What screams I'm in special education

This is how inclusion can work: Always a teacher, a special education teacher and a helper in the classroom - but where can you find it?

AACHEN. Controversial topic of inclusion: Not working, say the critics. But where it works, children like Hannalena get a lot out of it. Unfortunately, the concept of a primary school in Aachen is not a patent recipe - due to a lack of staff. Three adults who accompany each lesson hardly have a school available.

Jens Retsch sees how naturally his daughter is part of this school class: She learns with non-disabled children in the Aachen community elementary school Am Höfling. The girl with Down syndrome receives a home visit from her school friends without a handicap. Nevertheless: After the summer vacation, Hannalena will switch to a special needs school. The family's dream school is not yet ready for inclusion and cannot accept Hannalena.

Disappointment resonates: "What I think is a pity that Hannalena is now disappearing from society," the father makes it clear that this school decision is about a lot more. Jens Retsch knows what his daughter is losing - even if the teachers at the new school are certainly very good too.

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His non-disabled son also goes to the Am Höfling school. The father is sure that inclusion can work - in spite of all the school policy disputes about legal entitlement in North Rhine-Westphalia. In North Rhine-Westphalia, handicapped children have been legally entitled to instruction in mainstream schools since the 2014/15 school year. The entitlement initially took effect in grades 1 and 5.

“A school has to want inclusion,” says Tina Sander from the Cologne Parents' Association Mittendrin, an important prerequisite for success - but creativity is also necessary in addition to the will. This was shown by the positive examples in North Rhine-Westphalia. "It is very important that the entire school takes responsibility and that you don't say: Only the special education teacher is responsible."

Mixed age classes

At the courtier, mentally handicapped children were taught when inclusion was still called integration, i.e. in the 1990s. At school, things work differently: There is no classroom teaching and children from four grades learn together in the classes.

8 a.m. in the frog class: 24 children sit together and sing their good morning song with the class teacher, the special education teacher and the inclusion assistant. Sofia brought the broken milk tooth for the children: "Do the teeth fall out by themselves?" Asks one of the children to the class teacher Dietrich Marold.

Get to work: The children sit down in small groups at the tables, unpack pens and workbooks, some do arithmetic, others practice writing. “The children have a work plan and can work at their own pace,” says class teacher Dietrich Marold. The teachers go from table to table and help every single child.

You don't see it at first glance. But there are actually eight children in the class who need special help: for example because of emotional or social problems, mental or physical disabilities. "If they were in grades, they wouldn't notice anything in the fourth year of school," says Marold, describing the advantage of mixed-age classes. Even when children have to repeat a class, they stay in familiar surroundings.

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Three adults for 24 children on that day - a perfectly normal line-up, as Marold assures. For children like Hannalena with higher educational needs, the school receives more additional teaching hours than, for example, for a girl with a behavioral disorder. This mixture makes it possible for these children to be constantly provided with skilled workers, says deputy headmistress Katrin Weber.

"The children don't sit in the corner after two hours because the remedial teacher leaves and it is difficult for them to follow the lesson," Hannalena's father refers to the situation in other schools. And something else is important to him: the scissors in school do not diverge as much as in schools with class division and frontal teaching. “When younger children come to class, she can show them something too. That is a great sense of achievement. " By Elke Silberer, dpa

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