04 SES 06 C, Reconsidering the Role of the SEN Coordinator: A critical overview
The Warnock report (1978) represents an important starting point in promoting a new role of special schools (SS): their transformation into resource centres (RC) for inclusion, helping children, families, teachers and parents within mainstream schools. The dual function of these schools has progressive and important role within inclusive frameworks, as endorsed by UNESCO (1994) and currently defended (EADSNE, 2013, Ware et al., 2009).
Most European countries maintain a mixed system of schooling: mainstream and special schools (Ebersold, Schmitt & Priestley, 2011). It is also found out that the role of SS as RC is a common trend in many countries (EADSNE, 2013; Meijer, 2010). SS are consolidated as a part of a continuum of educational services for children with disabilities (Rix et al., 2013), overcoming the initial exclusive conceptualization of direct care (Norwich, 2008).
However, the investigation in relation to the normative development were significantly worse that the specific integration of inclusion (Lapham & Papikyan, 2012). The United Kingdom and Ireland are at the forefront with outstanding works such as those of Ainscow (2007), Baker (2007), Rix et al. (2013), Ware et al. (2009)...
In Spain, the development of state legislation in the topic of inclusion and functions of SS began in the 1970s with the establishment of special schools and special classrooms. The LISMI (Ley de Integración Social del Minusválido [Law on Social Integration of the Disabled]), published in 1982, is a pioneering regulation which relates to educational integration. As a progress, the provision to integrate children with disabilities into: 1) Mainstream Schools (MS); 2) Special Schools, for pupils with more severe disabilities who were unable to attend integration schools; and 3) Coordination of SS with MS, was made.
In 1990, the Ley Orgánica General del Sistema Educativo [the General Law of the Educational System], which definitely regulates integration/inclusion, was published. In this document, the new role of the SS is mentioned in: 1) connection with all the sector's educational centres and services and their potential to spread their experience and resources; and 2) its progressive configuration as educational RC that are open to MS.
The subsequent Spanish legislation (LOE -2006-, LOMCE -2013-), currently in force, assumes inclusion as a fundamental principle. In 1981, the competences on education were started to be transferred from the Central State Administration to the Autonomous Communities and this process finished in the academic year of 1999-2000 (Ministerio de Educación, 2011). This means that the autonomous governments are responsible for ensuring the educational development in their respective territories.
It can be said, that in Spain, the development of national and regional policy was guided by the European trends of the 1990s, but research on its development, implementation and evaluation was lower than in the international context. This implies the need to support research in inclusion in Spain. However, there exist partial approaches, such as in works of Font et al. (2013) in Catalonia and the reflections of Rojas and Rueda (2016).
For all these reasons, we asked ourselves: to what extent is legislation in education – element which is not sufficient, nevertheless necessary - encouraging synergies between special schools to fulfil their role as a Resource Centre.
The objective of the study is to ascertain the current situation and, in particular, the normative development of the role of SS as Resource Centres in the various Spanish autonomous communities.
Educational policies, international and Spanish academic literature were reviewed. Searches were made in electronic databases (ERIC, SSCI, etc.), using appropriate descriptors (special education, resource centre, inclusion, attention to diversity, NEE), both in Spanish and English language. Likewise, key institutional websites were consulted, such as that of the Spanish Ministry of Education – Resource Centres and Plans for Attention to Diversity [Centros de Recursos y Planes de Atención a la Diversidad] in various autonomous communities, educational councils of autonomous communities, OECD, Eurydice, EADSNE, etc., to identify relevant information. Furthermore, the websites of the main research centres and principal documentation in this field were examined, and in them, the funds of the entities of the Spanish Disability Documentation Network [la Red Española de Documentación sobre Discapacidad] were accessed, such as 1) Spanish Documentation Centre on Disability and Disability Documentation Service -SID- [Centro Español de Documentación sobre Discapacidad y Servicio de Documentación sobre Discapacidad]; and 2) Spanish Observatory of Disability -OED- [Observatorio Español de Discapacidad]. On the bases of literature reviewed and regulations collected, an initial classification was set according to various categories (evaluative studies, reviews, type of standard, reference to the object of study, scope of application ...). We found 452 standards (state and autonomous with some content related to special education) in the period of 1970-2016. Of which, 123 were selected with references to special education and educational inclusion centres: 17 laws - national or autonomic, 13 regulations on special schools, 27 on Resource Centres and 65 on attention to diversity. At the end, 36 were analysed in depth for their linkage to the development of SS as RC. A content analysis was performed using the procedure followed by Green et al. (2008), through immersion in the text to carry out a coding identifying: denomination, periods, development of the centre, scope of intervention and functions performed. In the second phase, categories were created through the union of codes.
Expected outcomes/results The study reveals the following functions developed by RC: 1) Early detection and educational response; 2) More suitable method(s) of assessment for students; 3) Implementation of direct intervention with SEN; 4) Counselling for teachers and teaching teams of ordinary centres 5) Counselling for families; 6) Design and/or loan of materials; 7) Counselling related to the use of ICT; 8) Teacher training and 9) Educational research and innovation. We found out that 8 of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain developed and played, to some extent, the dual role assigned to SS, in contrast to what was achieved in other countries (Baker, 2007; Ware et al., 2009). We face strong territorial imbalances and inequality inside our system. Although we reached some progress in the last five years, in general terms, the conversion of SS to RC is not widespread (López-Torrijo, 2009). The unequal regional development, indicated above, in connection with the establishment of RC can be classified in three ways: a) Five autonomous communities have regional RCs (some with a trajectory of more than two decades and others of more recent establishment); b) Eight communities include in their regulations the transformation of SS into RC, but their effective application was done only in some cases; and c) In five communities we did not find neither RC nor regulations that would refer to them. Finally yet importantly, insufficient knowledge of collaborative work between special and mainstream schools and the new attitudes and abilities of professionals from special schools who can support inclusive education can be important lines of research in the future.
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