04 SES 12 E, School Transition as an Inclusive Process: Barriers and enablers
What are the educational experiences and outcomes for children with special educational needs following their transition from primary to post-primary school?
Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) is a national longitudinal study of 19,500 children funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and conducted by a consortium of researchers led by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College. Children were surveyed in 2007-2008 (Wave 1) and followed up in 2011-2012 (Wave 2). This paper draws on findings from a secondary analysis of data from the GUI study relating to 8,568 children who were aged 9 at Wave 1 and 13 at Wave 2; the secondary analysis was commissioned by the National Council for Special Education and completed in two phases (Cosgrove et al., 2014). Specifically, the paper focuses on the educational experiences and outcomes for children with special educational needs following their transition from primary to post-primary school. The aim of the study was to inform understanding of how children with special educational needs were faring in terms of expectations and outcomes relating to academic attainment, participation in and engagement with school and learning, and their independence, self-esteem, social and emotional wellbeing at school and relationships with teachers and peers. Additionally, it sought to track transitions to post-primary school types attended by the children and explore how they settled into post-primary school.
Although GUI is a national study, implications from the secondary analysis have international relevance in so far as they shed light on key outcomes for children with special educational needs experiencing inclusive education over the period of transition from primary to post-primary school.
The analysis adopted the theoretical framework constructed by Douglas et al. (2012) which developed outcome measures relating to children with special educational needs, grouped into key areas as follows: engagement measures; attainment-related outcomes; attendance-related outcomes; happiness-related outcomes; independence-related outcomes; and, progress. Within this framework, literature informing analysis was conceptually organized to reflect interrelated aspects as follows: engagement, wellbeing and achievement; literacy and mathematics outcomes; transition; and, emotional health and wellbeing.
Regarding outcomes for engagement, wellbeing and achievement, literature points to associated influencing factors with the link between socio-economic status and special educational needs highlighted as an area of concern (Banks et al., 2012; Emerson & Hatton, 2007; 2012). Evidence indicates broader social and educational inequalities being reshaped as special educational needs in areas of socio-economic disadvantage. On literacy and mathematics outcomes in the Irish context, while evaluation of the DEIS programme shows a reduction in low achievers, the proportion of low achievers in urban DEIS schools remains large (Weir, 2011; Weir & Denner, 2013). The limited number of studies focusing on transition of children with special educational needs from primary to post-primary school points to students with learning difficulties perceiving lower levels of support and increased peer and bullying issues following transition than their typically developing peers (Akos, Rose & Orthner, 2015; Barnes-Holmes et al., 2013; Lane, Oakes, Carter & Messenger, 2014). Studies on wellbeing and emotional and behavioural difficulties highlight negative social and academic consequences of experiencing difficulties, delineate gender differences in the profile of boys and girls in the development of difficulties, and underscore the significance of context and, in particular, the organisational and social structures in schools (Banks, Maitre, & McCoy, 2015; Moreira et al., 2015).
Drawing from the GUI data and informed by the literature, outcomes for children were analysed using the Douglas et al. (2012) framework and are grouped under the three overarching themes of engagement and attendance, wellbeing, and achievement and expected attainment.
Wave 1 of the GUI study collected data on 8,568 9 year olds in 2007/2008. Data were collected from the children themselves, their parents, class teachers and school principals. Children completed short versions of the Drumcondra reading and mathematics tests and a pupil questionnaire; parents completed questionnaires about themselves and their child; teachers completed questionnaires about themselves, and a second teacher-on-pupil questionnaire; and school principals completed a questionnaire about the context of the child’s school. Data collection for Wave 2 took place in 2011/2012, when the children were aged 13. Of the 8,568 children who participated in Wave 1, 7,525 participated in Wave 2. Children completed short versions of the Drumcondra Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Ability tests, the British Ability Scale (BAS) Matrices test (a test of non-verbal reasoning), and a questionnaire; parents completed questionnaires; and the school principal completed a questionnaire. Unlike Wave 1, Wave 2 did not include a teacher questionnaire or a teacher-on-pupil questionnaire. The classification of special educational needs in Wave 2 was derived from parents’ responses. Primarily on the basis of these responses, the following eight-group scheme was arrived at: Eight-group classification of special educational needs for GUI Wave 2 (N=7,525) Social, emotional or behavioural difficulties (4.1%) General learning disabilities or difficulties (2.5%) Specific learning difficulties or speech and language difficulties (8.0%) Autistic Spectrum Disorders (1.4%) Physical/sensory disabilities that impact on daily life (0.7%) Multiple or unclassified special educational needs (1.3%) Special educational needs at Wave 1 only (8.9%) No special educational needs at Waves 1 or 2 (73.1%). Note. These are weighted percentages (Wave 2 sample weight). A simplified classification outlined below was used for the multilevel analyses of data. GUI Wave 2: Simplified classification scheme for use in multilevel analyses SEN group N (all) % (all) N (boys) % (boys) N (girls) % (girls) No SEN either wave 5506 73.2 2673 69.7 2833 76.8 SEN Wave 1 only 667 8.9 396 10.3 271 7.4 SEN Wave 2 only 509 6.8 261 6.8 248 6.7 SEN Waves 1 and 2 842 11.2 504 13.1 339 9.2 Total 7525 100.0 3833 100.0 3692 100.0 Note. Data weighted by GUI Wave 2 sample weight. Data were then analysed to address the aim of the study as previously stated.
Findings are reported under thematic outcomes: engagement and attendance, including transition; happiness and wellbeing; and, achievement and attainment. Findings are presented in relation to children at age 13 and for most outcomes, progress from ages 9 to 13 is explored along with comparisons between children with SEN and without SEN and among categories of SEN; for selected outcomes, findings are contextualised with extent to which differences in outcomes may be associated with children’s socio-economic, demographic and school and home environments, in addition to children’s performance at age 9. Results confirm that attitudes and behaviours that are established at age 9 are related to attitudes and behaviours at age 13. Transition to post-primary school was less positive for children with SEN than children without SEN and least positive for children with BESD, GLDD and ASD, underlining need for individualised transition supports. There is some stability in children’s wellbeing over time, and reading and mathematics scores at age 9 are quite strongly related to achievement in reading and mathematics at age 13. This underlines the need to establish and support positive attitudes and patterns of behaviour from an early age, using individualised supports where appropriate. Cognitive or academic supports may be particularly well-directed at children who had attended DEIS Band 1 schools and then enrolled in a DEIS post-primary school, while the results suggest that supports targeted at promoting children’s wellbeing should be directed at children more generally. Results also suggest that further work is needed on maintaining and improving the engagement of Second Years, and of improving children’s engagement with mathematics from primary school upwards. Additionally, being bullied in primary school has a bearing on children’s wellbeing in post-primary school and underlines the need to identify factors that protect against the occurrence of bullying from an early stage of children’s development.
Akos, P., Rose, R.A., Orthner, D. (2015). Sociodemographic moderators of middle school transition effects on academic achievement. Journal of Early Adolescence, 35 (2), 170-198. Banks, J., Maitre, B., McCoy, S. (2015). Insights into the lives of children with disabilities: Findings from the 2006 national disability survey. Dublin: The Economic and Social Research Institute. Barnes-Holmes,Y., Scanlon, G., Desmond, D., Shevlin, M., & Vahey, N. (2013). A study of transitions from primary to post-primary school for pupils with special educational needs. Trim:National Council for Special Education. Cosgrove, J., McKeown, C., Travers, J., Lysaght, Z., Ní Bhroin & Archer (2014). Educational experiences and outcomes of children with special educational needs: A secondary analysis of data from the Growing Up in Ireland study. Trim, Co Meath: NCSE. Department of Education and Skills (DES). (2017). Circular to the management authorities of mainstream primary schools: special education teaching allocation (0013/27). Dublin: Author. Douglas, G., Travers, J., McLinden, M., Roberstson, C., Smith, E., Macnab, N., Powers, S. Guldberg, K., McGough, A., O'Donnell, M., & Lacey, P. (2012). Measuring educational engagement, progress and outcomes for children with special educational needs: A review (National Council for Special Education, Research Report No. 11). Trim: National Council for Special Education. Emerson, E., & Hatton, C. (2007). Poverty, socio-economic position, social capital and the health of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities in Britain: a replication. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51, 866-874. Emerson, E, & Hatton, C. (2012). Health inequalities and people with intellectual disabilities. Cambridge: University Press. Lane, K.W., Oakes, W.P., Carter, E.W., & Messenger, M. (2015). Examining behavioural risk and academic performance for students transitioning from elementary to middle school. Journal of Positive Behaviour Interventions, 17 (1), 39-49. Moreira, P.A.S., Bilimória, H., Alvez, P., Santos, M.A., Macedo, A.C., Maia, A., Figueiredo, F., Miranda, M.J. (2015). Subjective wellbeing in students with special educational needs. Read Periodicals. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from http://www.readperiodicals.com/201503/3649125691.html National Council for Special Education (NCSE) (2014). Delivery for students with special educational needs: A better and more equitable way. Trim: NCSE. Weir, S. (2011). A report on the first phase evaluation of DEIS: Summary report. Dublin: Educational Research Centre. Weir, S., & Denner, S. (2013). The evaluation of the School Support Programme under DEIS: Changes in pupil achievement between 2007 and 2013. Report to the Department of Education and Skills. Dublin: Educational Research Centre.
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