending letters to their local councils about lack of access.
Disability History Timeline Activity
By Richard Rieser World of Inclusion
Suitable for Year 5/6 and secondary pupils and above. A series of cards identify periods in history. On the top are general historical events in that era and on the bottom are events that relate to Disabled people. These are either spaced out and stuck on a wall, or laid out on joined together desks. A larger number of cards depict events or circumstances relating to Disabled people over this period. A number are given to each group and they choose where on the timeline they come and put them in place at right angles to the main timeline. This activity generated a lot of discussion.
The learning point, the oppression Disabled people experience is universal and continues in different forms overtime. The question of resistance is raised. This then leads on easily to the need for a Human Rights Treaty for Disabled people and the need for implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Disability Time Line (powerpoint)
Disability History Examples for Timeline (powerpoint)