INCLUSIVE SOCIETY: INCLUSIVE FAMILIES, Institute for the Study of Learning Difficulties


Trinity College Dublin, 24 April 2001
Professor Barry Carpenter was guest speaker at the inaugural seminar of the Institute for the Study of Learning Difficulties at Trinity College, Dublin, on 24 April. Professor Carpenter, who is Chief Executive of Sunfield, an educational and care centre for children in the UK, is a frequent visitor to Ireland—often as an expert witness in court cases in pursuit of educational rights. He was recently awarded the OBE for his services to children with special education needs.

The theme of Barry Carpenter’s presentation at TCD was that, for the sake of all our children, inclusive societies need inclusive families. He referred to his own research (e.g. Enabling access: Effective teaching and learning for children with learning difficulties (2nd edition, 2001, Fulton)) and that of Peter Mittler (Working towards inclusive education: Social contexts (2000, Fulton)) and C. Tilstone (Promoting inclusive practice (1998, Routledge)). He spoke of society’s responsibility to work in partnership with each family with a child with a disability. In this context, schools are the agents of society: ‘Inclusion is not about placing children in mainstream schools. It is about changing schools to make them more responsive to the needs of all children. It is about helping all teachers to accept responsibility for the teaching of all children’ (Mittler, p. 7).

The seminar was chaired by Noreen Kearney, Chairperson of the Institute for the Study of Learning Difficulties. Responses were made by Frieda Finlay and Patricia Noonan Walsh of the Centre for the Study of Developmental Disabilities at UCD. Frieda Finlay, who with fellow parent Mary Boyd first pressed for the establishment of an Institute within Trinity College, expressed the hope that young people with intellectual disabilities will directly benefit from and be involved in the Institute.