New Educational Guidelines for learners who have Down’s Syndrome

New guidelines have been released today to ensure pupils who have Down’s syndrome are being offered the best education in schools. The Educational Guidelines document sets out exactly what teachers and institutions should be doing to improve the availability and quality of education for learners who have Down’s syndrome. 

The document is the culmination of best practice and learning over the last 30 years, and has been put into one document by Down Syndrome International (DSi). 

Our International Guidelines for the Education of Learners with Down Syndrome are an important starting point in enabling people with Down syndrome to receive the educational support needed to achieve their full potential. Education enhances life opportunities and quality of life. It promotes inclusion in society, interests and friendships and can facilitate greater independence and future employment. – Down Syndrome International 

The guidelines have been written by educational professionals and experts in the field. They provide best-practice guidance for learners, teachers and managers in pre-school, school and post-school education settings to promote life-long learning for all children with Down’s syndrome across the world. 

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) helped fund the guidelines and our Services Director Gillian Bird was one of its three authors. Gillian says: 

The guidelines address the vital qualities necessary for inclusive education for all learners who have Down’s syndrome. Many families are frustrated by the slow rate of change towards inclusion for their children particularly within secondary and further education settings. Our helpline calls suggest that equality and inclusion is going backwards, with more barriers rather than less. Calls about moving from mainstream to special schools doubled last year. We may lose some of the wonderful opportunities that were given to adults (now in work and living in their local communities) through their inclusive education during the 2000’s. 

We hope the guidelines will provide a reference point and a lobbying tool for education professionals, learners, families and commissioners of services. It’s hoped that they will be used to review and develop our educational policies in a more inclusive way. 

Gillian continues: We expect the guidelines to be included in all teacher training courses. Inclusive education should be available for all learners, from all backgrounds and, although many learners who have Down’s syndrome have attended their local mainstream schools since the 1990’s, there are still many today who do not have this option. In 2020, we are ready for a leap forward in practice so that inclusive education means everyone. The guidelines are bursting with information about how to educate learners with Down’s syndrome of all ages and abilities, covering leadership, teacher education and curriculum access. 

Carol Boys, Chief Executive of the Down’s Syndrome Association said: 

‘We are really excited to see these guidelines published. It has been great to work with other organisations around the world to create this powerful resource towards greater inclusion of people who have Down’s syndrome.’ 

DSi contacted its member organisations and their education advisors in 136 countries to tap into expertise and knowledge in the field. They helped complete the guidelines, which comprise three separate sections, each with its own set of recommendations: 

  • Guidelines for Leading 
  • Guidelines for Teaching 
  • Guidelines for Learning 

Key considerations specific to the education of learners with Down’s syndrome are also outlined, with recommendations.  

We will will be sending the guidelines to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, and asking him to consider adopting them as best practice throughout the country. 

The Guidelines are available to download here.