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2012 10 10 Education Seminar
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2012 10 10 Education Seminar

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Presentation given at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast by Dr Una O'Connor Bones at a seminar on Education hosted jointly by the UNESCO Centre and Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance.

Presentation given at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast by Dr Una O'Connor Bones at a seminar on Education hosted jointly by the UNESCO Centre and Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance.

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  • The report is framed around international standards and national policy and legislation for the educational inclusion of children and young people with SEN. Collectively, with their emphasis on principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, respect for difference, recognition of the evolving capacity of children, they have strengthened the right to an effective education although the extent to which this is fulfilled is subject to on-going debate. Internationally, the UNCRC and UNCRPD have established the rights of children and young people to an effective education that, in addition to the provisions already mentioned, utilises appropriate support to maximise academic and social development. Within NI, the SENDO strengthened the rights of pupils with SEN to attend mainstream schools and introduced disability discrimination laws to the education system for the first time. Whilst these national and international instruments have undoubtedly bolstered provision for some pupils, there is prevailing criticism that government and the education system has not accorded pupils with SEN full enjoyment of their rights – including insubstantial training for both teachers and classroom assistants. Children and their parents are increasingly acknowledged as critical voices and any understanding of inclusive education requires an understanding of pupil and parental experiences. To date, data on the voice of children and young people in relation to SEN has been limited although there has been some progress in this regard. Similarly, parents have been an under-represented dimension of SEN research although evidence suggests a somewhat isolated experience with challenges in terms of intricate bureaucracy, preference for professional expertise and some uncertainty about the nature and deployment of classroom assistants.
  • Pupils (without statement) can be supported by a general CA within the resources of the school, while others (statement) can be allocated support through an identified CA (SEN) who may be shared by other pupils. Although emphasis is on care and support, there is an expectation that understanding of the specific SEN of the child will be developed.Qualifications range from minimum to degree level and research suggests few held an entirely appropriate qualification. What this means in practice is that someone in late teens and with no specific training could be assisting a child with SEN.Training is commonly provided by ELBs who offer general and tailored sessions. Other options include Career Development Framework and Qualifications and Credit Framework. Although access to relevant and accredited training is advocated, there would seem to be a shortfall in numbers who receive it. Research suggests inconsistencies in access, regularity and quality as well as challenges in terms of personal financing and feeling disadvantaged if teacher has limited training.
  • Evidence suggests there is a clear role for CAs in capacity building for inclusion: the role has evolved from house-keeping to more educational duties and current guidance endorses involvement of CAs through acquisition of specialised expertise and active involvement under direction of class teacher. Shifting professional boundaries are not without challenges, particularly perceived de-professionalisation of the teacher’s role and imposition of pedagogical and behavioural responsibilities on CAs. Reported evidence from classroom support suggests feeling under-valued, limited say in how they should be deployed and tendency to be excluded from discussion on children about whom they have particular knowledge. Capacity of a school to be inclusive requires acknowledgement of perspectives of CA as significant stakeholder through, for example, more explicit and up-to-date job descriptions that clarify occupational boundaries, greater strategic position in schools, development of career pathway (eg HLTA, Professional Development Award).Professional development is key in facilitating this process but requires careful consideration to ensure it does not impact negatively on pupils. Evidence suggests support staff have felt under-prepared for this and research has highlighted concerns in practice, including lack of co-ordination with teacher, assistant time being used to substitute teacher time, effectiveness of instructional suppport provided by non-teaching staff, impact on educational outcomes and unnecessary dependency. However, benefits of training that has practical impact in classroom and pupil outcomes is recognised. Of particular interest is the three levels: on-the-job; ongoing; and career pathways, which provides options from immediate skills base to advanced career development.Any of this requires a classroom collaboration, where teachers have had to assume greater management role as number of CAs has grown. This is an area in which few have been trained so is a less developed aspect of inclusive practice although there has been a renewed emphasis on management training.
  • Good policy can enhance the rights and provision of education for pupils with SEN. Recent and proposed reforms of SEN policy have been informed by children’s rights standards but implementation often falls short of what is required by those standards. Inappropriate or limited classroom support is a denial of educational opportunities to enable pupils to reach their full potential.The pivotal role of CAs cannot be under-estimated and their input under the direction of teacher can demonstrably improve educational outcomes for pupils. Training for CAs is a recognised priority for inclusion but the number with an appropriate qualification is limited and there are variations in training options. It is important that we ask specifically what is the role of the CA, what duties should the post entail and what is necessary to achieve this?A partnership approach based on acknowledged expertise of teacher and CA will enhance inclusive classroom practice. Management training is essential but access to this is minimal. It is logical that this should be a more visible feature at in-service and pre-service.
  • There is relatively little monitoring of the lived experience of children and young people with SEN. This is a crucial perspective for any inclusive planning at micro (school) and macro (policy) levels. Some initiatives (eg Disabled Children and Young Person’s Participation Network) illustrates how children and young people with SEN can have a voice in matters affecting them, and there are options to learn from this approach.Whilst role of parents has been strengthened in policy and legislation, the extent to which they feel partners in their child’s education is less clear. Parents have a unique perspective on the needs of their child so this expertise should be harnessed as part of a .wider power-sharing relationship that also includes children and young people, education and other providers.

2012 10 10 Education Seminar 2012 10 10 Education Seminar Presentation Transcript

  • UNESCO Centre
  • Objectives Identify the right to education for children and young people with SEN in Ireland and Northern Ireland Analyse provision for SEN within the framework for inclusion Consider the research evidence in relation to the role and function of the SNA and CA Identify examples of good practice to inform the capacity building potential of CAs to make recommendations for policy development and implementation
  • Context International UNCRC UNCRPD Northern Ireland SENDO SEN and Inclusion Review Participation Pupils Parents
  • Main Findings Profile 4,215 SEN CA Defined by ELBs Emphasis on care and support Qualifications Eclectic mix of qualifications Minimum NVQ Level 2 Training General and tailored sessions Inconsistencies in access, regularity and quality
  • Main Findings Professional Identity An evolving role Greater specialised expertise and active involvement Challenges Professional Development A significant stakeholder Strategic position in schools Development of career pathway Challenges Collaborative Practice A management role Less developed aspect of inclusive practice
  • Key Messages The extent to which inclusion is realised has implications for the full education experience of children and young people with SEN Dedicated training is essential to realise the rights and educational needs of pupils with SEN Collaborative partnerships between teachers and CAs is crucial for the effective inclusion of pupils with SEN in mainstream schools
  • Key Messages The voice of children and young people with SEN is crucial to inform inclusive policy and practice Other forms of expertise should inform and enhance inclusive practice
  • UNESCO Centre