This study aimed to explore the professional relationships between assistants working with pupils with ID in the special school sector in Northern Ireland. To date, there has been little research in Northern Ireland on the role of the Classroom Assistant (CA) to support pupils with intellectual disabilities. In educational terms, even less is known about the support given to these pupils by other assistants (for example, assistants in physiotherapy and occupational therapy) or on their working relationship with the CA. Adopting a qualitative approach, 48 assistants from eight special schools took part in a series of focus group interviews over a four-month period. Findings highlighted the diversity of the assistant role in special schools and an increasing requirement for individualised support for pupil behaviour and medical needs. Positive relationships with teachers were reported, although ambiguity around professional identity was a recurrent observation. In particular, lack of clarity around assistant roles and responsibilities, limited opportunities for collaborative practice and the status of the assistant position within the school contributed to this perception. The findings provide new insight to the relationships between assistants working in special schools and confirm the need for a larger research programme to fully explore the deployment of this workforce in Northern Ireland.
|Number of pages||15|
|Publication status||In preparation - 1 Sep 2017|
Bibliographical noteReference text: Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., Martin, C., Russell, A. and Webster, R., with Babayigit, S. and Haywood, N. (2008) Deployment and impact of support staff in schools and the impact of the national agreement. Results from Strand 2 Wave 1 – 2005/06. Research Report No DCSF-RR027. London, Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Bosanquet, P., Radford, J. and Webster, R. (2016) A teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction: How to maximise your impact. Oxon, Routledge.
Brownell, M.T., Adams, A., Sindler, P., Waldron, N. and Vanhoverritzman, S. (2006) Learning From Collaboration: The Role of Teacher Qualities. Exceptional Children, 72(2), 169-185.
Butt, R. (2016). Teacher assistant support and deployment in mainstream schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(9), 995-1007.
Department for Education (DfE). (2016) School workforce in England: November, 2016. SFR 25/2017. London, Department for Education.
Department of Education, (DE). (2009) Every school a good school. The way forward for special educational needs and inclusion. Consultation document. Bangor, DE.
Department of Education (DE). (2011) A resource file for schools to support children with special educational needs. Bangor, DE.
Department of Education (DE). (2015) Review of Special School Provision in Northern Ireland: A Ministerial Working Group Report. Northern Ireland, DE.
Devecchi, C. and Rouse, M. (2010) An exploration of the features of effective collaboration between teachers and teaching assistants in secondary schools. Support for Learning, 25(2), 91-99.
Devecchi, C., Dettori, F., Doveston, M., Sedgwick, P. and Jament, J. (2012). Inclusive classroom in Italy and England: the role of support teachers and teaching assistants. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 27(2), 171-184.
Douglas, S. N., Chapin, S. E. and Nolan, J. F. (2016). Special education teachers’ experiences supporting and supervising para-educators: Implications for special and general education settings. Teacher Education and Special Education, 39(1), 60-74.
Giangreco, M. F., Suter, J. C. and Hurley, S. M. (2013). Revisiting personnel utilization in inclusion-oriented schools. Journal of Special Education, 47, 121-132.
Glover, A., McCormack, J. and Smith-Tamaray, M. (2015) Collaboration between teachers and speech and language therapists: Services for primary school children with speech, language and communication needs. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 31(3), 363-382.
Harris, L. R. and Aprile, K. T. (2015). ‘I can sort of slot into many different roles’: Examining teacher aide roles and their implications for practice. School Leadership & Management, 35(2), 140-162.
Keating, S. and O'Connor, U. (2012) The shifting role of the special needs assistant in Irish classrooms: a time for change? European Journal of Special Needs Education
Kersner, M. (1996) Working together for children with severe learning disabilities. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 12(1), 17-28.
Lacey, P. (2001) The Role of Learning Support Assistants in the Inclusive Learning of Pupils with Severe and Profound Learning Difficulties. Educational Review, 53(2), 157-167.
Mulholland, M. and O'Connor, U. (2016) Collaborative classroom practice for inclusion: perspectives of classroom teachers and learning support/ resource teachers. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(10), 1070-1083
O’Toole, C. and Kirkpatrick, V. (2007) Building collaboration between professionals in health and education through interdisciplinary training. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 23(3), 325-352.
Radford, J., Bosanquet, P., Webster, R. and Blatchford, P. (2015) Scaffolding learning for independence: Clarifying teacher and teaching assistant roles for children with special educational needs. Learning and Instruction, 36, 1-10.
Ritzman, M. J., Sanger, D., & Coufal, K. L. (2006). A case study of a collaborative speech—Language pathologist. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 27, 221-231.
Sharma, U. and Loreman, T. (2014) Teacher educator perspectives on systemic barriers to inclusive education. An international conversation, In (P. Jones, Ed) Bringing insider
perspectives into inclusive teacher learning. Potentials and challenges for educational professionals. UK, Routledge, pp. 168-177.
Sharma, U. and Salend, S. J. (2016) Teaching Assistants in Inclusive Classrooms: A Systematic Analysis of the International Research. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 41(8), 118-134.
Tollerfield, I. (2003) The process of collaboration within a special school setting: An exploration of the ways in which skills and knowledge are shared and barriers are overcome when a teacher and speech and language therapist collaborate. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 19(1), 67-84.
Webster, R. and Blatchford, P. (2015). Worlds apart? The nature and quality of the educational experiences of pupils with a statement for special educational needs in mainstream primary schools. British Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 324–342.
Webster, R., Russell, A. and Blatchford, P. (2016) Maximising the impact of teaching assistants: Guidance for school leaders and teachers. Second Edition. Oxon, Routledge.
Wright, J. and Kersner, M. (2004) Short-term projects: The Standards Fund and collaboration between speech and language therapists and teachers. Support for Learning, 19, 19-23.
UNISON, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the National Education Trust (NET) and Maximising Teaching Assistants. (2016) Professional standards for teaching assistants. Advice for head teachers, teachers, teaching assistants, governing boards and employers. West Sussex, NAHT
- intellectual disability
- special school
- professional identity