Bilingual inclusive education in Madrid, Spain: Deaf and hearing pupils


EC. PONCE DE LÉON: Inclusive education for bilingual deaf and hearing learners. Since 2003, the centre transforms methodologies, spaces and classrooms to serve deaf learners in an environment of real inclusion. Deaf and hearing learners share two languages in the classroom: oral language and sign language. There are:

  • two teacher tutors (a reference teacher of sign language, and a reference teacher in oral language);
  • specialists in sign language;
  • speech therapists who facilitate the development of communication and facilitate access to the curriculum from a perspective of real inclusion, adapting material, spaces, methodologies, etc.
What were the main aims of the initiative?

To achieve maximum personal development and abilities of our learners, users and workers, both deaf and hearing, through a comprehensive education. This education is based on an inclusive project that values and meets the educational and communication needs of our entire community in oral language, sign language and alternative systems.

Inclusive education: presence, participation and learning is the guiding conceptual framework. Our centre aims to qualify the school itself to respond to all learners, both deaf and hearing. We set our priorities on how to present and address the curriculum, the methodology we use and the organisation, so that everyone has access to learning, whatever their needs.

For us to achieve the objectives of inclusion there are two basic pillars: bilingual education and shared education (deaf and hearing learners).

Location, Setting, Scope, Key Events etc.

From the beginning, the centre was set up as a centre dedicated to teaching deaf children and young people. The centre aimed to give higher quality education and to develop an environment of inclusion for deaf learners. Development with their peers, giving them the same opportunities.

Language gaps made learners’ development with their peers difficult, and prevented their emotional development. One of the fundamental barriers was communication among peers and among all members of the educational community, and access to the curriculum and learning. Therefore, the clear option was bilingualism.

Issues Addressed
What issues/challenges does the case study address?

School grammar change: methodology, organisation and vehicular languages. The integral education of deaf learners in an inclusive environment. For this, a common language of communication was fundamental: sign language.

The facilitating methodology of our inclusion model should provide us with flexibility to respond to diversity. The choice was Methodology for research projects and, in the classroom, work for children, and in primary education.

How was the initiative implemented?

In 2004, the centre opted to develop a new model of attention for deaf learners and to incorporate a new methodology that facilitated this model progressively through the educational stages of pre-primary and primary school. This new way of understanding educational attention has carried through the rest of the centre.

The steps taken in the process: Training of a group of professionals, led by the Pedagogical Direction, with advice from the Specific Deaf Team in the Community of Madrid. For implementing the organisation, the methodology is based on research projects and bilingualism in oral language and Spanish Sign Language (LSE) (simultaneous), first in early childhood education and then in primary school. Initial training of new personnel in Hearing and Language, and LSE, as well as internal training in aspects requested by the educational team. LSE specialists were used from the beginning, and their numbers have increased to be present in all educational stages.

Pedagogical direction, guidance and team of professionals, with the support of the Montemadrid Foundation (owner of the centre). With continuous advice and support from deaf special education experts in the Community of Madrid.

The management team generated the project, managed it and promoted initial training, alongside permanent teacher training, taking into account the needs of the different teams. It has been important to establish and involve a stable team of professionals who are committed to inclusion. The team constituted of professionals has a demanding profile and has adapted to the new methodology (bilingualism – high level in LSE, and work by projects and work areas in the classroom).

From the directors, there have been agreements, negotiations and adaptation with educational institutions, and also with the Foundation itself. The role of management is to ensure the Educational Administration has contributed within its rules to be able to adapt the resources it offers in terms of personal resource needs. However, until the Administration responded, the support of the Foundation itself was important, authorising personal resources as the project progressed. It has great importance in continuing to support the extension, advancement and consolidation of the project.

Key Outcomes & Impact
What where the key outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

Changing the old concept of special educational needs, which implied lower expectations of these learners from teachers. Educational difficulties were attributed to learner deficits and the responsibility of their teaching-learning process fell on hearing and language specialists. Now the vision is that all learners can learn if given the opportunity, and can learn together with their peers.

Methodological and organisational change: work for research projects, and in the classroom for corners/zones. Material resources (no books), own elaborated materials, acquisition of technological resources (digital boards, tablets).

Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

The implementation in both stages in early years education and primary. Support of the Administration is needed for internal organisation and a ratio. We have a ratio per classroom that must be requested for all courses because it exceeds the regulations set for learners with special educational needs in mainstream education. This specific ratio is 15 hearing learners and five deaf learners, both for primary and secondary education. A challenge was the continuity up to sixth grade.

The fundamental things are:

  • to look at the learner and their abilities;
  • change the methodology and the organisation;
  • the learner is the protagonist of their own learning;
  • support within the classroom;
  • professionals are facilitators and accompany this learning, books do not help in this process.

One of the priority interests of our centre is the continuous review and renewal of our teaching-learning processes in order to offer a quality education to all our learners. With this objective, we have participated in various internal and external evaluation processes.

Internally, we developed three inventories to evaluate, over three academic years, the evolution of our learners in various aspects of their development in the stages of early years and primary education: social relationships, acquisition of oral language and acquisition of sign language.

The results suggest that bilingual educational contexts favour the acquisition of LSE equally in deaf and hearing learners at the same ages. In this sense, the development of each one of the linguistic competences evaluated in deaf and hearing children is very similar. Both groups reach higher levels in comprehension than in production. Changes in comprehension skills also begin before production. On the other hand, the results show that, in both the deaf and the hearing group, the competences that are most easily acquired are those connected with vocabulary and syntax, while morphological competences are acquired later.

Externally, a knowledge test is carried out annually at the level of autonomic education regulations, and the results obtained are always optimal and good academic results are obtained.

We collaborate with the Autonomous University of Madrid and we have developed an evaluation of the socio-emotional development of deaf learners. The results confirm that linguistic competences and affective socialisation styles give deaf children greater weight in the development of their socio-emotional skills.

We maintain an annual collaboration with the University of Salamanca. We put into practice a metalinguistic skills programme that helps us to see the development of written language competence. We follow up to help deaf learners to develop strategies to improve this competence.

We also have an evaluation by the Specific Deaf Team, which monitors learners with cochlear implants, to see their development in sign language, written, oral and socio-emotional language in bilingual contexts. The results obtained are very positive.

Future Developments / Sustainability
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

Our goal is to continue implementing our philosophy of real inclusion in all the educational lines we teach at the centre.

A new project, the unique centre project, puts two classrooms, one for special education and one for mainstream, to work together, attending to the needs of each learner.

We have included work in mathematics and language in the 1st and 2nd stages of secondary education, in which we eliminate books to allow us to adapt materials to the needs of our learners.

In the Professional Programmes, we include co-operative work within the classrooms, and project-based learning.

We continue to work every day on the evaluation of our own educational practice to make proposals for improvement and be able to meet all of our learners’ needs.

Contact information

Mª Montserrat Pérez García
Pedagogical Director

Mª Esther Herrero Benito
Special Education Teacher and Head of Pre-school, Primary and Special Education

Ana Belén García de la Torre: Teacher and Secondary School Counsellor

Ponce de León
C/ Eduardo Barreiros, nº 6,
28041 Madrid, Spain

Bilingual inclusive education in Madrid, Spain: Deaf and hearing pupils