04 SES 07 B, Social Participation
The aim of this research was to explore the social experiences of children in education in the UK, including some with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD). International policies (UN 1989; UNESCO 1994) emphasise the rights of all children to be valued equally, treated with respect and provided with equal opportunities. In the UK this has given rise to policy which promotes the rights of children with Special educational needs (SEN) to attend their mainstream school wherever possible (DfES 2001; 2004). Booth and Ainscow (2002) suggest that this is about more than the physical integration of the child into their mainstream class, but about an ethos in which every child is welcomed, valued and supported, fostering positive peer relations and belonging.
Research suggests that the social aspect of education is of importance to young people themselves (Ainscow et al. 1999), and a key factor in parents’ wishes to send their child to a mainstream school (Koster et al. 2009). However, Warnock (2005) expressed concerns about inclusion due to the high levels of bullying and victimisation reported by pupils with special needs compared to their peers. De Monchy et al. (2004) found that levels of peer rejection were 30% higher amongst children with SEBD than among children without these difficulties. Similarly, Holt (2004; 2010) found that young people with SEBD were more prone to bullying and rejection by peers than young people with other disabilities.
The purpose of this study was to examine the social relations, friendship and belonging of children, some of whom experienced SEBD. This involved examining how participants were treated by peers (and their attitudes towards this) and their sense of belonging. I also asked why this was the case, investigating the teaching practices and wider school policies which may have been helpful or detrimental in supporting these social experiences. Research in this area is very limited, especially studies which foreground the views of children themselves (Ash et al. 1997), indicating the usefulness of this research.
The research questions were:
- What were participants’ social experiences and sense of belonging during both formal (lesson time) and informal (breaks and lunchtime) parts of the school day?
- What teaching strategies and wider school practices supported or inhibited the positive social experiences and sense of belonging of participants?
The study also had a methodological dimension in which I explored the affordances of video in facilitating participation, but for the purpose of this presentation I focus purely on social experiences.
Ainscow, M., Booth, T. & Dyson, A. (1999). Inclusion and exclusion in schools: listening to some hidden voices. In Ballard, K. Inclusive education. International Voices and Disability and Justice. London, Falmer press. 139-151. Booth, T. & Ainscow, M. (2002). Index for Inclusion: Developing Learning and Inclusion in Schools. Bristol, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education. De Monchy, M., Pijl, S.J. & Zandberg, T. (2004). Discrepancies in judging social inclusion and bullying of pupils with behaviour problems. European Journal of Special Needs Education 19, 3, 317 - 330. Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2001). Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. London, DfES. Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2004). Removing Barriers to Achievement, London, DfES. Holt, L. (2004). Children’s playground geographies of inclusion /exclusion. Downloaded from: http://www.srcosmos.gr/srcosmos/generic_pagelet.aspx?pagelet=Article summary&pub_id=6343 [accessed 21st January 2011]. Holt, L. (2010). Young people's embodied social capital and performing disability. Children's Geographies, 8, 25-37. Koster, M., Pijl, S.J., Houten, E.V. & Nakken, H. (2007). The social position and development of pupils with SEN in mainstream Dutch primary schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education 22, 1, 31–46. Oliver, M. (1990). The Politics of Disablement. Basingstoke, The MacMillan Press Ltd. Reinharz, S. (1992). Feminist methods in social research. Oxford, Oxford University press. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. (1994). The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. Salamanca, Spain, UN. United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York, UN. Warnock, M. (2005). Special Educational Needs: A New Look. London, Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain.
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