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An Inclusive School

An Inclusive School

Whichever way you look at it, our school community is blessed with incredible diversity. I’m yet to plot it on a map, but I suspect there are very few parts of the world that do not have a connection with one of our families. Our most recent language survey shows there are 42 different languages represented within our school community. We are undeniably an international school and our differences are celebrated.

Right at the heart of our values is the statement that we want to be an inclusive school, where every member of the community feels valued and truly included within the life of the school. I think we do this exceptionally well, and last week we had the opportunity to share our ethos with a delegation of teachers from Sweden, with a specialist interest in deaf education.

Alongside observations of lessons in the Blanche Nevile classrooms, our visitors were particularly interested to learn about the opportunities for the inclusion of deaf children within Highgate Primary School. Taking the group around our schools, I had the opportunity to reflect upon a part of our community that is unique and really rather wonderful.

The school tour started in the hall, as Emma’s Year 1 children performed their class assembly to children, staff and parents. This presented a unique challenge for the visitors as the assembly was signed in British Sign Language, which was then translated by the visiting group’s interpreter into Swedish Sign Language. The assembly, themed around the class topic ‘flowers and insects’, featured some particularly bad bee jokes, some of which I suspect may have been lost in translation.

The subsequent walk around the school, wandering into classrooms and seeing children from both schools hard at work, was fascinating for our visitors. Seen with fresh eyes, what is quite normal for us, is really quite remarkable. Our deaf children really do have the best of both worlds; high quality specialist bilingual teaching in the Blanche Nevile classrooms and access to so many rich opportunities for inclusion at Highgate Primary (and that was without our Year 2s who were out and about at London Zoo and our Year 6 children celebrating the end of SATs at Legoland).

We sometimes take the extraordinary level of inclusion at Highgate Primary for granted; it’s quite normal for our children and it’s what we experience every day. How this degree of inclusion feels is difficult to describe – it’s perhaps much easier to explain how it feels not to be included; that feeling where you know you don’t quite belong, feel self-conscious and very aware of your differences.

To be leading Blanche Nevile School as Interim Headteacher for the summer term has been a great learning experience for me and has given me a real insight into the day-to-day experiences, and challenges, faced by all of our deaf children. But it’s also reinforced how unique the partnership between our two schools is and how fortunate we are to be learning alongside our deaf peers in such a rich and inclusive community.

William