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Literature Review on Labelling Pupils with Additional Support Needs

Info: 2821 words (11 pages) Example Literature Review
Published: 23rd Aug 2021

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Tagged: Education

Labelling Pupils with Additional Support Needs: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Teachers in a Mainstream Primary School Setting

Sections of this example dissertation:

  1. Chapter 1: Introduction
  2. Chapter 2: Literature Review
  3. Chapter 3: Methodology


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.


Alexander, C. & Strain, P. (1978) A review of educators’ attitudes toward handicappedchildren and the concept of mainstreaming. Psychology in the Schools, 15, 390–396.

Blum, C. & Bakken, J. P. (2010) Labeling of students with disabilities: Unwanted and not needed. In F. E. Obiakor, J. P. Bakken, A. F. Rotatori (Eds.) Current Issues and Trends in Special Education: Identification, Assessment and Instruction (Advances in Special Education, Volume 19) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 115–125.

Boyle, C. (2013) Labelling in Special Education: Where do the benefits lie? In A. Holliman (Ed.) Educational Psychology: An International Perspective. London: Routledge, pp. 1–17.

British Educational Research Association (2011) Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. London: British Educational Research Association

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000) Research Methods in Education (5th Edition), London: Routledge.

Creswell, J. W. (2012) Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th Edition), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Education Scotland (2018) Support for all [Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/Support%20for%20all [Accessed 16 March 2018].

Elliot, R. & Timulak, L. (2005) Descriptive and Interpretive approaches to Qualitative Research. In P. Gilbert & J. Miles (Eds.) A Handbook of Research Methods for Clinical and Health Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 147–159.

Etikan, I., Musa, S. A., & Alkassim, R. S. (2016) Comparison of Convenience Sampling and Purposive Sampling. American Journal of Theoretical and Applied Statistics, 5 (1), 1–4.

Florian, L. (2018) On the presumption of mainstreaming [Online] Available: https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/creid/projects/autonomy-rights-sen-asn-children/project-blogs/on-presumption-of-mainstreaming [Accessed 19 March 2018].

Florian, L. & Linklater, H. (2010) Preparing teachers for inclusive education: using inclusive pedagogy to enhance teaching and learning for all. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40 (4), 369–386.

Hardman, M. L., Drew, C. J. & Egan, M. W. (1999). Human Exceptionality: Society, School, and Family. London: Allyn and Bacon.

Hastings, R. & Remington, B. (1993) Connotations of labels for mental handicap and challenging behaviour: a review and research evaluation, Mental Handicap Research, 6 (3), 237–249

Hepburn, H. (2014) Additional Support Needs – ASN crisis looms as numbers double: News. The Times Educational Supplement Scotland, iss. 2349, pp. 6.

Kliewer, C. & Biklen, D. (1996) Labeling: Who wants to be called retarded? In W. Stainback and S. Stainback (Eds.) Controversial issues confronting special education: Divergent perspectives. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, pp 83–95

Lauchlan, F. & Boyle, C. (2007) Is the use of labels in special education helpful? Support for Learning Journal, 22 (1), 36–42.

Lowry, L. (2015) Which Children with Autism Develop Better Communication Skills? [Online] Available: http://www.hanen.org/SiteAssets/Helpful-Info/Articles/Children-with-autism-better-communication-skills-P.aspx [Accessed 8 April 2018]

Norwich, B. (1999) The connotation of special education labels for professionals in the field. British Journal of Special Education, 25 (4), 179–183.

Ogilvy, C. M. (1994) What is the diagnostic significance of specific learning difficulties? School Psychology International, 15 (1), 55–68.

Open University (2018) The role of the teaching assistant. [Online] Available: http://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-understanding/role-teaching-assistant# [Accessed 16 March 2018]

Oppenheim, A. N. (2005) Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement. New York: Continuum Books.

Powney, J. & Watts, M. (1987) Interviewing in Educational Research. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.

Scottish Executive (2006a) A Curriculum for Excellence: building the curriculum 3-18 (1). Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Executive (2006b) Literature Review of Educational Provision for Pupils with Additional Support Needs. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Executive (2010) Supporting Children’s Learning: Code of Practice (Revised edition). Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Government (2007) Glossary of terms relating to mainstream and specialist educational provision [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2007/01/Glossary [Accessed 16 March 2018].

Scottish Government (2008) Summary of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/Schools/welfare/ASL/ASLsummary [Accessed 23 March 2018].

Scottish Government (2017a) Summary statistics for schools in Scotland no. 8: 2017 edition [Online] Available: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/summary-statistics-schools-scotland-8-2017-edition/pages/5/ [Accessed 18 March 2018].

Scottish Government (2017b) Where did GIRFEC come from? [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/gettingitright/what-is-girfec/where-girfec-came-from [Accessed 20 March 2018].

Scottish Government (2018a) Getting it right for every children (GIRFEC) [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/gettingitright [Accessed 16 March 2018].

Scottish Government (2018b) Additional Support for Learning [Online] Available: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Education/Schools/welfare/ASL [Accessed 4 April 2018]

Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 [Online] Available: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2000/6/pdfs/asp_20000006_en.pdf [Accessed 18 March 2018].

Sutcliffe, J. & Simons, K. (1993) Self Advocacy and People with Learning Difficulties. Leicester: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 [Online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2004/4/pdfs/asp_20040004_en.pdf [Accessed 4 March 2018].

The Telegraph (2004) £500,000 claim by dyslexic ‘teachers’ failed to spot’ [Online] Available: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1455846/500000-claim-by-dyslexic-teachers-failed-to-spot.html [Accessed 8 April 2018]

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