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Barbara Follows

Barbara Follows, M.Ed

"My philosophy is that every child is unique and, whatever their differences, every single child matters."

Creating and funding school buildings
that promote the inclusion of pupils with behaviour problems

Abstract: In the course of her work as a behaviour consultant and teacher, the author has access to many different types of educational settings both private and under LEA control, in the UK and Belgium. In all cases, it is apparent how a sympathetic physical environment can reduce alienation and encourage social inclusion, especially with regard to difficult behaviour. Once this viewpoint has been reached then there are funding implications which this present review considers and researches.

Introduction

Meeting the "needs" of children who display social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) behaviour often results in therapeutic practices and procedures or sanctions (Thomas and Loxley, 2001). This draws attention away from the environment within which they are supposed to learn, as the problem is perceived as belonging to the child and not as a possible weakness in the school itself. The editorial of the special edition of Support for Learning on "Building for Inclusion" declared that:

"... it is time for us to apply the knowledge of ergonomics to develop environments that facilitate and encourage effective and inclusive learning." (De Roaf, 2001, p50).

 

The annual report (Ofsted, 2001/02) of the Chief Inspector of Schools states that just over a quarter of secondary schools and one in eight primary schools have inadequate accommodation:

"... individual differences only become pathological or handicapping when they interact with a hostile environment." (Cooper, Ideus, 1998, p135).

 

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has found that key accommodation factors for excluded young people include:

  • Creating a positive atmosphere and a safe, welcoming "comfort zone".
  • Developing a user-friendly environment.
  • Providing a well resourced high-quality environment (NFER, 2000).

 

Fundamental to the creation of such an environment is adequate finance:

"Financing is a key instrument in enabling the move to inclusion and it needs to be constantly borne in mind. Despite its importance little work has been done to explicate its impact on the move to inclusion." (Thomas and Loxley, 2001, p122).

Methodology

The research was completed by the author as a continuation to an earlier study (1995–99) on the effect of the classroom environment on pupil behaviour (Follows, 2000). Material was found via the internet, with funding matters clarified by relevant Government education departments. Information was also collected from the conference on "School buildings and inclusion" at the Institute of Education (30/03/01) and the Association of Workers for Children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (AWCEBD) conference on "Working towards a Curriculum for Inclusion" (September 2001). Examples of current practice in schools were derived from contemporary literature and informal interviews with teachers and pupils over three years. Although anecdotal, they are nevertheless relevant viewpoints. More formal interviews were conducted with two schools, one in the UK and one in Belgium. Because of the sensitive nature of some of the comments, none of the schools wished to be named in a document intended for publication.

There are four main sections:

The finance section is also subdivided due to the density of data. Where quotations have no page numbers, the reader is invited to look at the reference list for clarification.

Effect of the built environment

At the March 2001 conference on School Buildings and Inclusion, Mukund Patel, Head of Architects and Buildings Branch at the DfEE, gave the following list of accommodation and environmental issues that should be considered when contemplating school design, both for classroom and common areas:

  • Layout
  • Signage
  • Circulation
  • Horizontal and vertical movement
  • Doorways
  • Lighting
  • Acoustics
  • Heating and ventilation
  • Furniture
  • Colour

(Patel, 2001)

These factors have been discussed and researched by others such as Visser (2001) and are vitally important to inclusive school design, which should be seen as:

"a humane environment rather than a set of pre-existing structures and systems for dealing with misbehaviour" (Thomas and Loxley, 2001, p49).

 

The effect of a school building is seen in the following paraphrased interview with a comprehensive school head of department in the South of England. This is a mainstream school built in the 1960s, which currently has a rising population of children with behavioural difficulties. The question the researcher asked was what effect the school's accommodation was having on pupil behaviours. The teacher's reply highlights some of the common problems in schools:

"The corridors are only 5-6 feet wide, which creates trouble at lesson change-over times. They are not wide enough for two-way traffic or to allow for pupils waiting outside classrooms. The autistic children in particular find this time incredibly difficult and threatening.

"The increase in school numbers means that we have to use some rooms for dual purposes. For instance, the dining room is also a classroom. We are therefore unable to customise that area for a subject and there is always a time pressure to vacate. This is in addition to the difficulties of teaching in such a large space. Teachers have to shout to make themselves heard because of the dismal acoustics. This 'doubling up' of rooms is not unusual, with Performing Arts being a particular victim. Unfortunately, this is often just the subject where our pupils with behavioural problems can shine. Rooms are so precious that even at break-times it is difficult to find a safe area for the vulnerable children.

"Carpets seemed like a good idea to have in the classrooms but they cannot cope with the volume of traffic, especially on wet days. Sometimes the smell from them is so bad that they have to be fumigated. It cannot be healthy, and it is definitely not pleasant to work in such conditions.

"Current legislation means that we are in the process of creating access for the physically disabled. The creation of ramps, lifts and automatic doors is causing chaos, and at present we have just one pupil who will need to use them."

The school is acknowledging and coping with the problems that their existing building gives them as well as complying with Government regulations. Adaptations to the existing school environment can achieve marked changes in pupil behaviour, as shown by a project run by the Cheiron Trust Action Research: Therapeutic Services. This has involved schools in a project where a "Quiet Place" is created within the building, where particular attention is paid to lighting, colour, sound, touch and fragrance:

"The room is well prepared in advance, leaving the environment to do half the work" (Spalding, 2001).

 

This principle is made use of at Cavendish School in Bradford, where angry five- to 11-year-olds have the use of somewhere to let off steam. There are no punch bags, just games, a television, calming music and blue painted walls. Buddies, pupil mentors and lunchtime staff guide any emotionally fraught children to the room (TES, 2001). Some schools adapt classrooms to create a triangular shape, with the apex at the back of the room, which produces less opportunity for misconduct, as most pupils are at the front.

Positive changes in behaviour can also be assisted by improving the layout and internal design of shared areas. For instance, children with autistic spectrum disorders can become very anxious if the building is difficult to understand because of the complexity of the corridor system. The stress caused can then lead to challenging behaviour when they eventually reach the classroom.

If teachers, pupils and governors have a say in how their school can be adapted to meet the needs of the pupils then a sense of belonging and ownership can be fostered. School Works, funded by the DfEE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, has looked at how school buildings can be built or renovated and then used in ways that raise educational standards (School Works, 2001). The company has produced a "toolkit" which has been sent to all secondary schools in England, advising how to involve school communities in design. Andrew Pyle, who is principal at Starley Hall School for secondary SEBD, involved his pupils in not only choosing but also creating their new furniture. They worked with a lecturer in furniture design who saw that the current furniture was very institutional and did not suit the amount of space created by a Victorian building with high ceilings and large rooms:

"The furniture did not meet the emotional needs of the residents." (Cottee, 2001 p24).

The proposed furniture had to be durable and suited to the pupils' physical and emotional development. For instance, as some pupils were prone to pulling doors off their hinges at times of stress, the design students decided that in certain cases doors were not needed. This joint venture was a great success and an example of good practice.

 

For teachers, to have a say in the design and building of a new school is an opportunity that does not happen often... This chance occurred with the construction of the kindergarten section of an independent English-speaking school in Brussels. Although teaching in English, the school's intake is international, with many children already having made several global moves, even at such a young age. They require a safe, structured environment that is understanding of their learning needs but especially of their emotional requirements. At such a young age a "bad fit" can lead to inappropriate conduct and patterns of behaviour being set for their educational career.

To begin the project, the staff visited similar schools in Belgium and the UK. They then brainstormed ideas, which were taken to the administrative team. Because of the diversity of skills needed in that group, several people involved in making decisions about the building and the school's needs did not have direct experience of small children. The teachers, in turn, lacked experience in visualising the architect's plans. This resulted in some unforeseen problems. For instance, the classrooms were smaller than expected, as it was not realised that storage areas were included in the overall measurements. The seating in the hall was at a far steeper angle than had been anticipated, so the children can only sit in the first three rows, with visiting adults using the higher rows. The architect displayed a lack of understanding of the client group, as was shown by his desire to create double-height stair-rails all around the safety fence on the second-floor landing. These would have been just right as steps for climbing and possible launching, especially for those pupils who naturally look for such situations. The teachers used their knowledge of children to ask for certain requirements, such as the siting of cloakrooms within the classroom, for ease of movement and supervision of any possible unruly behaviour. The storage for outdoor and PE clothing, lunch boxes and library books was purposefully designed and built, with such forethought as inward-facing coat hooks, which provide minimum distraction and aggravation.

The completed colour co-ordinated accommodation is light and airy with windows having pleasant outlooks. Primary colours have been used, which renders a cheerful, stimulating atmosphere. The whole result is a stimulating environment for all that also minimises any opportunity for pupil misbehaviour. The staff have gained valuable experience in taking a building from the planning to the completion stage and they use this to help other schools in similar situations, becoming a valued resource to the international community.

Pupil perceptions

Pupils are rarely asked their opinion on their environment, which is a pity as their perceptions can be candid and revealing, as illustrated by the following comments:

13-15 years:

"At school you spend most of your time sitting down, so why don't we have comfortable chairs? These ones hurt my back. The desks would have to fit the chairs as well and be suitable for all of us. I am tall, and there is nowhere comfortable for me to sit, so I rock backwards and then I get told off."

"I would like better-quality chairs, these break too easily."

"We have ideas to use the wasted space in the school. Why doesn't someone ask us?"

9-11 years:

"I wish that we had curtains at the windows so that I can see my work when the sun is shining."

"I would like single desks, not these double ones, because my neighbour can copy what I do."

"There is not enough space on the desks, so our work becomes muddled up."

"I think that the class ought to choose the colour of their classroom, and they could change it each year for the new class."

"We need carpets so that the chairs do not make a noise."

"I need somewhere to put my shoes, coat and bag. At the moment we fall over each other's stuff."

5-6 years:

The younger children were more concerned with immediate comforts:

"The floor is hard to sit on."

"We have a rug but it is dirty and has lots of bubbles in it. It hurts my bottom."

The discomforts that the children mention are irritating to them, but at certain times could be a source of distress and catalysts to extreme behaviour. The DfEE used children's perceptions of school design in a Nuffield pilot study for its Building Bulletin 94 (DfEE, 2001):

"Certain attributes of the school environments were commented upon frequently, including colour, light, smell, noise and space. Windows, cluttered classrooms, the school entrance, size of outside spaces and differences between sun and shade outside were all factors that they noticed in their environment." (Greed, 2001).

The children in the Nuffield study and the pupils that I spoke to noticed the aesthetic rather than the functional features. These views and ideas are important and could be tied in with educational and architectural design agendas in creating inclusive schools.

Rights of the child

Currently the Government is providing a significant amount of funding for inclusion, particularly as the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001 strengthens the right for all children to attend a mainstream school:

"Substantial funds are now available to help schools support and develop the inclusion of pupils with disabilities, learning difficulties and those who express challenging behaviour." (CSIE, 2001a).

Whether or not they agree with inclusion, teachers have to work within the imposed framework. Logging on to the internet's Times Educational Supplement (TES) SEN staffroom forum, reveals that there is a large mailbag for the inclusion discussion, with strong feelings being expressed as to the difficulties of incorporating children with difficult or "different" behaviours into classes. Purely integrating such children into school cannot be considered as inclusion. The Alliance for Inclusive Education (Allfie) believes that integration of children with special educational needs into mainstream education is where there are some adaptations and added resources, but basically the pupils have to fit into the existing environment. Inclusion is where there is a commitment to removing all the barriers to enable the full participation of each individual (Allfie, 2001).

The sort of accommodation that children are educated in can give them messages as to whether they are valued and respected. If the building is looked after and appropriate to their needs, they will feel safe and comfortable, ready to learn. If it is not, then there could well be problems with conduct, which will make acceptance into the school more difficult, especially for children with behaviour difficulties. The Government hopes that the re-emergence of in-school support centres, popular in the 1970s, will assist with the integration of such pupils. These centres will have a better chance of succeeding if they can be built or adapted to have an environment which is sympathetic to the needs of their pupils. To help achieve this aim, those who are familiar with the demands of the children using these centres ought to be invited to advise at the planning stages. They can then further assist in advising on the reduction of any environmental difficulties that the child encounters on returning to mainstream classes.

Schools are already required to draw up behaviour policies, and these ought to include the adaptations that are to be made to the physical environment to enable pupils with behaviour difficulties to access learning. Yet often we see children who exhibit these behaviours being contained and controlled in our schools rather than taught. If this course of action is unsuccessful, then more often than not they are excluded. In 1992 there were 2,000 permanent exclusions in the UK, compared with 12,000 in 1998. Some of this increase can be accounted for because of more accurate recording, the rest could perhaps be related to the fact that 90% of children diagnosed with EBD are now in mainstream schools (Grimshaw and Parkes, 2000). If those numbers are disputable, then there is still the fact that children with SEN are:

"... seven times more likely to be excluded from school than other children – and that their interests are inadequately represented in the exclusions process" (Gordon, 2002, p50).

Fundamentally, if the school as a whole has an ethos of acceptance and a policy of accommodating their needs, such as adapting the environment, then the risk of exclusion is reduced. CSIE believes that children with EBD included into mainstream schools must be given the environment to enable success so that they are not the first to be excluded and put on a downward spiral of social exclusion (CSIE, 2001a).

Finance

The 17 member countries of the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education took part in a first-ever international study of the relationship between the financing of special needs education and inclusion:

"The study revealed that financing of special needs education is one of the most significant factors determining inclusion. If funds are not allocated in line with an explicit policy, inclusion is unlikely to be realised in practice." (European Agency, 2000).

In the UK, the amount of financing for school buildings seems promising, with the Government's capital investment for repairing and extending schools for the years 2001-04 standing at £8.5 billion. This makes it the biggest Government investment in school buildings for decades.

What follows is a short tour through the funding maze:

a. Standards Fund

The Standards Fund is a collection of specific grants which enables schools and LEAs to achieve improvement in educational standards (Teachernet, 2002b). New Deal for Schools is part of this, being capital funding for maintenance, improving and rebuilding. Originally, Section 18b of the Standards Fund, concerned with inclusion and EBD, provided 50% of the cost for either an inclusion or an EBD project per LEA. The grant given for an inclusion project was paid to LEAs, who were not expected to devolve it to schools but to use it for an LEA initiative. On receiving an EBD grant, the LEA could choose which one of the two options, they would prefer. The grants obtained through Section 19 of the Standards Fund for social inclusion were intended for general school policy and specifically excluded individual pupils with EBD.

The Standards Fund in 2001-02 became less prescriptive, with procedures being simplified via formula-based allocations rather than LEA bidding. In particular, there was a changed approach to focus on outcomes, greater spending freedom for LEAs and schools and a potential for the sharing of information and good practice. However, now that schools have almost complete discretion over the use of Standards Funds grants there is less money for LEA central support. The National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN) and the DfEE jointly commissioned a research project on the developing contribution of SEN support services in promoting inclusive practice (NASEN, 2001). One of their findings was that some areas of support, especially behavioural, are relying heavily on project funding, usually the Standards Fund. This means that the current requirement to devolve Social Inclusion funding to secondary schools is having a major effect on LEAs being able to retain central provision for behaviour. This is often restricted to off-site Pupil Referral Units rather than in the support of pupils in mainstream.

b. Public and private partnerships

PPPs are joint ventures to improve school facilities and standards. The public sector (schools) are looking for expertise, innovation and management of risks, whilst the private sector is looking for business opportunities, a steady funding stream and a good return (Teachernet, 2002b). The Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which is part of the PPPs, is particularly concerned with school buildings. Headteacher Paul Regan's purpose-built secondary school was financed as a result of Newham's first PFI deal. The budget was funded by Norwich Union and the LEA (Wallace, 2001). Whitecross High School in Hertfordshire is accommodated mostly in condemned buildings, but a PFI contract has assured the opening of a new purpose-built school in September 2005. One of the expected outcomes is an improvement in pupil behaviour due to the new working environment. To be effective, public and private partnerships, like all co-operative work, requires an understanding of each other's needs with good communication.

c. Schools Access fund

Funds for improving the school environment for EBD pupils can also be obtained through the Schools Access initiative. This is a scheme designed to aid capital work, which makes mainstream schools more accessible. It also supports changes connected with physical or sensory need, such as improved colour schemes, wider corridors for ease of movement, and soundproofing. For further information on this refer to Follows (2000). In addition the fund can be used to provide a room as a withdrawing area for EBD pupils, such as a "Quiet Place".

d. Seed Challenge Initiative 2002-03

This is a scheme run by the Funding Agency for Schools (FAS). The aim of this grant is to increase pupil achievement through the improvement of school buildings (Teachernet, 2002c). Projects will be allocated up to 50% of the cost in the case of primary and special schools and 33% for secondary. The school or LEA provide the balance, 75% of which must be "new" money, that is, not recycled Government funding. In deciding on a project, LEAs should bear in mind central government priorities, a prime one being "pupil behaviour and inclusion".

e. Special Educational Needs grant 202

The SEN grant 202 supports the creation of more inclusive education, including targeted support for EBD pupils (CSIE, 2001b). It finances school and LEA strategies to remove barriers that prevent children achieving their full potential. It is allocated to LEAs by a formula based on maintained schools' pupil numbers (70%) and weighted (30%) by free school meal entitlement. LEAs are encouraged to retain sufficient funds (typically 50%) to enable them to retain a strategic lead and to continue existing successful inclusion/EBD, speech and language therapy and parent partnership projects. LEAs are not required to spend on specific projects, but expenditure must be on activities directly related to the purposes and objectives set out above (Taylor, 2001). The SEN 202 is especially important in helping schools concur with the revised SEN Code of Practice and the SEN and Disability Act of 2001.

f. Asset Management Plans

The grants outlined above, plus others, have made a significant additional capital funding for schools. In order to manage this, Asset Management Plans (AMPs) need to be developed by LEAs in conjunction with their schools. These plans provide the information to help local decision making on spending priorities and inform the DfES on capital allocation. They assist in making recent policy developments as efficient as possible:

"AMPs will provide the means through which likely future needs are assessed, criteria for prioritisation are set and informed decisions are made" (Teachernet, 2002a).

These decisions are more transparent and ought to lead to greater efficiency in capital use and improved education outcomes. If AMPs are in place and sound, then the DfEs will be able to leave the LEA to manage their own funds.

Conclusion

Supportive environments have the ability to lessen inappropriate behaviours which hinder learning:

"The most effective intervention is that which prevents behaviour problems arising or stops them becoming serious" (DfES, 2001b).

The Special Educational Needs Joint Initiative for Training (SENJIT) in its exploration of the relationship between school buildings, learning and behaviour found that:

"Effecting positive change within the school environment can raise the expectations of the school community, including parents and others, and can act as a powerful motivator for beneficial changes in practice. Well managed, stimulating environments can help raise students' self-esteem which in turn leads to improvements in behaviour" (SENJIT, 2001).

Intelligent use of funding can create such empathic environments that encourage appropriate behaviour and enable the inclusion of those pupils most at risk of exclusion, that is, those with behavioural difficulties. Rather than purely "understanding" the child and addressing the "need", schools must critically examine their own buildings to determine whether these are actually nurturing the problem that they are anxious to remove.

References

  • ALLFIE (2001) Integration is Not Inclusion. The Alliance for Inclusive Education at www.allfie.org.uk
  • BISHOP, R (2001) Designing for SEN in mainstream schools at School Buildings and Inclusion conference, Institute of Education, London 30/3/01
  • CSIE (2001a) Money for Inclusion. CSIE at http://inclusion.uwe.ac.uk/csie/moneyforinclusion.htm
  • COOPER, P and IDEUS, K (1998) Trojan horse or gift horse in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, AWCEBD, Kent
  • COTTEE, P (2001) Designs for living, in Special! Autumn 2001, Hobsons Publishing, London
  • DE ROAF, C (2001) Editorial in Support for Learning, Vol 16 No 2 NASEN, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford
  • DfEE (2001) Inclusive School Design. Building Bulletin 94. Department for Education and Employment, London
  • DfES (2001a) Inclusive Schooling – Children with Special Educational Needs at www.dfes.gov.uk/sen
  • DfES (2001b) Schools achieving success (the White Paper). Department for Education and Science, London
  • EUROPEAN AGENCY (2000) Financing of special needs education: a 17-country study of the relationship between financing of special needs education and inclusion. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education at www.european-agency.org
  • FOLLOWS, B (2000) An evaluation of the effect of the classroom environment on pupil behaviour. Unpublished M.Ed dissertation, University of Birmingham, School of Education
  • GORDON, M (2002) Parliamentary Page in British Journal of Special Education, Vol 29 No 2, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford
  • GRIMSHAW, A and PARKES, J (2001) Troublesome children in troubled schools. Seminar at AWCEBD conference: Working towards a curriculum for inclusion. September 2001, Cirencester, Wiltshire
  • NASEN (2001) Rethinking Support for Inclusive Schooling. NASEN at www.nasen.org.uk/reports/01/
  • NFER (2000) Working out Well: Effective Provision for Excluded Pupils. NFER at www.nfer.ac.uk/research
  • OFSTED (2001/02) Annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools:Standards and Quality in Education, www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications
  • PATEL, M (2001) Plenary at School Buildings and Inclusion conference, Institute of Education, London, 30/3/01
  • SCHOOL WORKS (2001) Design and Learning, School Works at www.school-works.org
  • SENJIT (2001) Makeover at School Project at School Buildings and Inclusion conference, Institute of Education, London, 30/3/01
  • SPALDING, B (2001) A Quiet Place; a Healing Environment, leaflet from University of Liverpool's Department of Education
  • TAYLOR, A (2001) SEN Department, DfES, www.dfee.gov.uk
  • TEACHERNET (2002a) Asset Management Plans at www.teachernet.gov.uk/schoolbuildings
  • TEACHERNET (2002b) School's Private Finance Initiative at www.teachernet.gov.uk/funding
  • TEACHERNET (2002c) Seed challenge Initiative 2002-03 at www.teachernet.gov.uk/ciseedfrontpage070202v4
  • TES (12/10/01) Pupils cool off in the blue room in Times Educational Supplement at www.tes.co.uk
  • THOMAS, G and LOXLEY, A (2001) Deconstructing Special Education and Constructing Inclusion, Oxford University Press, Buckingham
  • VISSER, J (2001) Aspects of Physical Provision for Pupils with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties in Support for Learning, Vol 16 No 2 NASEN, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford
  • WALLACE, W (2001) A vision of years to come in Times Educational Supplement, 9/2/01. www.tes.co.uk

(Published in Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, Vol 8 No 4, November 2003)