Labelling Pupils with Additional Support Needs: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Teachers in a Mainstream Primary School Setting
Sections of this example dissertation:
DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
Curriculum for Excellence: The Scottish national curriculum with the purpose of enabling pupils to develop the four capacities of becoming Successful Learners; Confident Individuals; Responsible Citizens; and Effective Contributors (Scottish Executive, 2006a).
Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC): A Scottish approach that has been national policy since 2010. This is a framework which helps provide services and support to children and young people to maintain their rights and improve their wellbeing (Scottish Government, 2018a).
Inclusion: The practice of education where all children and young people are supported to gain access and opportunities provided by Curriculum for Excellence and participate fully in education regardless of race, gender, age, disability, religion or belief, and sexual orientation (Education Scotland, 2018).
Labelling: The process of applying a descriptor given by medical professionals to people with disorders, disabilities and handicaps, (i.e. a medical diagnosis) (Hardman, et al 1999).
Mainstream Schools: Schools which do not solely provide education for pupils with Additional Support Needs (Scottish Government, 2007).
Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs): School staff who assist the teacher in educating pupils. Formerly known as ‘Teaching Assistants’ (Open University, 2018).
Pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN): Pupils that have been identified as requiring supplementary assistance in accessing the curriculum to achieve their full potential (Scottish Government, 2010).
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
Introduction and Background to the Study
In 2018, where more than a quarter of the pupils in a Scottish mainstream primary class are identified as having Additional Support Needs, the controversial topic of labelling has never been more important (Scottish Government, 2017a). Since the turn of the century, the number of pupils with ASN in mainstream classes has dramatically increased from 2.1% to 26.6% (Scottish Executive 2006b; Scottish Government, 2017a).
This is, in part, is due to Scottish legislation from 2000 which stated that, unless a child has “exceptional circumstances”, it is a requirement for all pupils to be educated within mainstream schools (Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000: 7). This was implemented due to debates at the time surrounding the importance of inclusion and the rights of the child regardless of Additional Support Needs. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 stated that:
Education authorities must: make adequate and efficient provision for the additional support required for each child or young person with additional support needs for whose school education they are responsible, subject to certain exceptions; make arrangements to identify additional support needs; keep under consideration the additional support needs identified and the adequacy of support provided to meet the needs of each child or young person (2004: 2).
By 2010, the Getting it Right for Every Child approach was accepted by all Scottish service agencies in an effort to provide the appropriate services and resources to every child who requires them (Scottish Government, 2017b). The Curriculum for Excellence was also implemented during 2010. This new curriculum developed areas to ensure mainstream schools offered a variety of opportunities to allow pupils to meet their optimum potential on their journey of lifelong learning (Scottish Executive, 2006a).
The previous statistic, that the number of pupils with Additional Support Needs in mainstream classes has increased by 24.5% in the last 18 years, cannot solely be a result of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 requiring mainstream schooling. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 altered the terminology from ‘Special Educational Need’ to ‘Additional Support Need’ which as a result encompassed many children who were not previously understood to be a child with a ‘Special Educational Need’. Therefore, the 2000 statistic of 2.1% only considered pupils with specific learning needs, whereas the most recent 26.6% statistic included pupils with varying needs such as “factors [relating] to social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, disability, or family and care circumstances” (Scottish Government, 2008: 1). It has also been considered by the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition that there perhaps was not an increase in pupils with Additional Support Needs but rather an increase in the recognition and awareness of these ASN resulting in more medical diagnoses (Hepburn, 2014).
Irrespective of whether this increase of pupils with ASN in mainstream classes has derived from inclusion legislations or more awareness of ASN and diagnoses, it is undeniable that these pupils require support in order to achieve their full potential.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this qualitative research project is to examine and present teachers’ perspectives as to whether the labelling of pupils with Additional Support Needs is helpful in a mainstream primary school setting. The following two objectives are explored:
- The extent to which labelling a pupil with Additional Support Needs impacts upon the teacher strategies used whilst teaching
- To understand more about why teachers are for/against labelling pupils with Additional Support Needs.
This study anticipates examining the affect that labelling has on the mainstream primary school teacher’s ability to effectively support pupils with ASN. The Additional Support Needs explored will hereby only refer to ASN arising from “disability and health needs” which include – but is not limited to – Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Specific Language Impairment (The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004).
Having conducted a small-scale research project, this will solely consider the affects labelling has on teaching strategies and will therefore not include other factors such as social and emotional issues associated with labelling a pupil with an ASN.
Rationale for the Study
The researcher’s rationale for this study was to develop her own understanding of this area prior to the commencement of her teaching career. She believes that having the knowledge and comprehension of how to best support pupils with ASN is a vital feature of becoming an effective educator for all pupils. Alongside the objectives identified in the Purpose of the Study, the researcher aimed to further understand how current mainstream teachers support pupils who are experiencing challenges, both antecedent and subsequent to receiving a label of an Additional Support Need.
Significance of the Study
In this current educational climate of promoting inclusive education and the continuous increase of pupils with ASN, the need for knowledge surrounding how to best support all pupils is essential. Although these pupils are being physically included in mainstream schooling, does this fully represent what true inclusion encompasses? Professor Lani Florian from The University of Edinburgh states that the “type of school is not the issue – the issue is about the quality of the child’s education” (2018: 1). This project adds to the present body of research in the area of Education for a fuller insight into current teachers thinking and the challenges that prevail for both the teacher and the pupil in a 2018 mainstream classroom setting.
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