Labelling Pupils with Additional Support Needs: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Teachers in a Mainstream Primary School Setting
Sections of this example dissertation:
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
There are many scholars that have extensively researched the effects of labelling on pupils with Additional Support Needs. Merely enquiring if labels are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ does not contain a strong debate on why they are used (Boyle, 2013). Educators have a duty to effectively develop the learning of all their pupils and ASN ought to be viewed as though they are “problems for teachers to solve rather than problems within learners” (Florian & Linklater, 2010: 371). Therefore, this section of the research project will draw from a variety of different literature available in an attempt to gain greater insight into how labelling impacts the teaching and learning within a mainstream primary school class.
Benefits of Labelling
Many pupils with Additional Support Needs will require supplementary resources used in their learning to be able to achieve the same learning opportunities as those without ASN. This could range from the school having access to ‘teaching packs’ and advice given by specialists to the allocations of Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs) for 1:1 support within the classroom. Many scholars have claimed that labelling a pupil with an Additional Support Need will result in access to funding and therefore access to resources from the relevant services (Norwich, 1999; Lauchlan & Boyle, 2007; Blum & Bakken, 2010; Boyle, 2013). It has been argued that without a label and the provisions given as a result of the label, teachers will not be providing a fair education to the child in a system which promotes equity (Norwich, 1999). The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 states that for children with ASN to receive an appropriate education they require the access to the correct support and services which will help them. In a study conducted by Hastings and Remington (1993), it was found that when questioning students with ASN they recognised that without the use of labels they would not have been able to receive the support suitable for them. Boyle states that “it would be senseless not to label a child … if that meant that there could be no access to services for the person and the family that required it.” (Boyle, 2013: 7).
Labelling has been seen to have the dual-purpose of receiving extra support as well as helping to identify possible features associated with that diagnosis. This means that labelling can “open gates” for pupils with ASN, including enabling the teachers to acquire the knowledge about the characteristics of a specific ASN in order to adapt their teaching and learning accordingly (Sutcliffe & Simons, 1993: 23). Lauchlan and Boyle (2007) delineates this aptly when suggesting that a label of Asperger Syndrome could result in the addition of daily routines and structure, and five-minute time signals to help with transitioning issues. A label can therefore help inform the teacher of difficulties the pupil may be experiencing and strategies they could implement to enhance the pupil’s learning experience.
Drawbacks of Labelling
Blum and Bakken believe that “sometimes the labels are useful generalizations; sometimes they are harmful stereotypes” (2010: 116). They researched that some teachers make assumptions that pupils will be unable to undergo certain tasks or activities based on their label (Blum & Bakken, 2010). This means that a label of an ASN may result in the teacher having pre-conceived ideas about the intellectual abilities of that child instead of finding strategies to support them in achieving these learning opportunities.
Some scholars argue that having knowledge about ASN allows teachers to stereotype pupils and therefore fail to understand the pupil on an individual level (Lauchlan & Boyle, 2007; Blum & Bakken, 2010; Boyle, 2013). Boyle argues that “overuse of labels depersonalises the individuality of each person who receives a label. There is no negative label for individuality” (2013: 3). Labelling a child with an Additional Support Need categorises them and may not reflect their true individual characteristics. All pupils, with and without labels, are unique and have different strengthens and weaknesses which should be catered for throughout their education.
Teachers must interact and have dialogue with their pupils as a basic form of gaining knowledge of the child: labels are often used as a substitute for this (Kliewer & Biklen, 1996). In order to be an effective teacher, the educator must allow time to understand the needs of all the pupils in their class: having a pupil with the label of an ASN may mean some teachers presume inaccurate aspects of the child without undergoing the process of inquiring with them to have greater insight into the child’s specific requirements.
Insignificance of Labelling
It is argued that there is no proven link between labels of ASN and the essential supports that pupils with these ASN are provided with (Norwich, 1999). This suggests that although there are similarities in characteristics between two people with the same ASN label, they may require very different support and resources to enhance their learning. This relates to the well-known quote by Stephen Shore which states “if you’ve met one person with Autism; you’ve met one person with Autism” (as cited by Lowry, 2015: 1). It is more important to focus on attempting to deliver the correct teaching and learning strategies catered to the individuals receiving them.
The Scottish Government states that educators should support all pupils to reach their full potential (Scottish Executive, 2006a: 1). In order to achieve their objective, teachers ought to have an insight into the individual learners needs, regardless of a label. Effective educators will adapt their teaching and learning strategies to account for the large variety of needs of their pupils. Therefore, educators should be making adjustments for children who are facing difficulties within their learning, irrespective of whether they are identified to have an ASN (Norwich, 1999; Boyle, 2013). Florian & Linklater explain that appropriate teaching incorporates “the creation of a rich learning environment characterised by lesson and learning opportunities that are sufficiently made available to everyone so that all are able to participate in classroom life” (2010: 370). This allows all pupils, compared to most, the access to the same educational opportunities.
The Scottish Government acknowledge that “all children and young people are different” and therefore educators should be catering to the vast array of needs included within a mainstream class (2018b: 1). Most educators are determined to help support all their pupils. In a 2003 case where a former-pupil claimed for compensation due to the school failing to identify him as having dyslexia, the council rejected responsibility for any negative implications caused due to not receiving a dyslexia label as it was found that the school implemented all the appropriate support and strategies to aid him in his education (The Telegraph, 2004: 1). This example supports the argument that a label is not required for pupils to receive the appropriate educational opportunities if educators have knowledge and understanding on how to best support pupils with difficulties they are facing.
Ogilvy (1994) argues that even when pupils are given a label of an Additional Support Need they do not receive the required support from the appropriate services. Often a label is used to explain behaviours and characteristics without providing the school and teachers the resources they need to sufficiently educate the pupil (Lauchlan & Boyle, 2007). This could be due to an issue of lack of funding from the Government to the authorities and ASN services and therefore there is no means of allocating more Pupil Support Assistants or other resources to these pupils.
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