04 SES 12, Teacher Attitudes
As in other European countries, there is an increasing focus in The Netherlands on the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools. However, some twenty years after the first steps were made in this process, the percentage of pupils in special schools, which ranges between 4 and 5, still has not substantially decreased. Starting 2014, more control will be handed over to regional clusters of schools with respect to setting up and financing support for pupils with SEN. The system that relies on fixed criteria for determining which pupils in mainstream schools are eligible for additional funding because of SEN and for determining which pupils can be admitted to a special school will be abandoned. In future, a fixed budget will be available for meeting special needs, as opposed to the current system in which costs depend upon the number of pupils that meet the fixed criteria.
Several barriers are hampering the provision of adequate education to pupils with SEN in mainstream primary schools. In this respect, teachers’ attitudes on inclusion have been found to be relevant (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Cook, 2001; Poulou & Norwich, 2000). In addition, teachers’ competences are crucial in detecting SEN and preparing and applying appropriate interventions (Miller, 2003; Mooij & Smeets, 2006, 2009). Meijer (2001) for example clarified that teachers have difficulties in dealing with pupils with emotional and behavioural disorders. Avramidis and Norwich (2002) pointed out that one factor that is consistently associated with more positive attitudes of teachers towards inclusion is the availability of support services at classroom and school levels. This involves both physical support (e.g. resources, teaching materials, ICT equipment, and a restructured physical environment) and human support (e.g. learning support assistants, special teachers, and speech therapists). Maras (2005) emphasized the value of multi-agency support, involving multidisciplinary teams and interagency work, in providing effective care to children. Multidisciplinary teams, or youth care advisory teams, can advise school staff about pupils or they may refer pupils to care organizations. School clusters in The Netherlands include mainstream as well as special schools and are co-ordinated by a cluster co-ordinator. These clusters may provide various kinds of support to mainstream schools, e.g. by remedial educationalists or peripatetic teachers, and they may contribute to professional development.
The goal of the present study is to address the role of school clusters, mainstream primary schools and teachers in providing education to pupils with SEN, as well as the support that is provided to teachers in order to be able to meet various special needs in their classes. The following research questions are addressed:
1) What kind of support is provided by regional school clusters to schools and teachers with respect to educating pupils with SEN in mainstream primary schools?
2) To what extent are teachers supported in order to enable them to provide adequate education to pupils with SEN?
3) Which factors influence the teachers’ ability at providing adequate education to pupils with SEN?
Avramidis, E., & Norwich, B. (2002). Teachers’ attitudes towards integration / inclusion: A review of the literature, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17 (2), 129-147. Cook, B.G. (2001). A Comparison of Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Their Included Students with Mild and Severe Disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 34 (4), 203-213. Maras, P. (2005). An international model for developing capacity for addressing the needs of ‘at risk’ youth: a French-English affaire? European Educational Research Journal, 4 (2), 100-108. Meijer, C.J.W. (Ed.) (2001). Inclusive education and effective classroom practices. Middelfart, Denmark: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Miller, A. (2003). Teachers, Parents and Classroom Behaviour. A Psychosocial Approach. Maiden-head, UK: Open University Press. Mooij, T., & Smeets, E. (2006). Design, development and implementation of inclusive education. European Educational Research Journal, 5 (2), 94-109. Mooij, T., & Smeets, E. (2009). Towards systemic support of pupils with emotional and behavioural disorders. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13 (6), 597-616. Poulou, M., & Norwich, B. (2000). Teachers’ causal attributions, cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses to students with emotional and behavioural difficulties, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 559-581.
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