04 SES 04 B, Inclusive Schools
The focus of this paper is on collaboration in the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process. Collaboration has been defined as ‘.... an interactive process where a number of people with particular expertise come together as equals to generate an appropriate programme or process or find solutions to problems’ (NCSE, 2006, p. X1). Collaborative decision-making and problem-solving is at the core of inclusive education for students with special educational needs (SEN) (Clarke, 2000). However, the challenges of collaboration in the IEP process are widely reported with Stroggilos and Xanthacou (2006) reporting that IEPs were not being used as a collaborative tool between parents, teachers and other educational professionals.
This paper draws upon findings from a larger study which investigated the impact of PD on the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process on the knowledge, skills, understanding and practice of teachers at primary and post-primary level. Furthermore, the study aimed to investigate if/how the IEP was used as a tool to measure and improve learning outcomes for pupils with special educational needs.
The prevailing paradigms in special education have been well documented and debated (Gallagher, 2014). This paper explores special education through the theoretical framework of inclusive education which is defined as maximising the participation of all children in mainstream schools. Rose, Shevlin, Winter, O’Raw and Yu Zhao (2012) argue that inclusive education must be translated into manageable working practices that enable successful learning outcomes to be achieved. The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is regarded as a useful working practice in this context.
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) ‘is a written document prepared for a named student which specifies the learning goals that are to be achieved by the student over a set period of time and the teaching strategies, resources and supports necessary to achieve those goals’ (NCSE, 2006, p. 4). The IEP has been adopted by most countries as a tool for managing SEN provision (Mitchell, Morton and Hornby, 2010) and in many countries IEPs are directly linked to legislation (DfES, 2001; US Dept of Education, 1997). The literature is replete with difficulties encountered in the IEP process including concerns about the lack of teamwork and collaboration and the participation of parents and children (Stroggilos and Xanthacou, 2006; Andreasson, Asp-Onsjo and Isaksson, 2013; Tennant, 2007). In fact, in the international review of IEPs by Mitchell et al. only one piece of research (Riddell et al., 2002) supported the efficacy of IEPs. Mitchell et al. highlighted the concern that IEPs appear to have multiple purposes including educational, legal, planning, accountability, placement, and resource allocation, being used as administrative rather than pedagogical tools.
The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act (Ireland, 2004) formalised IEP practice making them mandatory for all children with special educational needs and publishing a comprehensive set of Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (NCSE, 2006). While sections of EPSEN relating to IEPs have been deferred, evidence suggests that schools in the Republic of Ireland are taking the initiative in developing IEPs, though there is some variability and inconsistency in practice, particularly in relation to collaboration and participation in the IEP process (Rose, et al., 2012; Prunty, 2011; Bergin and Logan, 2013). Pijl and Frissen (2009) acknowledge such variability and urge policymakers to ‘back off’ and accept that schools should be granted professional autonomy to ‘develop different practices at different paces’ (p. 374). Indeed, Rose et al. argue that the emergent approach to the development of IEPs in Ireland which is ‘reflective and experimental’ ‘will inform the eventual implementation of policy and thereby provide a stronger system than one imposed through legislation’ (p. 115).
Andreasson, I., Asp-Onsjo, L. and Isaksson, J. (2013) Lessons learned from research in individual educational plans in Sweden: Obstacles, opportunities and future challenges. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28(4), 413-426. Bergin, E. and Logan, A. (2013) An individual education plan for pupils with special educational needs: How inclusive is the process for the pupil? REACH Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland, 26(2), 79-1. Clark, S.G. (2000). The IEP process as a tool for collaboration. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(2), 56-66. DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2001) Special Needs Code of Practice. London: DfES. Gallagher, D.J. (2014). Challenging orthodoxy in special education: On longstanding debates and philosophical divides. In L. Florian (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of special education: Volume 2 (2nd ed.) (pp. 819-839). London: SAGE Publications. Ireland (2004) Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. Dublin: The Stationery Office. Mitchell, D., Morton, M. and Hornby, G. (2010) Review of literature on Individual Education Plans. New Zealand: Ministry of Education. NCSE (National Council for Special Education). (2006) Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process. Dublin: The Stationery Office. NCSE. (2013) Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. Trim: NCSE. Pijl, S.J. and Frissen, H.A. (2009) What policymakers can do to make education inclusive. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 37(3), 366-377. Prunty, A. (2011). Implementation of children's rights: What is in ‘the best interests of the child' in relation to the individual education plan (IEP) process for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD)? Irish Educational Studies, 30(1), 23-44. Riddell, S., Kane, J., Banks, P., Baynes, A., Dyson, A., Millward, A., and Wilson, A. (2002) An investigation of Individualised Education Programmes: Part 2: raising the attainment of pupils with special educational needs. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs NASEN, 2 (3), 1-11. Rose, R., Shevlin, M., Winter, E., O’Raw. and Zhao, Y. (2012) Individual Education Plans in the Republic of Ireland: An emerging system. British Journal of Special Education, 39(3), 110-116. Stroggilos, V. and Xanthacou, Y. (2006) Collaborative IEPs for the education of pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 21(3), 339 - 349. Tennant, G.D. (2007). IEPs in mainstream secondary schools: an agenda for research. Support for Learning, 22(4), 204-208. United States Department of Education (1997) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Washington DC: Department of Education.
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