04 SES 02 A, Particular Groups, Needs and Inclusion
Education policies across the globe show a commitment to the development of educational practices which support the inclusion of all children. The current research considers the experience of inclusion for children and young people from armed forces families.
The replacement of the term ‘special needs’ with ‘additional support needs’ in the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 intends to recognise that children and young people may experience barriers to education at different times in their life, for a variety of different reasons. The UK government have advised that the circumstances of military life, particularly relocation and parental deployment, can impact negatively on children's educational experiences (House of Commons Defence Committee, 2013). As a result, since 2011, up to £6M per year has been allocated to state funded schools across the UK in an attempt to mitigate the impact of service life on children’s education.
Various reports suggest that children from armed forces families face circumstances that include extended parental separation, relocation, disruption to learning and changes in peer groups and daily routines. Existing research on how children respond to these relatively unique circumstances tends to come from the US and focuses on the negative impact of military life on children’s measurable psychosocial, behavioural or academic outcomes (White, de Burgh, Fear, & Iversen, 2011). Not only is it difficult to directly translate these findings into a UK context where there are important cultural and institutional differences (Fossey, 2012), the quantitative methods typically employed in these studies tends to obscure the complexity of such experiences. Whilst a quantitative approach may offer some parameters of experience, the design is inappropriate if what we are seeking is an understanding of the nuanced ways children experience school. Furthermore, the over reliance on reports from adults provides little insight into how children themselves perceive and negotiate the challenges of their situation. The current research is supported by a developing theoretical framework inspired by the ideas of both Dewey and Deleuze who offer complementary approaches to research as emerging and productive of possibilities for action (Rosiek, 2013).
In sum, an extensive literature review revealed that whilst the outcome based studies tend to adopt a deficit approach to children’s experiences, qualitative studies have the potential to account for the complexities of service life. The current research makes an important contribution by foregrounding children’s reports and interpretations of their experiences. The main aim of this study is to address a gap in qualitatively driven empirical research on the perspectives of children and young people from armed forces families. In this paper, I focus on the ways in which selected qualitative methods offer a distinctively inclusive approach to researching inclusion in this case. I argue that this approach does so in a way that focuses on strengths rather than deficits. The findings will have implications for teachers and schools aiming to promote positive schooling experiences for children. The research will be relevant to those involved in not only supporting children from armed forces families but educators working with children affected by parental absence or where parents' employment creates potentially emotional transitions.
Allan, J., & Slee, R. (2008). Doing inclusive education research. Rotterdam: Sense. Fossey, M. (2012). Unsung heroes: Developing a better understanding of the emotional support needs of service families. London: Centre for Mental Health. Hill, M. (2006). Children’s voices on ways of having a voice: children’s and young people’s perspectives on methods used in research and consultation. Childhood 13: 69–89. House of Commons Defence Committee. (2013). The armed forces covenant in action? part 3: Educating the children of service personnel (HC 586). (No. 4). London: The Stationery Office. Law, John. (2004). After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge. Punch, S. (2002). Research with Children: The same or different from research with adults?. Childhood, 9(3), 321-341. Rosiek, J. L. (2013). Pragmatism and post-qualitative futures. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 692-705. White, C. J., de Burgh, H. T., Fear, N. T., & Iversen, A. C. (2011). The impact of deployment to iraq or afghanistan on military children: A review of the literature. International Review of Psychiatry, 23(2), 210-217.
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