04 SES 08 B, Inclusive Classes, Inclusive Schools, Inclusive Countries
Special schools, both internationally and nationally, are currently operating within a political, legislative and social environment which promotes the inclusive education of students with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools. A philosophy of inclusion, based on the fundamental principles of human rights and equal opportunities for all, has become central to the education of students with SEN. However, the role of the special school in an inclusive education system is challenged in international policy, such as the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994), which fundamentally support the philosophy of inclusion in mainstream schools. This stance “challenges the role and very existence of the special school” (Day and Prunty, 2010, p.3) and creates a sense of vulnerability among the special school sector in defining its role within a “radically altered environment” (Shevlin et al., 2008, p.149). In considering the definition of inclusive education as “a process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners” (UNESCO, 2009, p.8), the response of the entire education system, in addressing the diversity of students’ needs, must be examined. The conceptualisation of inclusion, which is central to the theoretical framework underpinning this study, is explored in terms of a celebration of difference, a response to diversity and a process of restructuring educational settings. Four fundamental and distinctive perspectives on the conceptualisation of inclusion are considered and discussed, including: 1) Inclusion as a Human Rights Issue 2) Inclusion as a Means to Social Cohesion and Economic Advancement 3) Inclusion as a Special Education Subsystem and 4) Inclusion as Education for All.
In light of the recommendation of the Research Report on the Role of Special Schools and Classes in Ireland (Ware et al., 2009, p.185), which states that “one aspect of the future role of some special schools could be to provide outreach and inreach support for mainstream schools to enhance the provision these schools are able to make for pupils with SEN”, the rationale for this study was to examine the emerging role of the special school on the continuum of educational provision in an age of inclusion. The principal aim of this study was to investigate and evaluate the feasibility of the special school sector to provide outreach support to students with SEN in mainstream schools. From a personal perspective, the researcher embarked on this study in her role as the first Department of Education and Skills (DES) designated and sanctioned special school outreach teacher in the Republic of Ireland.
The study sought to facilitate the voice of special schools in the dialogue on special and inclusive education in Ireland, particularly with regard to the potential role of the special school in providing outreach support, as recommended by Ware et al. (2009). The study also sought to identify and provide recommendations for the Department of Education and Skills (DES), along with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), in this regard. At a time when the special school sector in Ireland is trying to re-define its role on the continuum of educational provision, the fundamental research question underpinning this PhD study was: Q) Is the provision of outreach support an emerging role for the special school in an age of inclusion?
Booth, T., & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools (3rd ed.). Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education. Meijer, C., (Ed.) (2003). Special education across Europe in 2003: Trends in provision in 18 European countries. Odense: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Retrieved from https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/special-education-across-europe-in-2003_special_education_europe.pdf Norwich, B. (2008). What future for special schools and inclusion? Conceptual and professional perspectives. British Journal of Special Education, 35(3), 136-143. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8578.2008.00387.x Norwich, B. (2013). Addressing tensions and dilemmas in inclusive education: Living with uncertainty. London: Routledge. Norwich, B., & Gray, P. (2007). ‘Special schools in the new era: Conceptual and strategic perspectives’. In SEN Policy Options Group (2007), Special schools in the new era: How do we go beyond generalities? Policy Paper 2, 6th Series, January 2007 (pp.84-88). Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 7(2), 71-89. doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2007.00083.x Rose, R., Shevlin, M., Winter, E., & O’Raw, P. (2010). Special and inclusive education in the Republic of Ireland: Reviewing the literature from 2000 to 2009. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25(4), 359-373. doi: 10.1080/08856257.2010.513540 Smyth, F., Shevlin, M., Buchner, T., Biewer, G., Flynn, P., Latimier, C., Siska, J., Toboso-Martin, M., Rodriguez Diaz, S., & Ferreira, M. (2014). Inclusive education in progress: Policy evolution in four European countries. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29(4), 433-445. doi: 10.1080/08856257.2014.922797 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (1994). The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. Paris: UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). (2009). Policy guidelines on inclusion in education. Paris: UNESCO. Ware, J., Balfe, T., Butler, C., Day, T., Dupont, M., Harten, C., Farrell, A.M., McDaid, R., O’Riordan, M., Prunty, A., & Travers, J. (2009) Research report on the role of special schools and classes in Ireland. Trim: National Council for Special Education. Ypinazar, V., & Pagliano, P. (2004). Seeking inclusive education: Disrupting boundaries of ‘special’ and ‘regular’ education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 8(4), 423-442. doi:10.1080/1360311042000273746
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