Developing Inclusive Schools
by Liteboho Mphutlane
With the introduction of new education policies in South Africa, the Department of
Education (DOE) faces immense challenges in the provision of school infrastructure.
However, the challenge of building new schools and upgrading existing ones to reflect the
changing education environment also offers opportunities for introducing innovative
designs and implementation processes that will enhance teaching and learning in South
African schools. The CSIR is providing technical support to the DOE in carrying out some
of the key strategies in support of this process.
One of the challenges in the provision of school infrastructure is providing access in
schools for learners who experience barriers to learning, including those with disabilities. In
2001, the DOE introduced a policy titled Education White Paper 6: Building an Inclusive
Education and Training System. The policy seeks to address the disparities in the way
education is provided for learners who experience barriers to learning, be they curriculum,
language, socio-economic status, or school infrastructure-related.
One of the key strategies identified in the policy as essential to establishing an inclusive
education and training system is the designation and phased conversion of approximately
500 of the 20 000 primary schools in the country to become what is referred to as full
service schools. A full service school is defined as a school that supports education for all
learners, irrespective of their differences, and provides an inclusive learning environment
by minimising barriers to learning in terms of curriculum, teaching methodologies and the
In 2004, the DOE appointed the CSIR for a three-year period to manage the first phase of
implementing White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education. This first phase involves:
• The conversion of 30 ordinary primary schools, across the country, into full service
schools. This will be done through the design and construction of a range of
interventions to improve the accessibility of the schools, the provision of material
resources (assistive devices and other equipment) as well as the development of the
human resource capacity in these schools.
• The strengthening of 30 special schools to become resource centres that will provide
specialised professional support to the 30 designated full service schools and other
• The establishment of 30 district-based support teams, which are integrated
professional support services teams. Their function will be to assist education
institutions at district level to identify and address barriers to learning and promote
effective teaching and learning.
This three-pronged approach will enable the DOE to develop an implementation plan and
cost models for establishing inclusive schools in the future.
As part of this project, the CSIR has developed a manual called Full Service Schools
Environmental Access Manual, which details the basic environmental access standards
that have to be achieved by each primary school in order to be classified as a full service
school. Subsequent to the development of the manual, the CSIR conducted workshops in
all provinces around the country for provincial education planners, public works architects
Developing Inclusive Schools 1
and teams of private sector building professionals (architects, quantity surveyors and
The workshops aimed to develop a thorough understanding of inclusive environments, the
standards detailed in the manual and the requirements of White Paper 6 in relation to the
physical infrastructure of schools. The workshops were highly participatory, involving
experiential learning using wheelchairs and interactions with learners and other people with
Participants found the course stimulating and indicated that it was a very useful way to
begin the process of developing inclusive schools. The next stage in the project will focus
on the design and construction of the environmental access interventions detailed in the
manual by the building professionals appointed in all provinces. This phase ran from
January to July 2007.
Students from a Special School in Limpopo taking part in the workshop
Professional architects and quantity surveyors Sol Plaatje Primary School in the Northern Cape is a
trying out a wheelchair on a ramp. designated full service school.
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