Salamanca 15 years on: Inclusion—A school for all

by Brian O’Donnell, Chief Executive, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies.


12–13 November 2009, Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin
This conference was organised by the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, in partnership with The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD).

Brian O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, opened the event and said it was a great pleasure to see so many people, with a wide range of expertise, and from so many countries both in Europe and elsewhere. He emphasised that the conference itself, the study visits that had been arranged beforehand, and the chance to meet and talk around the edge of the conference, all offered a great opportunity to move things forward. He stressed that inclusive education is an issue of major importance in all countries—politically, strategically, financially and in practice. All countries needed to share ideas and work together to:

  • Review progress since the Statement on Inclusive Education, particularly (but not exclusively) in the light of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,
  • Find new and up-to-date ways to promote and achieve real and sustained inclusive education for all—in ‘Schools for Al’”, and
  • Produce a new Manifesto for Change.

The Conference also marked the launch of the ‘Pathways to Inclusion’ Project. This project, funded under the Comenius programme, will be led by EASPD. It will, over three years, establish new tools for measuring and implementing inclusion and create a new network of ideas and support to make inclusion happen.
Almost 300 people attended the conference, from over 20 of the member states of the Council of Europe. Participants included people with disabilities, families, policy makers, professionals and researchers from the education, social care and the medical sectors. The conference programme consisted of 5 plenary sessions and 8 parallel workshops, dealing with a multiplicity of issues relating to inclusive education.