• Dave Foord
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The legacy of the paralympics on education

I missed most of the Olympics as was on holiday, but I watched as much of the Paralympics as possible, and I (like many others) have been blown away with the standard and the excitement that it has brought, but what has really pleased me is the media coverage (and positive media coverage) that it has achieved. When I taught, one my main subjects was around the area of ‘disability sport’ – and I remember during the 2000 Sydney Olympics the TV coverage was something like a very superficial 30minutes each evening, showing the main sports of athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball and sports like boccia and goalball getting next to no coverage.

12 years later and channel 4 has broadcast over 400 hours of coverage, showing all sports, all athletes, and the programme ‘The last leg‘ I thought was superb, as it highlighted that we don’t have to be nervous discussing disabled people, it doesn’t matter if we occasionally get the terminology wrong (as long as it isn’t offensive) and disabled people don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool, and treated like innocent kids all their lives.

So what impact will this have on our education system?

There is a huge opportunity for education to deliver the legacy that the games set out to create. Hopefully the physical education agenda will be addressed. There have regular media debates about the amount of PE on the curriculum, which I hope does increase, but we can also look at the attitude of PE. In the last 15 or so years there has been a move to widen sporting participation to all, which has unfortunately been translated into seriously reducing the competitive element of sport. I think there is a need for both, which the Paralympics to me has shown – many of the disabled athletes that were interviewed, echoed that competing (and winning) is what drives them and how that is an essential part of their life, and I hope a balance of meeting the needs of driven students can be met along with those that don’t like sport.

Outside of the PE agenda, there are also lessons to learn – watching the blind athletes playing football was amazing, and showed that a lack of vision does not render an individual incapable, similarly a lack of limbs is not a barrier to some amazing swims, jumps, throws and runs, and the archery competitor that used his feet to hold the bow, and his mouth to release the arrow shows the ability for some disabled individuals to find innovative ways to overcome perceived barriers. Hopefully when a disabled individual enters an educational establishment, their ability and potential isn’t prejudged by someone, that then holds them back from that point forth. The problem with the current model, is disabled students are assessed by an ‘expert’ within the organisation who comes up with a support plan identifying what adaptations are needed, and although this works for most, there are many people that end up with the wrong type or level of support, which rather than helping them, holds them back. Hopefully students, parents, carers and teachers will have the confidence to challenge these support plans if they think they need improving.

From a teaching perspective – there is an opportunity to better meet the needs of disabled learners. I have long preached the notion of inclusivity, which is rather than creating non-accessible practices and then using methods to overcome them – instead we look at what we are doing and create resources and practices that can be easily adapted (ideally by the student themselves). I know the CPD budgets are currently tight within organisations, but I think investing in CPD in this area would be a worthwhile investment, as learning inclusive techniques, will save the tutor time, will raise the standards of teaching for all learners, could reduce the learner support costs, and would help to produce a world beating education system.

One of the best training programmes for educators that would cover this, is the ITQ for accessible IT practice which I have been running for a few organisations over the last 18 months, and I think offers excellent value for money, as well as giving staff the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification.

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The cost of running an ITQ in accessible practice

There is a new qualification that has come out recently, developed in conjunction with JISC TechDis, called the ITQ in accessible practice. It is an assessed and widely recognised City And Guilds qualification at levels 2 or 3, which I think will have a huge impact on teaching and learning, as it will help people to produce better quality resources and teaching practices for all learners – as well as those with disabilities. For people ‘studying’ this programme, the great thing is that everything in the qualification will be relevant to their work, and they will hopefully be able to use their working practice to generate the relevant evidence for their portfolios.

I have recently been working with a college to work out how much it would cost to deliver face to face training, and to assess such a course, and when you work it out, it actually works out very cheap per person.

Below is an example costing for a level 3 course (which is made up of 6 units), delivered to a group of 10 learners at an organisation that is itself a registered ITQ centre.

Cost of registration per person @£82 per person = £820
Cost of delivery of 6 training session @£250 per session = £1500
Cost of assessing the candidates @£440 per person = £4400
Cost of the JISC TechDis support pack (price still being negotiated but should be only a few hundred pounds)

So the total cost would be £6720 + expenses + the support pack, so even if the cost of expenses and support pack puts the total up to £7500 this works out as £750 per person – which I think would be very good value, to have someone like myself coming in to deliver 6 half day sessions, to provide online support, and to assess the candidates.

If centres are not ITQ centres, then they can still do this, but would have a slightly higher cost of registering through an other organisation. The above costing is provided as an example, as different organisations would have different needs and requirements, but it gives a ball park figure which shows that it is financially viable to run such a course in an organisation if there are a few people that want to do it, they have managerial support to be able to attend the training, and a room in which the training can be run. Some people want to do the training, but don’t want to be assessed, in which case you save a lot of money, and any sessions that are run of this nature, could be opened up to other practitioners who are not on the course.

If anyone is interested in running this qualification in their organisation and wants to discuss the options, then please feel free to contact Dave Foord – his details can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/contact.php

m-learning – ‘the great accessibility enabler’

Earlier this year, I was honoured to be asked to do a keynote presentation at an m-learning event organised by JISC RSC-Eastern. Earlier in the day James Clay had opened proceedings with his keynote, and I was closing with mine – although I may be bias I think an excellent combination of presenters.

James videoed the session, which he has uploaded to his blog, which is great for me, as I can use this to reflect on my own presentation technique – for example due to the day overrunning slightly, I was slightly late starting, so was concerned that I went a bit too quick to compensate – however watching the video I realise that the pace was OK. I have also reduced the number of uhms from my presentation style (which used to be prevelant in my earlier days) and although I am constantly moving around – I  don’t fidgit as much as I used to. I haven’t seen a video of myself presenting for over 2 years now, so this has been a really useful exercise.

Excellence in Inclusivity

Today I have been at en event in York (that I organised) closing one project (called Learning for Living and Work) and opening another called “Excellence in Inclusivity”. This is a project in the Yorkshire and Humber Region, with the JISC RSC for this region, and will be a multi-facetted approach to the area of inclusivity – looking at ways of supporting learners with disabilities, but most importantly looking at tackling this issue by changing the mainstream provision, not just tackling the issue through discrete support.

As part of this project we have produced a website showing case studies from the work carried out so far, but most interestingly includes videos of the learners and how this area of work has changed their learning experience.

The website can be found at http://inclusivity.rsc-yh.ac.uk/