04 SES 06 A, Multi-professional Intervention In Inclusive Education: Why Collaboration Matters
Disabled children’s right to inclusive education are enshrined in a number of national laws and international instruments, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) (United Nations, 2006). The Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically reviews how the Convention is applied in each country. The UK was last examined in 2016 and, in its concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern that “[m]any children with disabilities are still placed in special schools or special units in mainstream schools” and recommended that the UK should “set up comprehensive measures to further develop inclusive education”. In its explanatory General Comment no. 9, on the rights of disabled children, the Committee had stated that disabled children are still “facing barriers to the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Convention” and that “the barrier is not the disability itself but rather a combination of social, cultural, attitudinal and physical obstacles which children with disabilities encounter in their daily lives”. (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2007: 2). It also clearly states: “Inclusive education should be the goal of educating children with disabilities” (ibid: 18). With regard to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 24 (Education) requires state signatories to ensure that all disabled children and young people can fully participate in the state education system and that this should be “an inclusive education system at all levels”. When ratifying the convention in June 2009, the then government issued a declaration which said, among other things: "The United Kingdom Government is committed to continuing to develop an inclusive system where parents of disabled children have increasing access to mainstream schools and staff, which have the capacity to meet the needs of disabled children” (UK Government, 2009).
In line with the UN-CRPD, supportive measures for pupils with SEN become increasingly important on the way to an inclusive educational system. In this context, teaching assistants play a vital role in enabling pupils with different kinds of impairments and special educational needs (SEN) a successful engagement in every aspect of education. Previous research showed that the tasks of teaching assistants range from nursing activities to pedagogical activities, such as supporting pupils’ learning. In this context, Webster et al. (2010) reported a negative relationship between teaching assistants’ support and pupils’ academic progress. The authors suggested that different and potentially insufficient levels of teaching assistants’ qualifications may account for such a relationship.
Additionally to the issue of qualifications, the previous project IMAS demonstrated that there is no clear and consistent learning framework that can support assistants in schools and other educational settings to work with disabled pupils. It showed that the working conditions of assistants are characterized by high workloads, little job security and low status in school hierarchies
Based on these findings and with the support of the Erasmus+ funding program, the project IMAS II (IMproving ASsistance in Inclusive Education Settings II, 2018-1-AT01-KA202-039302) aims to strengthen the competencies of teaching assistants for inclusive practice. This project was launched in October 2018 at the University of Graz, Austria, home of the lead partner, and will run for two years. CSIE and University of Graz are two of nine project partners from six European countries. In cooperation with teaching assistants and with students, web-based knowledge boxes will be developed, in order to better prepare assistants for their work with children with SEN and foster the learning and participation of these children in mainstream school. Additionally, assistants, teachers and parents will evaluate the effects of the knowledge boxes.
In order to meet the qualification requirements and the need for flexible learning opportunities for teaching assistants, the project consortium aims to design, implement and evaluate five web-based knowledge boxes. The knowledge boxes offer an easy and quick way for assistants to expand their knowledge and to enhance inclusive competences for their practical work with children with SEN. The knowledge boxes will cover the following topics: Behaviour, cognition and learning, communication and interaction, physical and sensory impairment as well as attitudes, perceptions and roles of teaching assistants. The concept of the knowledge boxes includes introductory and theoretical chapters about symptoms, characteristics and diagnostics of different kinds of impairments and will offer useful tips to support learning and development of children, practical advice and different approaches to handle critical situations. In addition to school assistants, disabled and non-disabled students will be involved in the development process. Therefore, we will use the method of participatory research to offer all pupils the opportunity to express their views, experiences, feelings and wishes regarding to school assistance. Students will be trained to become researchers in order to pay attention on how joint learning could be supported and how school assistants could promote social relationships in class. Afterwards, child-centered interviews and focus groups will be conducted and additionally, the method of Photo-Voice will be conducted in order to catch pupils’ views and ideas and to include them in the development of the knowledge boxes. The impact of the knowledge boxes will be evaluated by a mixture of qualitative and quantitative processes, including the development of three evaluation tools for assistants, teachers and parents.
In this paper we shall offer a brief overview of the project, the collaborative process of creating the new materials and its innovative approach to advancing disability equality in schools. We shall then present ongoing work on the evaluation of the project: The impact of the knowledge boxes will be evaluated by a cycle of participatory research with children (interviews) in the first instance. Afterwards three evaluation tools will be developed by project partners, focusing on: perspectives of teaching assistants who have used the knowledge boxes; perspectives of teachers working with these assistants; and perspectives of parents whose children are supported by these assistants. We anticipate that using the knowledge boxes will contribute to expanding assistants’ knowledge and improving their competences as well as their inclusive skills for supporting disabled children. In addition, we anticipate improved cooperation between assistants and teachers and increased confidence of assistants in working with disabled students. Last but not least, in this paper we shall discuss issues of replicability and the relevance of this work to other countries in Europe and beyond.
Carter, E., Rourke, L., Sisco, L. & Pelsue D. (2009). Knowledge, Responsibilities, and Training Needs of Paraprofessionals in Elementary and Secondary Schools. Remedial and Special Education, 6 (30), 344-359. Committee on the Rights of the Child (2016) CRC/C/GBR/CO/5 Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Retrieved January 2019 from https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/149/88/PDF/G1614988.pdf Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011) Hidden in Plain Sight: inquiry into disability-related harassment. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/disabilityfi/ehrc_hidden_in_plain_sight_3.pdf Equality and Human Rights Commission (2012) Out in the Open: tackling disability-related harassment; a manifesto for change. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/out-open-tackling-disability-related-harassment-manifesto-change Lübeck, A. (2017). Außen vor und doch dabei? Zur Einbindung der Schulbegleitung im schulischen Kollegium. In M. Laubner, B. Lindmeier, & A. Lübeck (Eds.), Schulbegleitung in der inklusiven Schule.Grundlagen und Praxishilfen (pp. 66–73). Weinheim Basel: Beltz. UK Home Office (2018) Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18; statistical bulletin 20/18 accessed at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/748598/hate-crime-1718-hosb2018.pdf on 30 January 2019. United Nations (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf Webster, R., Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., Martin, C., & Russell, A. (2010). Double Standards and first principles: framing teaching assistant support for pupils with special educational needs. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25(4), 319–336.
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