A total of 35 principals from schools across the island have been trained under the pilot of the Inclusive School Leadership Training Programme (ISLTP).
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is undertaking the programme through its Special Education Unit, with the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) conducting the training and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) providing funding through its Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF)
Training started in January and is scheduled to conclude December 31.
Principal/Director of NCEL, Dr. Taneisha Ingleton, told JIS News that the principals are being equipped with the necessary skills to make their schools more inclusive by exposing them to the nature and needs of students with varying exceptionalities and disabilities.
“Inclusive leadership is not something a principal would learn in school, and so we recognised that we needed to design, develop and implement a training programme that would allow our principals to have the requisite skills and competencies needed to build inclusive schools,” she said.
“There are many students out there with exceptionalities and individuals with disabilities, so we want to ensure that we are reaching everybody as much as possible,” she added.
Dr. Ingleton pointed out that the training is in keeping with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four, which speaks to inclusive and equitable, quality education and learning opportunities for all.
“We thought that we have to make that explicit in the work that NCEL does. We do not only promote reforming or transforming the school space to respond to disabilities but also transforming the attitude, the mindset of our schools leaders, so that people can feel a sense of belonging in the space that they lead,” she noted.
Assistant Chief Education Officer in the Special Education Unit, Dr. Sharon Anderson Morgan, told JIS News that ISLTP entails five modules.
She pointed out that in the first module the participants are immersed in the nature and needs of the students with exceptionalities. The second module looks at the principles of inclusion, the third addresses the role of the school leader in an inclusive school, and the fourth is focused on how to develop an inclusive action plan.
For the final module, which is the practical component of the course, the participants are engaged in implementing the inclusive action plan.
This involves addressing the physical structure of the schools to make them more accessible, such as building ramps and widening bathroom stalls.
Project Manager for the BNTF, Daintyann Barrett Smith, for her part, told JIS News that the training programme will go a far way in addressing the educational needs of special students.
By building the capacity of these principals, schools will be transformed and parents will have more choices, in terms of determining which institution is appropriately prepared to accommodate their children,”, she said.