Killester College of Further Education accepts all learners and is committed to equality of access, participation and outcomes based on the principles of person-centred planning. Over the last ten years the college has developed its inclusive learning approach by providing learning support (such as assistive technology, personal assistance and additional tuition) to any learner who needs it. This has led to a significant internal re-organisation in order to eliminate any internal barriers to learning (e.g. within the administrative or organisational arrangements) for the students. This inclusive learning approach is embedded in the quality assurance system.
Describe the good practice
Equality of access, participation and learning outcomes required a holistic view to the college’s operations. It is not possible to be a little inclusive, or to be inclusive in only some things. Students are encouraged to declare any learning support requirement when they apply to the college. This ensures they are supported from their first day on any programme. Where appropriate a needs assessment is conducted to identify the support that may be required. Inclusive teaching methodologies, the use of ICT and accessible assessment methods are central to inclusive participation and offer all students a fair chance to succeed.
Describe how the identified example of good practice is improving QA
Killester College provides all its courses with a view to ensuring inclusion is central. A key part of this strategy has been the use of ICT and a mixture of learning methodologies. This benefits all students and there have been marked improvements in attendance and retention rates as well as in student achievement in assessments e.g. in 2000/01 60-65 per cent of students completed their courses, in 2009/10 80-85 per cent completed. The number of students with higher grades has increased from 55 per cent to 65 per cent and failures reduced from 20 per cent to 12 per cent over the same period.
A key part of implementing the policy on inclusive learning was the development of strategic partnerships. The first and probably the most important was the partnership with Belfast Metropolitan College in 2003. Also at this time Killester College became one of eight colleges in the City of Dublin to receive the services of a qualified Disability Support Officer as part of the Disability Support Service provided in partnership with a disability services provider, National Learning Network. Other partnerships have included an EU funded project under the EQUAL community initiative, and work with two organisations in North-East Dublin that provide services to people with disabilities – one for people with physical disabilities and one for people with intellectual disabilities.
The college continually reviews the implementation of its policy on inclusive learning. Areas of strength are identified and enhanced and areas of weakness addressed.
What challenges were overcome
The two main challenges have included making structural changes to a building which was designed fifty years ago and overcoming the external administrative barriers.
What were the lessons learnt
Inclusive education is as much an attitude of mind as it is a methodology. In addition, it is important to be clear about what the college can do and, equally importantly, what it does not do.
How has the practice been recognised within the national system
Killester College of Further Education is the first educational institution in Ireland to have achieved the “Excellence through Accessibility” award from the National Disability Authority.