Saturday 19 June - Marie Delaney

Educational Inclusion, is it possible? The myths, challenges and realities
with Marie Delaney

Inclusion is a popular concept now in education in many countries. Many governments are following policies of educational inclusion for all, particularly for students with special educational needs. This presents challenges and opportunities for language institutions and for teachers. This talk will look at some of these challenges, some of the myths around inclusion and some of the possible ways forward.
Issues covered will include:

  • Why does inclusion matter – morally? Professionally? Personally?
  • What does inclusion mean in your school and community? Who should be included? Who isn’t included?  Is it a process or a place? Thinking beyond students with special educational needs.
  • Access to education vs. engagement in education – what are the real barriers? Poverty? Privilege? Entitlement? Attitude? Resources? Training?
  • The gap between policy and practice – is inclusion the ‘cheap’ option? What can teachers, trainers and managers do? How do we avoid only paying lip-service to inclusion?
  • The need for self-awareness and self-reflection – recognizing our unconscious biases and limitations.
  • The power of language as a tool for inclusion and exclusion: the important role of language teachers and language hierarchies.
  • Moving from the teacher as the ‘expert’ to the teacher as a cooperative partner with the student and family.


Q & A Session

What got you interested in the field you’re involved in in ELT and what is it about this topic that inspires you?

Coming from an Irish working class background and being brought up in the UK meant that I was always aware of people being treated differently depending on where they were from, where they lived, how they spoke, their race and culture, how society perceived them and their own sense of entitlement. I decided early on that language and education gave a person power and opened doors. At the same time it seemed wrong that some people were excluded from the system. I eventually started to work with students who were at risk of exclusion from school and society due to their challenging behaviour, which often was a result of undiagnosed learning difficulties or the result of trauma and loss. I continue to work with teachers and students on this area and believe that all educators have a duty to understand the real barriers to inclusion and the power education has to change attitudes.

As our audience is so international, could you mention anything about countries you have lived and/or worked in?

I have taught English and lived in Germany, Poland and New Zealand. I have trained teachers and lived in New Zealand, Canada, New York USA, the UK and Ireland. I currently live in Ireland and work on many interesting projects such as school counselling in Iraq, which has been an exciting and humbling experience, particularly when working with counsellors and trainers from the post-conflict areas of Mosul and surrounding areas. I have been very involved in the British Council Language for Resilience Project and will soon be piloting materials on trauma-informed practice in Egypt, Turkey and Jordan. In Ireland I am involved in training staff to set up nurture groups in schools, which allow students to develop social and emotional skills which they are needed to settle to learn.  Having worked and lived in such a range of countries, I am continually amazed at the resilience of people and the universal things we all share when we get to know each other as human beings.


Marie Delaney is a teacher trainer, educational psychotherapist, author and director of The Learning Harbour, Cork, Ireland. She worked for many years with students of all ages with challenging behaviour and other special educational needs, both in mainstream and special educational settings. She has taught English and trained teachers in many countries across the world. She is one of the writers of the British Council’s online course for teachers in special educational needs and the Language for Resilience report on the language needs of refugees. She is the author of Attachment for Teachers, Teaching the Unteachable and What can I do with the kid who... (Worth Publishing UK) and Into the Classroom: Special Educational Needs (OUP). Her main interests are engaging those students who seem unreachable, supporting teachers in dealing with challenge, and creating truly inclusive classrooms.