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Special Needs and Outdoor Education Project
Start date: Jul 1, 2016, End date: Jun 30, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Our school is a rural school in Donegal, Ireland with a vision of creating an SEN unit and an outdoor education facility while focusing on learning outdoors, ICT, inclusion and teaching a second language that will use best international practice to guide its implementation. In recent years we feel that children with SEN is on the increase and we feel that by creating an SEN unit and outdoor education facility we can cater better for their individual needs. We will continue our partnership with the Middletown Centre throughout our project and beyond. Having gained valuable insight into European culture through e-Twinning, we now feel confident in developing our own skills and methodologies. Through working with Middletown we have gained invaluable experience and knowledge. However we have lots more to learn through this partnership. Since completing their training course and working with them as a partner we feel we’re ready to progress to the next level of SEN. We as a staff believe that training and job-shadowing in Europe will be the best motivation staff and pupils will have in implementing the new Action Plan in regards to SEN, outdoor education.The objectives of our project are to:* Develop training and new methodologies in teaching and learning and transfer them to our own school*To exchange ideas of International and European best practice in SEN and develop links with teachers from other countries*To build a classroom community that promotes inclusion for all children and which provides opportunities for independence*To learn different approaches to education and learning outdoors, and gain training in using practical tasks carried out in the outdoors*To learn about the local community as a resource to support outdoor education*To promote learning, social inclusion and communication skills through outdoor play *To develop staff competencies in using ICT as a tool in SEN*To understand and implement e-safety and promote the use of iPads and tablets, enabling remote access learning in our school*To develop our teaching methodologies in promoting our national language in a setting which is becoming increasingly bilingual. *To raise achievements , develop suitable resources and provide equal learning opportunities for all pupilsThe whole school staff will be involved in this project.We have 6 full time teachers and 1 part-time teacher on our staff. We also want to include our ancillary staff in these mobilities and training, as they will be instrumental in the implementation and success of this project.Staff members (10 in total) have varying levels of competencies in SEN. Our aim is to make sure that no staff member will feel left behind or inadequate in the teaching and learning of children with SEN. Thus, we have chosen staff training courses of different levels of ability and challenge, to suit the needs of all our staff. Combined, these courses will help diffuse the challenges we face in teaching children with SEN and promote the attainment of the aims and objectives of the project.Methodology:We want to identify the best way that our school can set up an SEN unit and an outdoor education facility so all pupils are provided with a socially integrated, learning environment.We would like to answer the following questions:Is the setting up of an outdoor education facility and a unit that will cater for children with SEN within our grasp and will it benefit all pupils?Will outdoor education and SEN training enhance our teaching?How can International Policy and best practice help us achieve our vision? Will staff e-confidence help promote an e-learning culture within our school?We will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to guide our approach.We hope to use descriptive research methodology along with staff, pupil and parent questionnaires during the life of the project. Random sampling of teachers and pupils will be used to obtain a representative sample of attitudes towards our project.Pupils will be given opportunities to learn in a healthy, safe environment. They will experience new skills and methodologies that we as a staff learn through our training. We hope to promote their learning in outdoor education which will assist all children to express themselves in a different way.Once the training and job-shadowing have been completed, we expect the results to be very positive. We expect this project to have a great impact on our staff, pupils and wider school community. We hope to be a school at the forefront of SEN and outdoor education in our county, and to encourage them to incorporate our newly learned teaching styles and methodologies into their schools. This project will incorporate an important international element that will make us feel less cut-off from our neighbouring counterparts and integrate us better with our European partners, through training, networking and face to face encounters. We hope that our vision will become reality.

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