January 31st 2014 – July 31st 2016
Funded by: America for Bulgaria Foundation
St. Kiril and Metodiy Primary School, Botevgrad
171 Stoil Popov Primary School, Novi Iskar
Vasil Levski Primary School, Pravets
104 Zahari Stoyanov Primary School, Sofia
202 Hristo Botev Primary School, Dolni Pasarel
Most children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Bulgaria do not receive appropriate education that will allow them to fulfill their potential and to join the labor market. The largest percentage of these children can succeed in school and later in life if they receive appropriate and timely support. These are the children with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder and similar conditions. There is no reliable data about the numbers of children with SpLD. Many if them are not diagnosed or are not recognized.
Parents of children with SpLD are still facing difficulties placing their children in mainstream education, as they often get rejected by the school due to the lack of experience and knowledge among teachers. When enrolled in a mainstream school, children are not supported. Multidisciplinary teams of well-trained specialists working with children and supporting teachers are rare. The same applies for the quality expert support.
Children with SEN are among the most vulnerable children at school and are at risk of bullying, abuse and neglect. Shools do not realize the importance of having a child protection systems and a child protection policy.
Another key factor for including children with SEN at school is the active participation of the children themselves in school decision-making. Those children are often being excluded from school activities. Very few schools introduce child-led clubs and child empowerment. Children with SEN need to feel safe at school and they should be encouraged and enabled to make their views known on the issues that affect them.
Quality education for all children that will allow everyone to develop their full potential
SO1: Enhancing the skills and knowledge of teachers who are prepared to work with children with SEN/SpLD and their parents. CIE proposes a whole school approach to meet the challenges of inclusion of children with SpLD for 75 teachers in 5 mainstream schools. The focus is on primary school – children 5/6 – 10 years old. The project will:
1. Help teachers from the schools develop critical skills for both identifying difficulties that prevent learning and applying practical strategies for supporting children with SpLD, using the cutting-edge knowledge in evidence-based practices.
2. Guide schools through a process of inclusive school development based on the Index For Inclusion and Self-Assessment and Program Review Administration methodology. Prof. Douglas Cheney (University of Washington) and his team will mentor us through the Self-Assessment and Program Review Administration methodology they have, an assessment approach for leadership teams implementing school wide positive behavior support. Teachers will be trained how to maintain effective communication with specialists and parents. It is about building supportive communities and fostering high achievement for all staff and students.
3. Provide mentoring for clusters of teachers in each of the five schools. Mentors (among the specialists) will be trained to support the teachers through the process of learning – both individually and in clusters of their school. Mentoring will be not only academic, but also helping with skills and attitudes needed. Teachers will have the opportunity to practice, be observed by mentors and given feedback.
4. Introduce and support the development of child safety school policies based on The Keeping Children Safe: A Toolkit for Child Protection and effective child participation based on International Child Participation Standards in order to decrease risks of abuse, neglect and/or bullying for children with SEN and empower them to effectively participate in the school life.
5. Launch and maintain a web-portal where teachers, educational specialists and parents will be offered knowledge and resources (literature and didactic materials) to be incorporated in their daily work with children with SEN. It will gradually also create a database of qualified / trained / licensed professionals to work with children with different SEN.
6. Develop and launch a four modules (four weeks) on-line training course based on the piloted methodology. This on-line course has two major benefits – it is a more appealing and modern way for teaching and learning; and it can be used as a path to a modernized university curricula at a later stage.
SO2: Increasing the quality of services provided by special-ed specialists working in the mainstream settings, i.e. to be able to recognize SpLD and adequately support the children and mainstream teachers. The project will provide training for specialists working in selected schools – be they resource teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, special pedagogues or educational psychologists. At least 20 experts will be trained and involved in the whole- school approach.
SO3: Creating an authentic community of all professionals in the field of SEN/SpLD. The project will help to disseminate knowledge, share good practices from USA and Bulgaria, exchange ideas and know-how, aid the creation of a community of mainstream, resource teachers and parents, who support inclusion. Through annual events and web portal it will connect professionals working in different spheres related to SEN: speech therapists, art therapists, psychologists, specialist in early childhood education, pediatricians, resource teachers, etc.
SO4: Changing perceptions of parents and extended families towards inclusion. The Project will develop a targeted awareness campaign for increasing the knowledge about SpLD and changing attitudes among parents and society as a whole. Various useful resources will be adapted and made accessible for parents. At least 5 meetings with parents will be held.
The support for Centre for Inclusive Education is provided by America for Bulgaria Foundation. The opinions expressed here belong only to Centre for Inclsuive Education and do not reflect necessarily the views of America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.