English get education tips from CKSD

"Visiting educators from Sheffield, England had a few surprises as they toured Silverdale schools and studied how the U.S. has tackled inclusion of special-needs students into regular classrooms.The students aren't aggressive - they are more aggressive where we live, said Paul Cooper, the head, or principal, of Birley Community Primary in the north-central English city of Sheffield. It impressed me (at Klahowya Secondary School) how well the students behaved at lunch. We didn't see any pushing or shoving even though they were unsupervised.Political changes in England have prompted a national movement to include special-needs students in regular classrooms, and British educators are studying the U.S. model.That's the way it's happened in England - the government in power right now has an agenda of empowerment of disadvantaged people, Cooper said. Therefore, schools are now expected to have an agenda of inclusion.Cooper said the decision has met with some resistance in England, as it did in the U.S. when the Rehabilitation Act passed in 1973. He said financial resources have not followed the mandate, and teachers are feeling overburdened and cynical about the change.The educators' trip to the U.S. was sponsored by the British Consulate. Steve Anderson, principal of Silver Ridge Elementary School, organized the group's tours. When Anderson worked at Cougar Valley Elementary, Geoff Mawson of Sheffield worked there as an exchange teacher. The two became fast friends, and Anderson visited Mawson in England, where he helped arrange the visit. One year ago I met with the head teacher in Sheffield. He wrote a proposal that was funded by the British Consulate. It provided the opportunity for 10 educators to visit here for 10 days to look at inclusion programs, Anderson said.He said the group's visit has been educational for him, as well.It reinforces that other countries are dealing with the same problems around the globe. Part of it is solidifying what you believe and part of it is learning new ways, Anderson said. The group arrived May 22 and has had a blitz of school tours. By the end of the trip they will visit Tracyton, Cougar Valley, PineCrest, Emerald Heights, Klahowya and a school in Seattle. Although they have been here only a few days, the visitors have observed many differences - U.S. schools are larger, with more computers and smaller class sizes.We tend to segregate the kids - keep the older ones together, said Roger Unwin, a deputy head at Birley Community Primary. What we've found here is that when the kids are together they help each other out.Deputy Head Chris Binnie was impressed by the small class sizes and the number of supervising adults. She said the average class size at Birley is 30 kids.It is not even so much the class size but the space, we simply don't have this amount of space, Binnie said.Cooper commented on the schools' investment in technology - he said Birley is about the same size as Silver Ridge, but the school only has 16 computers for 600 students. He said his biggest challenge is increasing access to technology while working with heavy budget constraints.It's depressing - we have nothing like this there, Cooper said. The number of computers is amazing - it's good to compare and contrast, but it's a bit depressing. "

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