An Exploration of the Factors that Impact Upon the Inclusion of Pupils with Additional Support Needs in Mainstream Secondary Education: The Staff’s Perspective
Originating Organisation or Projects
EIS Action Research Grants 2018-19
This small-scale exploratory study investigates the perceptions of staff in relation to inclusion of pupils with additional support needs (ASN) in a mainstream secondary school. It set out to provide unique insights and personal accounts of issues pertaining to inclusion in an attempt to obviate such barriers in the future.
Twenty-five staff (thirty-four percent of whole school complement) across a variety of disciplines from one school in Scotland engaged with an online survey gathering both quantitative and qualitative data. Information was collated in relation to legislation awareness and engagement; direct experience of specific ASN; confidence in relation to supporting and meeting the needs of pupils with ASN and limiting factors that currently exist as barriers to inclusion. Analysis of results identified that there was a significant deficit in staff awareness and engagement with legislative documents that outline and underpin inclusive education and meeting the needs of all pupils.
Most staff identified a recent increase in the prevalence of numbers of pupils with ASN and there were varying confidence levels for supporting these. Staff reported that the main reasons for experiencing a lack of confidence in effectively meeting the needs of pupils with ASN were time pressures, large class sizes, a declivity of resources and a lack of specialized ASN support. References were made in relation to a lack of ASN specific training, not only as part of one’s continuing professional development, but at the point of investment in education of initial teacher training. Staff positively regarded training as a valuable intervention in bridging existing gaps in knowledge and understanding.
These findings imply that there is a considerable need to increase the fundamental ASN skill-set and education of school staff in order that they are suitably equipped, competent and confident to meet the needs of all pupils in their care, consequently becoming more effective inclusive practitioners.
Findings in this study may guide advocacy and further research on the topic of staff perspectives regarding mainstreaming of ASN support in Scottish education. What can be taken from this particular study is that there is a clear sense of hope that staff, although very conscious of the lack of resources at their disposal, are for the most part, positive and willing to embrace change by taking on additional learning and CPD of their own volition, and by making a concerted effort to increase their skill set, knowledge and understanding to ultimately better meet the needs of the ASN of pupils in their care.