Case Study 26, May 2001 Click for the next page!
Merkland School
Pupil Participation: Engagement in the Wider Community

This is the first Case Study of two in the third and final stage of our 2000-01 series that features pupil participation. The series has looked at pupils' involvement in, and growing ownership of, their own learning and at how they are increasingly included in the management and support systems of their own schools.
The last stage of the series looks at how pupils are involved in the life of the wider community as part of the educational process. This issue features Merkland School, a primary and secondary special school in East Dunbartonshire Education Authority. The recently enacted 'presumption' of pupil placement in mainstream schools in Scotland still acknowledges the role of special provision. Special schools and units, however, are conscious that their pupils need to be included as part of the wider community and this is a key aspect of special schools' development planning and of their pupils' curriculum. This Case Study from Merkland School illustrates clearly how pupils with special educational needs learn from, and contribute to, their wider community.

This Case Study was published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.

Merkland School
Langmuir Road
Kirkintilloch
Glasgow G66 2QF
Contact: Irene McLure, Headteacher,

0141 578 0177

Introduction

Factual Background
Merkland School, built in 1971, is an East Dunbartonshire Primary and Secondary Special School that was initially designed to provide an appropriate education for pupils with moderate learning difficulties. Over the years the pupil population has gradually changed and now includes pupils with a very wide range of special educational needs - communication, language (comprehensive and expressive), general developmental delay, sensory impairment and a variety of medical syndromes. A specialist Support Base for secondary aged pupils with language and communication disorders is also incorporated within the school and is accessed according to individual need. The current school roll stands at 95 pupils (32 primary and 63 secondary) and is staffed by 17.4 f.t.e. teachers, 1 nursery nurse, 7 support staff, the school janitor and visiting specialist staff from a range of services (educational psychology, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, school medical officer, English as an additional language team, social work and careers). Thus there is a multi-agency approach to meeting the individual educational and social needs of the pupils, with parents being central to this process. All pupils have an individual educational programme (IEP) and the majority have a Record of Needs. Working in partnership with parents, pupils' views and opinions are included in the decision making process.

The Wider Community
East Dunbartonshire lies to the north of Glasgow and is a series of distinct towns and villages, each with its own unique identity and character. Merkland School is situated in the town of Kirkintilloch. Pupils attending the school come from all over East Dunbartonshire and are transported to and from school each day. Just over 13 per cent of our pupils come from neighbouring authorities and therefore our school's 'wider community' reaches out into these areas. An active School Board and Parent Teacher Association are consistent in their support as are our Chaplaincy, Community Police Teams and Local Councillors.

Commonality with other schools
Merkland School has always been viewed as 'a smaller and more sheltered' environment than a mainstream setting, but it has much in common with other schools in that we, too, have enabled pupils' greater engagement, independence and constructive inter-dependence in their own classroom learning. We have all - pupils, parents, staff and others - worked hard to develop our school's own sense of community, the practice of mutual support, and the willingness to take responsibility within our own systems, as exemplified by our Pupil Council. We have also long held the philosophy of providing activities and engaging in the local community to extend the personal, social and participatory experiences of pupils, by creating 'real life' situations for learning.

Engagement in the wider community!
Picture A:S4 pupil being supervised while preparing a cappuccino coffee.
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