New concept for joint learning: nrw turns back school inclusion

FDP School Minister Yvonne Gebauer presents new standards for joint learning. At the same time, she wants to strengthen special schools.

This is what inclusive education can look like: bilingual instruction in German and sign language in Erfurt Photo: dpa

March back on inclusion! With the new concept for joint learning in schools, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) has fulfilled a key election promise of the black-yellow state government. On Friday, Gebauer presented the "key points for the realignment of inclusion in schools" in Dusseldorf.

They include binding quality standards for secondary schools that are to apply as early as the 2019/20 school year. According to this, every school that wants to integrate disabled students into regular classes must have a pedagogical concept for inclusive education, have enough teachers for special needs education, provide further training for the teaching staff, and meet certain spatial requirements.

"We will bundle the offerings at schools of joint learning and introduce clear quality criteria," said Gebauer, summarizing the cabinet decision. In other words, the goal is no longer to achieve the highest possible level of inclusion at all types of schools, as was the case under her Green Party predecessor Sylvia Lohrmann, but to limit inclusion to a few secondary schools. There, the inclusion formula "25 – 3 – 1.5" is to guarantee the agreed standards in the future.

According to this formula, school classes should start with an average of 25 students, three of whom may have special educational needs. For each of these classes, the school receives half an additional position. To this end, the Ministry of Education plans to provide secondary schools with nearly 5,800 additional positions by 2025. In the future, universities in NRW are to offer 250 additional study places for special education to meet the demand.

Not the first U-turn

Another new development is that high schools will in future be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to offer inclusive classes. Likewise, that new special schools can be founded again. The minimum size of existing schools will be reduced so that special schools can be offered "nationwide" again. This should bring the current inclusion rate of 42 percent down again.

The school minister justifies the measures with criticism from parents about the implementation of inclusive concepts. In particular, staff shortages and a lack of standards have been an ongoing issue at inclusive schools in NRW. Speaking on Deutschlandfunk radio, Gebauer said, "We have seen that inclusion, as it has been set up in the past, has led to great resentment."

However, Gebauer’s plans also caused displeasure: "These are not key points for promoting inclusion, this is policy to strengthen special schools," said Sigrid Beer, education policy spokeswoman for the Green Party faction in the state parliament. Her SPD colleague Jochen Ott criticized, "The planned special school groups at general education schools do not promote inclusion, but exclusion." Dorothea Schafer, head of the GEW in North Rhine-Westphalia, also called the plans a step backward: "It doesn’t fit the idea of inclusion that high schools are being excluded."

The new inclusion requirements are not the first education policy about-face under Black-Yellow. In November, the government decided to return to G9. And after the summer vacations, the loss of teaching hours is to be recorded for each individual school. That, too, is a promise from the election campaign.

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